VFX breakdown reel showcasing Tippett Studio’s character animation work for the alien and the monkey in recent Chinese feature film, Crazy Alien.
VFX Producer Ken Kokka VFX Supervisor Eric Leven Animation Supervisor Brian Mendenhall
Tippett Studio partnered with director Ning Hao and the Dirty Monkey production team to bring two main characters to life in the sci-fi Chinese feature, Crazy Alien. These characters were a photorealistic monkey and an alien that later inhabits the monkey’s body.
The techniques around character performance established in partnership by Ning Hao and Tippett Studio were quite remarkable on this film. Brian Mendenhall, lead animator for characters like Ted and The Smurfs, was the motion capture actor for the project. Brian often used reference from the director, Ning Hao, himself. Ning Hao is renowned for not just his directing but also his acting chops, and would often act out scenes for the animation team to study. It was this dynamic partnership in performance that brought the alien and monkey characters to life.
The studio’s proudest achievement on this show was the creation of a photorealistic monkey. The studio referenced a practical live monkey, challenging to recreate from a technical standpoint. The shots of the real monkey were intercut between the computer-generated monkey as the two had to match 1:1.
To add an additional layer of complication, for most of the film the monkey was possessed by the alien.”The challenge … was to make the monkey slowly take on the characteristics of the alien as he becomes aware of his new body,” explained animator, Nate Ross. “I needed to show that the alien inhabiting the monkey body was at first confused, then aware, and then angry. Nailing these acting beats was imperative to the story so, … I shot reference of myself acting it all out in order to make sure the expressions and movements conveyed the right emotions.”
Today, Tippett Studio has worked on a number of high profile Chinese films. The studio is happy to celebrate the tremendous box office success of Crazy Alien, which crossed $100 million on it’s second day of release and made $292 million in the first 13 days. This is Tippett Studio’s 9th Chinese project in 5 years, with several more in production for 2019 and 2020.