8/15/02 Thumbs Up for Janimation’s Spy Kids 2 Effects

Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams features wildly imaginative visual effects, including a sea creature that rises up to menace the film’s heroes. That sequence is just one of the feats of digital wizardry brought to the screen by Janimation for Robert Rodriguez’s comedic fantasy.

The Janimation owner Steve Gaçonnier and his team were tickled to read Roger Ebert’s review in the Chicago Sun Times, in which he notes, "I liked the special effects, especially a green-and-gold sea monster that was kind of beautiful in its own way."

Working on a tight schedule, Janimation created a series of two-headed sea serpent designs based on the animatic created by Chris Olivia at Troublemaker Digital.

Janimation’s 3D supervisor, Greg Punchatz states that the coolest thing about animating the monster was the use of the "Isner Spine," a spine originally created by Michael Isner of Softimage’s special projects group. "It gave us a fantastic way of animating the long necks of the creature, which were much easier to use than a traditional bones setup," he says. "Using the Isner Spine, we were able to animate the neck with only four control objects and get much quicker results than traditional techniques." Punchatz developed the sea creature animation with Lead Animator, John McInnis.

To integrate the sea creature into the water plates, Visual Effects Coordinator Keefe Boerner and Post Supervisor Brian McNulty determined that Janimation would need to shoot water practicals to make the scene more realistic. The practicals were shot in HD under the supervision of Gaçonnier and Lyn Caudle. A 70-foot high crane was used to lift 55-gallon drums and drop them into the water. Air cannons and a waverunner placed beneath the water provided other water elements, as did CG particle effects created by Caudle and FX Animator, Jason Stambolian.

The 2D team was charged with a few additional miles of ocean by removing the land behind the floating spy kids. Under Lead Compositor Alex Neuman, the team also integrated the splash and wake water effects into the shots and composited the monster behind the kids through tedious rotoscoping. Additional compositing credits go to Gary Walker, Jenni Hudgens, Fran Gaçonnier, Jana Oleksinski and Ben Hoffman.


© 2002 Animation Magazine Inc.