October 29, 2019

“Well, Well” … Maleficent Is Back – and Technicolor Casts a Spell Over Her Fantastical World

Technicolor’s MPC and Mill Film joined with director Joachim Rønning in bringing back to the screen Disney’s Maleficent: Mistress of Evil in all her villainous charm.

  • MPC Film worked on some of its most extensive world building to date, from the Ulstead Kingdom to the Fey’s nest and Aurora’s castle.
  • Mill Film’s work totaled over 320 shots, including an elaborate wedding scene with several nods to the original Sleeping Beauty animated feature.
  • MPC Film and Mill Film, both from the Technicolor family, were in close collaboration, seamlessly sharing complex assets and shots.

One of Disney’s favorite villains is back in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, the sequel to the 2014 live-action retelling of Disney's Sleeping Beauty. The new film once again stars Angelina Jolie as Maleficent, whose daughter Aurora’s (Elle Fanning) upcoming marriage to Prince Phillip pits her against a new adversary, Michelle Pfeiffer’s Queen Ingrith.

As lead studio, MPC Film worked on some of its most extensive world building to date, from the Ulstead Kingdom – including castles, villages and gardens – to the Fey’s nest and Aurora’s castle. To populate these worlds, they animated dozens of different creatures, each with their own personalities, and gave Maleficent and the other Feys their digital wings. The team – which included VFX Supervisors Jessica Norman. Bryan Litson and Damien Stumpf – worked on multiple sequences; among the most notable were the nest sequence, including conception of different biomes and their transition, and orchestrating the final battle and wedding sequence.

"Working on Maleficent was a great experience,” says Stumpf. “I really appreciated working with [Production VFX Supervisor] Gary Brozenich and director Joachim Rønning to help achieve the vision. We were really united as a team."

Adds MPC Animation Supervisor Seng Lau: “Joachim had a great eye and always knew what he wanted. Gary was a strong leader who knew how to push the team. The film ended up looking spectacular, and I'm proud of both the quantity and quality of shots we achieved. The talent we had on the team was top notch, and the experience was unforgettable.”

Rønning was once again collaborating with Brozenich – they previously worked together on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – along with Mill Film’s VFX Supervisor Laurent Gillet. To bring the fantasy-filled world of Maleficent to life, Mill Film delivered over 320 shots made up of CG environments, set extensions, FX particle simulations (CG water, magic FX), creature animation and fur dynamics, and complex crowd simulations.

With Rønning’s strong vision in mind, Mill Film’s lighting and comp teams worked to set the mood and tone of certain scenes throughout the project. “The [Lickspittle] laboratory sequences were particularly great to work on as they are some of the pivot points to the story’s narrative, with three of the cutest CG characters of the film,” says Gillet. “Our lighting and compositing teams were beautifully able to emphasize the characters’ expressions and feelings and add to the feel of the story.”

“The [Dark Fey] nest was also a great challenge to work on, as there were both extreme close-ups and wide angles that required us to build a variety of different models and materials,” adds Sergey Kononenko, Mill Film CG Supervisor. “We employed a combination of 2D and 3D elements which allowed us to work across any scenario – so it meant we had to actually design what the home of the Dark Fey could look like, even though the cameras never made it there.” The result is a dark and moody, almost cave-like micro-universe, which draws the audience deep into the world of the Fey.

For Mill Film Producer Marie-Eve Authier, establishing great communication with the studio’s clients is key, as is looking to create longer-term relationships. “It’s great when we get to work with clients like Gary who allow the studios they work with to open up, and create that dialogue and partnership – while keeping things creatively challenging for everyone. That’s exactly what keeps this industry growing,” she says.

And it’s what allowed the team to form the connections it took to deliver Disney-grade work within the studio’s first year of operation. Explains Compositing Supervisor Gaëlle Bossis: “Gary is one of the best VFX Supervisors I’ve had the pleasure of working with. He knows exactly what his director wants, how to express it, is open to new suggestions, and was constructive with his notes.”

Technicolor’s Mill Film and MPC Film teams partnered closely on Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, seamlessly sharing assets and shots. For instance, the Mill Film team worked on roto-animating and integrating the special Fey wings, developed by MPC, onto dozens of characters, including Maleficent herself.

“Technicolor’s VFX studios are uniquely placed to meet this kind of challenge. Our shared infrastructure allowed us to expedite these complex assets and collaborate effectively to meet the creative challenges we faced,” says Lauren McCallum, Mill Film’s Global Managing Director. “I’m truly proud and impressed by the dedication and can-do attitude of our newly formed team. You can really see their energy and ingenuity in the work.”

“Go beyond the fairy tale” and check out the final trailer for Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.