One of the best Halloween treats to come along in years, Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, transports moviegoers to a visually inventive world where the dead have a lot more fun than the living. Extending that fantastic world to the web was the task placed before BLITZ, the interactive advertising agency tapped by Warner Bros. to help promote the gothic family flick with a dynamic online presence.
"With this project obviously being a Tim Burton film, we really wanted to create as immersive an environment as physical possible," says BLITZ exec creative director Ken Martin. "He’s one of the moviemakers that definitely have die-hard fan groups and we really wanted to layer a lot of things in there that made revisits to the site a definite possibility."
According to Josh Esguia, senior art director on the project, Warner Bros. allowed his team creative freedom in translating Burton’s vision. "It was definitely a collaboration in that they were very good about knowing what the general mood of the film was and it was sort of our responsibility to translate that into an experience online," he remarks. "They did give us a good amount of trust in building the site, and at the same time it was a very smooth experience as far as getting assets from them and having them give us feedback on our work."
Warner Bros. hooked BLITZ up with behind-the-scenes photography to help inspire the creation of the website. "The whole film is very character based, and we were provided with a lot of really good shots of the characters," Esguia notes. "We actually wound up remodeling a few of the characters, which wouldn’t have been possible without good character photography from different angles and with good lighting."
BLITZ employed both Autodesk’s 3ds max and Alias’ Maya in modeling the Corpse Bride characters, which originally existed only as silicone stop-motion animation puppets. Martin emphasizes the degree of trust Warner Bros.’ had to have in them to do this, remarking, "The fact that they were able to allow us to recreate something such as the main character [Victor], of all things, in 3D, animate it ourselves and incorporate it into the movie assets side-by-side was a great patch for our website-creating jacket."
The Corpse Bride website takes visitors on a journey through many of the environments in the movie. Assistant art director Paul Hikiji tells us the BLITZ team got its backgrounds by taking the productions photos and digitally removing the animators and any other unwanted elements that happened to be on set at the time. In Victor’s room, for instance, they had to clone out a giant hand reaching through the window to animate Victor’s head.
While the crew of animators who provided the fluid movements on the actual Corpse Bride film had the luxury of working with the full 24 frames per second, BLITZ had to deal with file size restrictions associated with animating for the web. "On the one hand, we didn’t want to cut it short to the point where we would lose the personality of the characters, but on the other hand, we wanted to give people a reasonable download time," Esguia explains.
Senior producer Anna Baxter adds that there are a lot of little Easter eggs hidden in the site, including exclusive illustrations by Burton. "There are two levels in each section," she reveals. "One is easy to find and the other is a little bit more challenging, so we tried to make the most interesting content the stuff you have to work for." She points to the piano room, which features a vase you can click on to access a game which, when completed, unlocks cool content. BLITZ even remodeled the movie’s "Harryhausen" piano so visitors can play the keys with their mouses.
When we spoke to Corpse Bride animation supervisor Anthony Scott for the September issue of Animation Magazine, he mentioned that his favorite character to work with was Scraps, Victor’s skeletal dog. Esguia also says the precious pooch was the most fun to incorporate into the site. "We went through a lot of manipulation to get him to run around the environment we were creating," He recalls. "To make him look like he was actually in the place, we had to light him properly and give him shadows, that kind of thing. He can respond to you and serves as an actual navigation piece, so he was a lot of fun."
You can catch Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride in theaters now and visit the BLITZ-designed official web site for the movie at http://corpsebridemovie.warnerbros.com.