June 28, 2021

MPC Film Deliver Bold and Rebellious VFX for Cruella

Disney’s live-action feature about one of cinema’s most notorious villains is set against a 1970’s London punk rock backdrop.

Academy Award winner Emma Stone stars in Disney’s Cruella, a new live-action feature film about the rebellious early days of the legendary Cruella de Vil, which is set in 1970’s London amidst the punk rock revolution. MPC Film VFX Supervisor Damien Stumpf and VFX Producer Christoph Roth worked closely with Production VFX Supervisor Max Wood on the film, completing 1158 shots for Cruella.

In the preliminary stages, Technicolor’s MPC Film team developed their approach through copious amounts of research: from watching Disney’s classic 101 Dalmatians animated feature, to studying the anatomy of dogs and using concept art.

Creating the Furry Companions

Within MPC Film’s Character Lab, digital character experts began the development of seven canines for the movie. Using a mix of concept art, research, photogrammetry and plate photography, MPC artists built the CG models, including: the Baroness’ three Dalmatians, Cruella’s furry companion Buddy (as puppy and fully grown dog), and Wink, Horace’s eye-patched Chihuahua.

Once modelled, the CG characters were delivered to the rigging team, who used their expertise on canine anatomy to build each animal’s skeleton and muscle system. MPC’s groom team, using proprietary software, created the varying lengths of fur, tufts, and whiskers.

Recreating the 1970’s Punk Rock Scene

MPC Film also created the punk rock backdrop of 1970’s London. The team did extensive research of the city’s history during this period, which enabled them to recreate the landscape that saw some of the most significant changes in British society, from women’s rights to the emerging punk rock culture. MPC’s Environment artists used 3D assets and digital matte paintings to transform present day London into the vibrant, fashion-forward streets of the 1970s. They also built the fully CG environment surrounding the Baroness’ Hellman Hall.

Another highlight of their work is a one-and-a-half minute long shot featuring the iconic department store, Liberty of London. For this, the compositing team seamlessly stitched together seven different camera takes, using 2.5D and 3D set extensions to bridge the various camera moves.

Developing Cruella’s Notorious Fashion

MPC Film developed a number of Cruella’s notoriously fashionable outfits, the most notable piece being a dress made from over a thousand Chrysalises. The team closely referenced concept art to accurately model the dormant insect pupa of a moth and then, using a proprietary crowd simulation tool, duplicate the Chrysalis across the dress in extensive numbers. It was essential to craft the Chrysalis to such detail that it would work in a close-up shot of a moth hatching. 

Another highlight not to be missed: the scene in which Cruella makes a spectacular entrance to a high society party in a white hooded cloak, which ignites into flames and drops to the floor, revealing her iconic red dress.

Joining Forces with Technicolor Post-Vis

Technicolor’s Post Visualization team joined forces with MPC Film on Cruella, working on 15 sequences within the film. Utilizing character assets created by its Character Lab team in Montreal, the team’s work largely consisted of animating CG dogs and compositing them into plates with a variety of complexity and lighting. Working alongside them was the Art Department; Senior Concept Artist Ivan Khomenko and Art Director Leandre Lagrange fleshed out the environments and key story moments, envisioning Cruella’s world in 1970’s London with the creation of concept frames for the VFX team.

“Cruella was an enormous and exciting collaboration for our team of thirteen visualization artists,” said Technicolor Post-Vis Supervisor Josh Lange. “Operating from Technicolor's Pre-Production department at the MPC office in Culver City, Los Angeles, we joined up with MPC's wide network to utilize assets created by final VFX teams at the offices in Montreal and London.

With this foundation, we animated scenes with complicated quadruped body mechanics, drama, intensity, subtlety, and even broad comedy. VFX Supervisor Max Wood guided us along the way, as we completed bluescreen-heavy shots and explored ways to design a pivotal surprise moment in the third act.”

This was the team’s first production affected by the COVID pandemic, but they quickly pivoted to fully remote working conditions, where post-vis artists seamlessly continued their work until early Autumn of 2020, followed by the VFX team wrapping in Spring of 2021.

“Looking back at the efforts of our team and MPC/Technicolor as a whole, I am tremendously proud of our exceptional artists and what they achieved under such unusual conditions on this project,” concluded Lange.

Catch Cruella in theaters or watch now on Disney+