|Carlos Saldanha of Blue Sky never had cold feet when he jumped into making “Ice Age: The Meltdown”. Four years after the release of the first “Ice Age”, he is back with the cast of characters plus a few new ones, with some great comic relief scenes from Scrat. Blue Sky’s goal was to create a heart-warming film while pushing the envelope. It was a labor of love every day, for the team that grew to roughly 300 people.|
|Carlos’s focus was first on the story and script to get the look of the movie. “In the first year of preproduction, we were working with a smaller team, hashing out script writing, storyboarding and concept drawings, plus preparing sequences on the computer, models for the characters and environments, and character development.” He strived to give every character special qualities. Manny was a big guy with a big heart and principles to do the right thing. Ellie added a lot of strength to the plot with a soothing voice, but she knew who she was. “She was a mammoth on the outside and a possum on the inside. And she was very determined.”|
|“The possums were so much fun to animate, we just fell in love with them,” adds Carlos. “It was a challenge to animate the tail, for the riggers and animators alike. The possums had to hang upside-down, and the tail was required to roll out and whip around. The extreme poses required the fur team and the riggers to push for a highly physical performance. And Scrat with his quest for acorns would always steal the show. Blue Sky came up with key elements to give Scrat time to develop his own story arc. There is a lot of Scrat in everybody, in that we keep going after objectives. Not always succeeding, but never giving up.”
Next was the layout, discovering the cameras, and finding the environments. “We did a lot of previs,” says Carlos, “I’m a huge previs fan. I love visualizing the sequences.” |
Carlos paid special attention to the storyboarding, and used After Effects to work out the timing. They animated a few of the 2D panels to make it feel real, and worked out the action sequences in 3D before committing to extensive decisions in modeling. “Instead of using NURBS, we used SubD’s, so even though we had the characters from the last movie, we had to remodel them for this one.
The fur worked better with the SubD’s. It had to have its own characteristics, and we had to make sure the fur would react properly to the water and the wind”. They created various stages to the fur: dry, wet, and under-water wet, all in pre-production, preparing everything so that when it got to animation, all they had to do was animate.
|Carlos found the most challenging sequences were the close-ups. He strove to make the characters eyes appear alive and not mechanical. “You want the facial expressions to work. I wanted it to be so that if you looked into their eyes, you would know what they were thinking.” He often focused more time on the eyes than on a scene where they had 60 animated characters. He found that by finessing a light shift here, or a half a squint there, or slightly dilating the pupil that the global impression delivered the information. He didn’t know if the audience would see the actual changes, but strove to deliver the warmth of the characters through a more instinctive level of perception. |