DR. SEUSS' THE LORAX
Inside the Adventure
Inside the Adventure:
Immersion into a 3D World
"And, under the trees, I saw Brown Bar-ba-loots
frisking about in their Bar-ba-loot suits as they
played in the shade and ate Truffula Fruits.
From the rippulous pond came the comfortable
sound of the Humming-Fish humming while
-The Once-ler in "The Lorax"
For Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, character
animation and computer
graphics were masterfully handled
by Illumination's recent acquisition,
the Paris-based animation facility
Illumination Mac Guff, who did
stunning work on Despicable Me.
The filmmakers took great care to
adapt the classic flat imagery of
the book in a way that preserves
the original's authenticity, while
providing audiences a fresh and
For the French and American animators, planning
had to be seamless, as Healy puts it, a "well-oiled
machine to create a world you know you wanted to save."
Notes the producer: "We were working across time
zones, but we had a constant crew from the Despicable
Me team. At peak, there were about 350 of us on a couple
of floors working on the movie. We were divided into
different departments that communicated well and had
tremendous technical and production leadership."
Classic Imagery to CG
Though Renaud, Meledandri and Healy were quite
practiced in supervising CG animation, taking Dr.
Seuss' creations and reinterpreting them in this world
was as much of a challenge as their last project. Explains
Meledandri: "Just like on Horton, we very much started
with Ted's work. With such a well-known and beloved
property, the real opportunity is to translate his original
drawings into a three-dimensional world. We didn't
know whether or not we could truly do justice to 'The
Lorax' until we had translated that very simple design
of the Lorax into a dimensional 3D character, and we
could see that the spirit of Ted's drawing was living and
breathing in that dimension."
Renaud paid close attention to Dr. Seuss' visual style
as he helmed the film. Dr. Seuss is known for his wavy
lines and ramshackle buildings, and they didn't easily
lend themselves to translation into the third dimension.
"It was a challenge to take Seuss' deceptively simple
pen-and-ink illustrations and make dimensional objects
and characters out of them," explains the director. "Some
of our big influences in the book are things like the shape
of the Lerkim. It feels like it wouldn't even stand up in
"We were very true to the look of the Lerkim
when we created the 3D model," he continues. With
certain characters, however, they had to make small
adjustments to bring them into the 3D world. "In the
book, the Once-ler is just yellow eyes and green hands,
so we cheated our lighting scheme. Often in computer
animation, it works best and is more believable when
it feels real. But many times, you have to find where
to push so the images are not so 'real.' For example,
the Once-ler has a big bright light behind him, but
meanwhile, you see his eyes. In reality, you never
would see those eyes because his face would go black
with that much light behind it."
From a technical point of view, creating an animated
adventure in CG is much more challenging than developing
a 2D version, because the animators need to render each
frame twice. Explains the director: "We always considered
3D when developing the experience for the audience.
From the computational/rendering perspective, it was very
intense rendering any kind of fur, and every tree in this
movie has fur on it. To make this film in 3D, we
thought of everything from using wide lenses
to having shots where you're in a character's
perspective-whether we had shots when the
Once-ler heads down the river or when the
Swomee-Swans fly through trees."
Creating a dimensional, living world
from flat, still images requires great technical
skills and attention to detail. Cheney
reveals: "There is a challenge that comes
with taking illustrations and making a three dimensional
world out of those illustrations.
You can say a lot with a drawing, but when
you actually have to make a three-dimensional space that
you can move around in, everything has to be designed.
That includes everything from a pencil sharpener on a
desk and every car and character, to each building as well
as the sky and the clouds. Every minute detail and every
big detail has to be designed from scratchâ€¦and from
every single angle."
It was not just the designs, but it was also the
building of these designs that required months of work
for each shot. Cheney notes: "Someone has to put color
and lights on the objects and characters. Design plays a
very big role in creating animated films because nothing
actually exists. The clothes on the character have to be
designed; the kind of fabric that a shirt is made out of
has to be thought about."
The biggest technical challenge to the team on this
film? So much hair and fur! Explains computer graphics
supervisor BRUNO CHAUFFARD: "The world of
Truffula Valley is almost all done with hair. All the trees
are built with hair, the grass is hair, the Bar-ba-loots are
furry, and we have a crowd scene when everybody is
getting into the Truffula Valley, which is a scene with
lot of polygons to render. When I saw the concept,
I was with Chris Renaud, and we questioned how we
were going to be able to render this worldâ€¦because our
software at this date was not able to render all of these
polygons, fur and hair."
The solution was to think outside the box and get
more ambitious and industrious than ever before. Says
Chauffard: "We worked hard to be able to get it to render.
All the different departments did a fantastic job, and
finally, we were able to create custom software to render
A second complexity particular to this film was the
number of crowd shots. Animating singing crowds was an
entirely new challenge for the team. Healy says: "Another
piece that is quite ambitious for The Lorax and quite
different than Despicable Me is the number of crowds.
We have a few group musical pieces, so there are a lot of
scenes with 100 or 200 characters in them. To be able to
have hand animated all of the characters, and have them
acting-but not stealing the thunder from the foreground
characters-was one of the big challenges of this movie.
I was very happy with the results."
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