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BEE MOVIE

So, This Bee Flies Into A Florist's Window
Detailed and finely wrought environments are fantastic in an animated film, but this story is about characters. While those digital cities were being built, the same amount of effort (if not more) was being focused on creating the bees and humans at the center of "Bee Movie.”

But which comes first, the bee or the hive? Observes Steinberg: "For us, it was really important that we find a world that worked with the Barry we had created, because he is not a realistic-looking bee. He is very stylized, and he's got such a specific look. So we needed to find a way to join his look with the rest of the world and with the human characters. Alex McDowell and Christophe Lautrette, our art director, were just invaluable with that. And it was Christophe who really helped us bridge the gap between the humans and Barry.”

The French-trained animation artist and art director brought versatility to his position, having worked on character, background and other types of animation. For him, some of the key to the look of "Bee Movie” lay with a colorful and cheerful spectrum. (After all, it is a comedy about a bee getting lost in the human world). Transparency of color was also key, as the materials in these worlds (from wax to steel and glass) featured varying degrees of opacity. As Lautrette explains it, "At the beginning of production, the bee world was a bit more humanistic, with the bees looking more like humans, and the shape of the colors of their city more like a real city. We felt there was not enough contrast. So we went back to the actual shape of the bee — round, chubby, fuzzy.

"For Barry,” he continues, "we went in several different directions for his look and we also went on a path where he would look more like Jerry. We showed it to him; he wasn't too pleased about that. He said, ‘I want something really different. I want to be surprised by the character. I want to see more like a friend than myself, actually.' That was really a challenge.”

But the Head of Character Animation, Fabio Lignini (who oversaw the 40- 50 animators working on a character and ensured that, despite the different hands at the digital drawing board, the character remained the same), was up for the task. Brought aboard early, Lignini and his team helped "to develop the rigs, to see if the characters are doing what they should in terms of motion and controls. We worked with the modeling department and the rigging department to fine-tune the look of the characters, and this was before the production started. So we stayed with the production for a long time.”

Characters are first designed by a designer, an artist who works in drawings and paintings. Then the characters are modeled in a 3D, computer-generated environment. At that point, they remain an empty shell, just a sculpture. The character TDs come in and add all the controls that enable the models to have movement — body movement and facial movement. Simon Smith explains that "It took a long time to get Barry's character looking exactly like Barry. As we were doing the story reel of the movie and making the movie in sort of basic drawings, his character was evolving. And at the same time, we were doing drawings of the character, of how we wanted him to appear in the movie, and they weren't quite matching up. So, it took us a while, and it was sort of a joint decision from everybody. Jerry had this idea of how they should feel and what they should do in the hive. But we couldn't put our finger on it.”

In the end, it was the clothes that made the bee. "The design of the character was determined a lot by the clothing for Barry,” says Smith. "We were struggling a little bit, because we were trying to find the right formula to make him feel familiar to us while lending itself to Jerry's comedy, but we also didn't want him to look too insect-y and unpleasant.”

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