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Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers

Live-action meets cartoon animation and photo-real CGI for the new Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers film from Disney+ and MPC

Disney+ has teamed up with the award-winning Visual Effects team behind The Lion King and The Jungle Book, MPC (Moving Picture Company) to deliver its latest feature Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, which sees the nostalgic 80s cartoon franchise return to the big screen.

Akiva Schaffer
Walt Disney Pictures
MPC VFX Supervisor
Steve Preeg
MPC VFX Supervsior
Axel Bonami

Directed by Akiva Schaffer, the story follows Chip and Dale, two beloved detective personas as they rehash their adventures after succumbing to a life of routine and domesticity. Voiced by John Mulaney and Andy Samberg respectively, Chip and Dale reunite with the rest of the group, save their friend, and rebuild the two’s friendship.

Unlike previous iterations of the iconic duo, Rescue Rangers features a combination of film styles, treating viewers to live-action actors, interacting with 2D cartoon characters, photo-real 3D animals, and even claymation models, mixing several media styles that reflect the history of filmmaking and the history of Chip ‘n Dale from the 1980s to present day.

MPC’s Production VFX Supervisor Steve Preeg, VFX Supervisor Axel Bonami, Producers Ben Harrison and Siobhan Bentley, and Animation Supervisor Omar Morsy led MPC’s global team of VFX artists to deliver over 1450 shots for the film. This included the creation of Chip and Dale themselves, as well as over 100 2D hand-drawn characters, 60 3D animated characters, and 30 full computer-generated, designed, and lit sets.

In addition, MPC’s visualization team, led by Patrick Smith and Leandre Legrange, delivered the previz, techviz, postviz, as well as concept art for over 50 characters, and hundreds of variations, for the movie.

“Our protagonists were our first explorations – Chip was 2D and Dale was 3D, which we made as a proof of concept,” says Art Director Leandre Lagrange. “Akiva wanted to explore all the possibilities, so he was very involved in the design process from the beginning. A huge creative focus of the film was mixing media – clay, 2D, different eras of animation styles, 3D – all into the same world – which was an exciting challenge.”

The whole project was a jet-packed mission. MPC was entrusted to make sure there’s a seamless blend of all the different worlds. Our primary challenge on the film was orchestrating a massive team of creative artists located around the world, with one common goal: to create a seamlessly natural digital world that blends live-action photography with over one hundred digital characters and multiple fully CG environments.”

Axel Bonami, VFX Supervisor

“For every single CG character, every performance is keyframe animated, including character design. Each character required detailed skeletal builds and muscle systems and most importantly, had to be able to provide a convincing performance and maintain the comedy of the film’s narrative,” adds Axel.

Head of Visualization Patrick Smith says:

“The visualization team began in late 2019 and provided a full start to finish visualization. Akiva knew very early on that he’d like to use the Visualization pipe to iterate through a lot of ideas in preproduction like his improved approach and try to find the best ideas upfront. He really appreciated being able to generate and view a lot of ideas quickly with our department. He has a fantastic vision and a keen eye for bringing this rich world to life and is always looking for the best possible solution to sharpen the story throughout.

There were quite a few challenges in the film, one of which was seamlessly integrating multiple types of animated characters, from the CG photorealistic, 2D hand-drawn, toon-shaded CG, to the puppets, and stop motion characters. They concurrently needed to build full CG environments that would constantly swap between principal photography live-action, hybrid, and full CG environments where the host of characters live.”

The team at MPC developed a workflow for the mixed animation, which required different styles and stages of approval, especially when met with the exploration of scene dialogue, camera work, and timing. The artists also had to constantly play with frame rates depending on the type of animation, with some characters on ‘twos,’ but interacting with the full-frame rate world, like in cases of the cartoon or stop motion characters.

The teams leveraged technology like Maya, Houdini, Nuke, and ToonBoom as well as in-house tools and workflows created by the RND and compositing department to deal with 2D shading and line work.

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is now airing on Disney +.

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