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Dressing And Grooming The Characters
In Who-ville, fur is more than a fine coat of hair covering the skin – it’s a fashion statement. All the clothing in the tiny town is made of fur. The underlying geometry of a Who is what the Blue Sky fur team called a “peanut” – a naked Who under a suit, jacket, shirt, or dress of fur. The result is a very stylized fur look.

The fur-as-fashion notion comes straight from Dr. Seuss. “He had great renderings of fur in his books,” says Hayward, who points to a personal favorite dating back to the director’s childhood: “I remembered this one drawing in the book [Horton Hears a Who!] where there’s a Who wearing a fur shirt. I became obsessed with that character, maybe because my name is Hayward and the guy’s shirt has an ‘H’ on it,” he adds, with a laugh.

“The Whos go to the barber and get themselves trimmed a new suit,” Martino explains. And what’s new in the Who-ville fashion scene? “Neck tufts are very big,” he adds. “You’ll see lots of high turtlenecks and big collars.”

 Everything from haute couture to functional garb is the product of a Who-ville barber – and Blue Sky Studios’ innovative fur and grooming teams. The fur and other unique visuals are a product of Blue Sky’s proprietary technology, the cornerstone of which is its ray tracing renderer, CGI Studio. The renderer, the fastest and most advanced of its type, allowed the filmmakers to manipulate the fur and environments, as if they were working with real lights on a real set, working with materials that behaved the way they do in the “real” world. It renders surfaces as if you could touch them.

The renderer made possible the film’s huge crowd and mob scenes, featuring thousand of furry characters. But it was much more than fur and fashion for the film’s innovative R&D team, which also created a field of one-half-billion clovers for a pivotal scene. Vlad, after snatching the clover, on which rests the speck/Who-ville, out of Horton’s trunk, drops the precious flower into a field of about five hundred million – one- half-billion—clovers stretching as far as the eye can see. One by one, Horton examines the clovers, carving his way through the immense field. It’s the ultimate “needle-in-ahaystack” scenario.

It’s a key moment in Seuss’ book, and a seminal one for Jimmy Hayward. “I thought it was incredible when Horton [in the book] ran up and screams, ‘NO!!!’, as the speck/clover floated down in the sea of clovers,” he relates. Hayward, like millions of other readers, couldn’t wait to turn the page and discover what came next – a memory he kept in mind as the scene was put together. As Horton realizes what’s happened, “we swing the camera all the way around him to reveal the massive clover field, from left to right, just like you’re turning a page,” Hayward explains. “It seemed like the right way to reveal this image.”

The Blue Sky R&D team also built into the renderer a proprietary algorithm that allowed the filmmakers to depict the wind blowing across the top of the clover field, just as wind would ripple across a Kansas wheat field. (Martino, a Midwesterner, has a particular fondness for this effect.)

The “hero” clover – the one housing Who-ville – was made up of a million hairs. For the clover field scene, the clovers closest to the camera had the full hair count or close to it; the “extra” or “supporting” closers averaged 50,000 hairs.

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