It starts out innocently enough. A guy is driving his muscle car down a stretch of desert highway. Distracted by what might be road kill or its distant cousin, he pulls over to investigate and a ghoulish adventure ensues in Cedric Nicolas-Troyan's film short, Carrot vs. Ninja. Troyan both inked and directed, with character design and VFX by The Mill L.A. and music/sound design from The Lodge.
"I wanted to do something different," professes Troyan. "Different as in strange, like Vegas. I took a cliché-a rock 'n' roll guy, a muscle car and a Western road movie setting-and added a dark and wacky Ninja element. So the audience at first think they've seen it before, but the story gets progressively stranger and less predictable."
Carrot vs. Ninja features an animated character designed by The Mill's Jamie O'Hara. The critter has Angora-like fur that's photo real in texture and rendering so it resembles a cuddly rabbit, but not one you'll ever see in nature's food chain. It's that photo-real quality that intrigues viewers, and ultimately leads them to a surprising place.
"Initially I wanted the character's fur to be short, but The Mill convinced me longer was better," Troyan says. "I trusted their instincts and let them do their thing. It worked!"
"We did 12 different fur styles," says Robert Sethi, our Head of 3D. "For example, short, plush, furry, clumpy and dirty like he lived in the alley behind our office or something. When we animated, it was challenging to get a good performance. Making the fur move and grooming the fur to coincide with our character's movements and lighting was tricky. We also had to shade the fur. In the end we got the right balance between cartoony and real."
O'Hara says The Mill team played up the character's more endearing qualities such as being plump and slow, as well as more menacing qualities such as its mouth full of ragged tooth shark's teeth. This juxtaposition made the reveal of the character's true Ninja colors more jarring.
Troyan says he's always loved Japanese Anime and Japanese sensibility in art and visuals. He also finds it hard to resist Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns. "The rabbit is a distant cousin of Japanese Anime," Troyan offers. "So the film is like a Spaghetti Western with a cute manga and muscle car."
Troyan's aesthetic on Carrot vs. Ninja also reflects versatile experience as director, VFX creative director/supervisor/lead artist and editor in both the U.S. and Europe. Highlights of his credits include directing the award-winning Häagen-Dazs "Opera" at Psyop, and VFX supervising award-winning HP spots for Fredrik Bond and Sears spots for Rupert Sanders while at Method. Troyan has also collaborated extensively with director Gore Verbinski on projects including The Ring, where he was Lead VFX Compositor/Designer.
Production Company: Ugly Bird/Paranoid U.S.
Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Exec. Producer: Claude Letessier
Producer: Tim Clark
Editorial: General Editorial
Editor: Matt Dunlap
Post/FX: The Mill L.A.
Exec Producer: Sue Troyan
Colour Producer: N/A
Shoot Supervisor: Andy Bate, Steve Beck, Nick Taylor, Andre De Souza
VFX Supervisor: Robert Sethi
2D Lead Artist: Becky Porter
3D Lead Artists: Jamie O'Hara, Steve Beck
2D Artists: Andy Bate, Nick Taylor
3D Artists: Nick Lines, Chris Bayol, Alex Moaveni, Felix Urquiza, Gawain Liddiard, Rick Wallia, James Brady
Character Design: Jamie O'Hara
VFX Producer: Arielle Davis
Music/Sound Design: The Lodge
Composers/Designers: John Northcraft & Eric Hillebrecht