Dora And The Lost City Of Gold VFX Breakdown

Dora And The Lost City Of Gold VFX Breakdown

Dora And The Lost City Of Gold

Dora and the Lost City of Gold is an American adventure comedy film directed by James Bobin. It stars Isabela Moner as the title character, with Eugenio Derbez, Michael Peña, Eva Longoria, and Danny Trejo in supporting roles.

Dora, a teenage explorer, leads her friends on an adventure to save her parents and solve the mystery behind a lost city of gold.

Dora And The Lost City Of Gold VFX Breakdown By MPC

MPC Film VFX Supervisor Richard Little led the team, working with Production VFX Supervisor Lindy De Quattro to create the cartoon-like comedy that pushes the boundaries of reality as director James Bobin envisioned. Through the 214 shots created by MPC Film, Dora and the Lost City of Gold moves toward a stylized approach rather than going completely down the authentic physicality or photo-real route in order to make sure jokes and story points could be hit.

Collaborating with both MPC Film in London and Bangalore, the teams undertook all of the character builds in the show including Swiper and Boots. MPC’s Art Department worked with the director to define a specific design for both. MPC Film’s Character Lab team followed these concepts in order to create character builds that were based primarily on the original, but with stylized photo-realistic features to ground them in a live-action world.

MPC worked principally on the final Parapata sequences to create an ancient lost city that was true to real-life historian Incan civilization, which incorporated large scale destruction and FX work. MPC also worked on the red flower field sequence which were rigged to shoot out FX spores independently. Simultaneously, MPC joined with the animation company Blink in the transition from a 3D live action setting to a 2D hallucinatory world based on the original cartoon. In addition, MPC worked on the quicksand sequence where they tracked and animated scorpions to a live-action character’s face and head.

The most challenging creation was the empress transformation shot which involved a tight rotoanim track, numerous particle simulation passes, prepping multiple plates. Similarly, the red flower environment posed many design questions due to the 2D element integration of characters and environments to create a hazy cartoon world.

MPC used an export tool to allow asset builds from MPC’s pipeline to be transferred to Mill Film’s pipeline that was specifically written for this show. Through the joint initiatives between MPC and Mill Film, the asset and rigging teams worked closely with the software teams in both MPC London and Bangalore as well as the Mill Film Adelaide team in order to iron out a robust export so that MPC-built assets could transfer seamlessly from their pipeline to Mill Film’s.

De Quattro states that, ‘Working with the MPC teams in London and Bangalore was a great experience…We had a wide variety of shots to tackle: character animation that ran the gamut from serious to comedic, major destruction and other particle FX work and CG environments and set extensions including an all particle FX work and set extensions including an all CG ancient Incan city called Parapata…The MPC asset team did a great job making these characters realistic enough to interact with the actors and environments while still keeping them cute enough to pay homage to the original characters that everyone knows and loves.’

Dora And The Lost City Of Gold VFX Breakdown by Mill Film

Mill Film worked on many of the movie’s most memorable scenes – from the opening sequence that pays homage to the original series, to the epilogue’s montage of animation shots – with work ranging from character and creature animation to set extension and jungle and water FX.

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In tribute to the series – the first to feature an animated Latina character in a leading role as well as the longest-running American TV show with Spanish-speaking characters – director James Bobin embraced the idea of merging its classic 2-D style of animation into the “real world” version he was creating.

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“The old Chuck Jones cartoons were a great source of reference,” says Lindy De Quattro, Production VFX Supervisor. “We pushed the physics for our CG characters on broad actions just slightly beyond reality, giving them a couple of frames more hangtime or making them arc through space with a little more zip.”

As a filmmaker, Bobin encourages creative expression, which gave the animation team free reign to come up with  gags and ideas to elevate the live action, while supporting the story and character arcs of Dora and her friends.

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“All of the animals in the film have an underlying personality and we gave them backstories and attitudes, even if they only appear for a couple of shots,” explains Matt Everitt, Animation Supervisor, Mill Film. “They all behave as animals, but they also have a point of view on the scene; some are aware of the camera, some are aware of the actors and listen to the conversations happening in front of them. 

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Among the trickier tasks was getting the design just right for Swiper, the series’ antagonist. “The aim was to find the balance between a real and cartoon world,” says Mill Film’s Adam Paschke, Head of Creative Operations. “One in which our hero can interact with a mask-wearing fox without missing a beat. We pushed the design of the characters and the physics of the performance to be a blend of these two aesthetics.”

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The team also ensured that Dora’s best friend and confidant Boots would reflect the original, even as they researched real monkeys to influence his overall look.

“We often described Boots as part monkey and part cheeky, 9-year-old boy,” says De Quattro “sometimes he moves like a monkey and sometimes he might have slightly more anthropomorphic mannerisms. The three prongs of hair on the back of his head were often used to help sell his mood – sagging a little when sad and springing upright when happy or attentive. Overall, the movie was a joy to work on and that really shines through in the work.” 

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