Rising Sun Pictures’ Takes Flight with Sony Pictures’ “Peter Rabbit”
Studio’s character animation team creates a frantic rooster and a troupe of crooning sparrows for hybrid children’s movie.
A co-production of Sony Pictures Animation and Animal Logic, Peter Rabbit reimagines Beatrix Potter’s timeless children’s story of a mischievous bunny through an astonishing blend of digital animation and live action. Peter, his sisters Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton Tail, and their friends appear with precise furry and feathered photo-realism and interact naturally with human actors in this sweet tale about love and nature.
Rising Sun Pictures was an integral part of the film’s visual effects and animation team, contributing more than 150 shots to the kid-friendly fun. The work of studio’s character animators is especially noteworthy as they were charged with bringing key members of the film’s supporting cast to life: a rooster who shocks the barnyard with his over-the-top morning crows, and a quartet of singing sparrows.
“We’ve done creature work on several recent projects with excellent results, but this was an opportunity to create real characters with big personalities.” RSP VFX Supervisor, Dennis Jones.
Dennis Jones, who led "RSP's team says “They appear in quirky, one-off moments with a lot of story impact. Our artists went to town on it.” RSP worked under the direction of a production team that included VFX Supervisor Will Reichelt, VFX Producer Jason Bath, Associate Producer Monette Dubin and VFX Supervisor Consultant Scott Stokdyk.
The character animation involved a delicate balancing act. While the rooster and the sparrows needed to look like their real-world counterparts, they had to behave a lot like humans. The rooster, for example, appears birdlike as he struts through the barnyard, yet inwardly, he is a troubled soul obsessed with the responsibilities of fatherhood and the daily appearance of the sun. His anxieties become apparent the moment he opens his beak.
Finding the sweet spot between fowl and fellow proved tricky. “When we were presented with the brief, we wondered about the tone,” explains Jones. “How far should we push the lip sync? If we break too much from natural bird movement, he becomes humanized. So, we ended up somewhere in the middle. We used a bit of a beak-sync and added gesticulation into the wings as a way of punctuating his ‘speech.'”
The sparrows were more complicated. The birds form a harmonizing quartet with the ability to mimic an array of styles from pop to hip-hop. They first appear in the film’s opening title sequence, and again at several later points, each time performing intricate choreography while singing and soaring through the sky.
Jones notes that RSP’s team of artists spent a lot of time studying bird behavior and worked to adapt them to dance movements. “Our first task was to achieve a good match to real birds—tousled feathers and lots of other details,” he recalls. “Then we had to think about performance. We had to work out how to have them flying while making hip-hop gestures—and keep it believable.
RSP’s work wasn’t only about birds. Artists provided digital environment extensions for more than 80 shots to make exterior skies and landscapes resemble verdant English countryside. They also applied their pyrotechnic skills to a scene involving exploding sticks of dynamite, and created a digital tree that crashed onto the roof of a house.
The RSP team worked closely with Animal Logic throughout the project to ensure their visual effects and animation elements were consistent with the other parts of the film.
Ultimately, Jones was very pleased with the results produced by the team “We enjoyed the journey and breathing life into these characters” he says “We had a lot of fun.”
Like the Rooster, we’re always excited that the day starts with the Rising Sun.
CREDITS + CREW
VFX Supervisor Consultant
Rising Sun Pictures
AARON PATRICK STEWART
ALWYN A HUNT
ANIL REDDY CH
BENJAMIN T. KAY
CAMERON VAN DEN BESSELAAR
FRANCESCA JOCELYN MILDE
JOHN VAN DER ZALM
MERINDA JANSE VAN RENSBURG
QAZI HAMZA JAVED
RAJBIR S DHALLA
ROBERTO VELIO GENITO
USAMA ZEBA GHUFRAN