Emmy Award winning visual effects artist and all-round digital guru Kevin Kutchaver
presented a very special panel entitled “An Inside Look at the VFX Featured Within the TV Series
Xena: Warrior Princess
in which he was reunited with two additional members of the visual effects team for the iconic show:
on November 19th at the LAX Hyatt Regency Hotel.
The session was a highlight of Creation Entertainment’s “A Salute to Xena: 25th Anniversary” convention
, in which several thousand
fans attended the weekend-long event. In addition to the Kutchaver/VFX session, the con also featured live appearances by every major cast member from the series, along with photo and autograph opportunities, and the sale of hundreds of memorabilia items.
During the VFX presentation, Kutchaver, Clement and Blevins displayed numerous clay-sculptured models and “maquettes” – and explained how they had had to devise new methods by which to digitize those props into computers. “Back in 1995, 96, 97, we literally had to invent new ways to tell Xena’s stories,” Kutchaver said. “As visual effects work had just started to move to the desktop, it was literally like the wild west of computer technology. People have since asked us, ‘Why weren’t
Xena’s episodes shot in HD?’ to which I always reply, ‘Because HD wasn’t even invented yet!”
Kutchaver recounted how he was walking once with Rob Tapert, who was, at the time, the executive producer of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, for which Kutchaver’s company, Flat Earth Productions, was providing VFX. “I remember Rob saying to me, ‘I have this idea for, like, a female Hercules character, what do you think?’ to which I replied, ‘Rob, that’s a terrible idea!’ Fortunately, Rob didn’t listen to my bad advice!”
“I owe my VFX career to Kevin Kutchaver,” added Blevins. “He gave me my first big break on Hercules and
Xena when he owned Flat Earth Productions. We had to create A LOT of digital effects for those shows under very tight budgets and quick deadlines. In the early days of
Xena, each episode had only a few VFX shots, but by the end of the last season – well, there were 500 shots in the very last episode!”
“You don’t get anything on screen that feels more organic than when you sculpt a physical maquette and then digitize it,” added Andy Clement. “I did sculpting on a lot of creatures for Xena, along with a good deal of 3D animation work. In the early days of computers, it could take a VERY long time to map and grid each of the physical models and maquettes. Then rendering them took forever. But as
Xena’s seasons progressed, so did computers and the software, which helped speed things up.”
“In retrospect, we really had a great time doing Xena, Kutchaver notes. “Both
Xena were huge hits for Universal Television and Rob Tapert’s company, Renaissance Pictures, and Rob was interested in putting as much as he could into every episode. Each season we’d get a fairly locked budget, and we’d say, ‘Well, what do we HAVE to do this week? What does the story call for? And what, given our talents and our tech, can we do to make those FX look as realistic as possible?’ I’m proud to say we never gave up, even with those limited budgets and ungodly deadlines. I like to think we played a nice role in TV history with the hundreds and hundreds of creative images we contributed to
Xena: Warrior Princess.”
About Xena: Warrior Princess
Xena: Warrior Princess was an American fantasy television series filmed on location in New Zealand. The series aired in first-run syndication from September 4, 1995, to June 18, 2001. Critics praised the series for its strong female protagonist, and it has since acquired a strong cult following. Writer-director-producer Rob Tapert created the series in 1995 under his production company, Renaissance Pictures, with executive producers R. J. Stewart and Sam Raimi.
The series narrative follows the character of "Xena" (played by Lucy Lawless,) an infamous warrior on a quest to seek redemption for her past sins against the innocent by using her formidable fighting skills to now help those who are unable to defend themselves. The show was a spin-off of the television series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.
In its second season, Xena became the top-rated syndicated drama series on American television. For all of its six years, the series remained in the top five.
Xena aired in more than 108 countries around the world in syndication, and in 2004 and 2007, it ranked #9 and #10 on TV Guide's Top Cult Shows Ever. The title character also ranked #100 on Bravo's 100 Greatest Ever TV Characters.
Xena's success has led to hundreds of tie-in products, including comics, books, video games and fan conventions.