going to assume that you have by now seen Pixar's The
Incredibles. (If you haven't, then leave this web page
imediately and continue hunting for used, Japanese school
girl underpants or hunting for misplaced apostrophes or whatever
the hell it is that occupies your time.)
As you know, the movie was 115 minutes of mind-boggling action
and adventure. Explosions, giant robots, the coolest cars
and the hottest dames, evil lairs inside active volcanoes
and super heroes superheoing their butts off. Not to mention
a brief look at inside the garment industry.
But you know
that had other animators dropping their sodas and scattering
their Raisinettes in the aisle at the local googolplex? That
one bit of action that left
them convinced that the animators at Pixar are in league
with some ancient tribe of blood-demons?
It's when Mr. Incredible poked his fingers through
the holes of his ripped blue uniform.
Believe it or not, that was technically a very difficult
shot to accomplish. It's
very challenging to make one computer-created object slide
through another, especially one with such ragged ends as
having the two areas collide or intersect. That the scene
employed the use of several fingers compounds the complexity.
I bring this up because I saw Pixar's Up again last
night. Before going I read some background on it in my lastest
issue of Computer Graphics World. What I learned dismayed
me in the same way a really good magician makes you mistrust
Let's begin with the iconic image from the film, the one
where Carl and little Russell are trudging along with the
floating house tied to their bodies by a garden hose. Simple,
Hardly. Carl himself was said to be one of the most complex
characters Pixar has created. I shan't go into excessive
detail but the way his body works with his clothing was much
harder than it looks. It's only through the Herculean labors
of the Pixar animators that his movements look so natural.
Then there's Russell, the Wilderness Explorer. Not only is
his clothing similarly complicated but attached to his body
are at times over 30 independently-moving objects. As a Flash
animator I almost weep when I think of trying that.
Remember the "holes" in The Incredibles?
Now do a "reverse-hole" and tie both Russell
and Carl to the hose. Now add the physics of a floating house
10,000 balloons, plus atmospheric effects and the occasional
giant bird and talking dog... or thirty talking dogs chasing
our heroes down a mountain in the midst of a avalanche.
Yes, the animators at Pixar don't get paid enough. Luckily
for you and me they seem to love their job.
So go see Up, or see it again, and steep yourself in the
appropriate level of awe it richly deserves.
To paraphrase Ben Franklin: "Pixar is proof that Cthuhlu
loves us and wants us to be happy."