Motion Theory Unleashes A Magical Water Extravaganza as Mickey Mouse Conducts A World of Color
June 11, 2010

Motion Theory Unleashes A Magical Water Extravaganza as Mickey Mouse Conducts A World of Color

Venice, Calif. - Creative production studio Motion Theory creates a stunning, cinematic, CG film, starring a redesigned Mickey Mouse in the launch of Disney’s new show, World of Color. Motion Theory directors Mathew Cullen and Christopher Leone partnered with Disney and advertising agency, mcgarrybowen, to create an artful, cinematic experience where a mischievous Mickey Mouse unlocks a stunning world of beauty and magic, as other beloved Disney characters boldly interact with dazzling fountains of colored water and light.
Motion Theory’s visual effects team was charged with the creative responsibility of conceptualizing and designing the story for the animations. This encompassed directing the Mickey animation with lead animator, Tony Bancroft from Duck Studios, as well depicting Pixar characters in 3D water form. To re-create the characters in fluid form, as well as elaborate 3D water fountains and environments, the team articulately rendered over 150 fluid and volumetric mist elements using beta software to produce massive volumes of 3D fluid simulations.

The film begins with Mickey approaching a music stand, where he begins to wield a conductor’s baton. Mickey fumbles, and as he reaches for the baton, the sensational magic begins. The action is set in motion as a huge first blast of water erupts. Soon a fusion of mighty water fountain blasts and brilliant arrays of colored light explode skyward as animated Disney characters burst onto the screen, magically forming into liquid shapes that flow and move with the animation and music.

Inspired by “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice" sequence of Fantasia, co-director Christopher Leone says, “After a sneak peek of the World of Color show, we realized that the bar was high. Mickey Mouse is such a huge, iconic figure in our minds, we wanted to look beyond the icon and rediscover Mickey as a character -- a character capable of mischief, daring, and surprise. We approached the blocking and designing of our animation with a live action sensibility so that our camera angles captured both Mickey’s performance and the epic scale of the show."

Each character had to be modeled, rigged, and match-moved. Buzz, Simba, Eve, the Princesses, Crush, and the other characters each comprised up to a dozen different simulations, formed from millions of particles. The full 3D environments that set the scene were a complex mixture of 3D water tricks, fountains, background mist projection screens, along with shafts of water shot 150-200 feet in the air under extreme pressure.

Visual effects supervisor John Fragomeni adds, “There are always challenges when you integrate traditional 2D animated characters into a photo-real 3D world of water. The key to success was finding that unique balance where the two styles could creatively coexist and retain the fantasy edge that makes Disney magical. From the onset we knew we would be pushing the boundaries of CG fluid simulation technology to meet these challenges. We developed a very lean and streamlined process to produce amazing 3D fluid simulations. It was a wonderfully rewarding project and the hard work by our terrific team of artists is reflected in the on screen quality.”

The production timeframe for World of Color spanned February through June 2010. Production included concept, storyboards, pre-visualization, technical R+D, animation, fluid simulations, light, rendering, and final integration of all 3D elements.

RealFlow lead Andy Cochrane says of the process, “Six months ago, this project was technically unachievable on a commercial schedule. We were able to deliver the massive amount of fluid simulations required only due to our access to the pre-release of RealFlow5. We created more CG water elements in this commercial than the last two features utilizing CG water that I worked on…combined. Disney’s World of Color commercial will be the first to showcase this technology; it was a great opportunity to push the new software to its limits.”

Gustavo Sanchez, RealFlow technical consultant, Next Limit Technologies, says: “The Disney project was a great test to demonstrate that RealFlow 5 was ready for release. Motion Theory and their team of water-wizards really did push the boundaries. Their experiences and constant feedback and it has been a pleasure for us and has helped us get to where we are with RealFlow 5 and now the rest of the RealFlow community can benefit from that.”

Motion Theory’s 3D team chose a workflow using beta RealFlow5 Software coupled with Houdini: both new to Motion Theory’s pipeline. The number, complexity, and weight of all-3D elements amassed more than 12 terabytes of data. In addition to using RealFlow5 and Houdini, the production tool kit included RealFlow Renderkit (RFRK) for Mantra (alpha testing), and Maya and Zbrush for modeling.

Houdini lead Marion Spates adds, “The final lighting and rendering was done in Houdini’s Physically Based Renderer (PBR), well known for its photo-real qualities. Despite the complex nature and sheer volume of the simulations we had to manage, the results are beautiful and speak for themselves in terms of the look of the 3D water delivered.”

There were many complex moving parts required to deliver the final result. Motion Theory’s composite team, lead by Andrew Ashton, strived to integrate 2D and 3D elements, flawlessly embracing the best of both worlds to create a cinematic short film as unforgettable as the World of Color experience itself.

Disney “World of Color”
Client: Disney Destinations, LLC
SVP Global Marketing Advertising & Creative: Marty Muller
SVP Global Marketing Operations: Doug McGuire
VP Global Broadcast & Print Productions: Sally Conner
Disney Parks Production Director: Cory Stone
Director of Account Management: Janice Simcoe
Account Manager: Jim St. Amant
Disney Glendale Creative Director of Special Projects: Dave Bossert
Producer: Roger Petrusson

Agency: mcgarrybowen
Executive Creative Directors: Ned Crowley, Jonathan Moore

Production/VFX Company: Motion Theory
Directors: Mathew Cullen, Christopher Leone
Executive Producer: Javier Jimenez
Creative Director: Mathew Cullen
VFX Supervisor: John Fragomeni
Art Director: Ram Bhat
Comp Supervisor: Andrew Ashton
Producer: Christina Caldwell
Designers: James Levy, Satomi Nagata
Illustrator: Carm Goode
Pre-visualization: Simon Dunsdon, Christopher Leone
RealFlow Lead: Andy Cochrane
RealFlow Artists: Jennifer Hachigian, Klaus Seitschek, Parker Sellers, Karen Smith
RealFlow Technical Consultant: Gustavo Sanchez Perez (Next Limit)
Houdini Lead: Marion Spates
Houdini Artists: Brandon Lester, Ahmed Hassan, Val Kharitonashvili, Klaus Seitschek, Tom Allen
3D Generalist: Parker Sellers
Modelers: Gil Hacco, Trevor Tuttle
Rigger: Gil Hacco
Matchmovers: Brandon Lester, Gil Hacco
AE Compositors: Aaron Frebowitz, TJ Sochor
Nuke Compositors: Krista Benson, Ryan Geist Bozajian, Rachel Keyte, Daniel Raschko
Matte Painters: Ram Bhat, Jason Dunn, George Fuentes (print), James Levy, Reina Sparks
Finishing: Danny Yoon
Rotoscope Artist: Megan Gaffney
Storyboard Artist: Yori Mochizuki
Production Manager/HR Director: Tina Van Delden
Production Coordinator: Paul Pianezza

2D Production: Duck Studios
Executive Producer: Mark Medernach
Producer: Dan Ridgers
Lead Animator: Tony Bancroft
Digital I&P Technical Director: Kyle Borth

Composer: Mark Hammond
Audio Mix: Margarita Mix