Axis Studios’ visual effects are axisVFX has helped bring an imaginative new SyFy series to life, delivering 900 shots across eight episodes of Happy! — an imaginative send-up of the gritty anti-hero trope based on the the work of Scottish comic-book writer Grant Morrison. The series premiered Dec. 6 and centers on alcoholic ex-cop turned hitman Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni) who teams up with an imaginary unicorn (voiced by Patton Oswalt) to recover a young girl kidnapped by a deranged Santa Claus (Joseph Reitman).
axisVFX worked in tandem with Axis’ three creative facilities across the UK to collaboratively create the CG imaginary friend Happy with showrunners Brian Taylor and Patrick Macmanus. The studio developed concepts, animation and final rendering to create a believable yet cartoonish character with a photoreal feel. The attention and screen time Happy enjoys — about 100 shots per episode — is unprecedented for a CG character in a TV series.
“It was an amazing challenge to work on a TV CG character that wasn’t just a one-episode cameo, but a lead protagonist in his own right. It’s almost unheard of, and indicative of just how much the television landscape is changing in a post-Netflix world,” said axisVFX co-founder and VFX supervisor Grant Hewlett. “It was an amazing journey to feel out the character and be given so much trust in his artistic direction. axisVFX but 110% into every frame, and we couldn’t be prouder of what’s ended up on screen.”
The team also lead production on three 20-second marketing spots and animated Happy for a series of bespoke show promos, as well as an AR app that lets users see the character in the real world through their smartphone screens.
Paul Schleicher, executive producer at axisVFX, commented: “It’s amazing to be part of the growth in graphic novels being adapted into TV shows – The Walking Dead, Preacher, The Tick and so on. Happy! is a vibrant, gory, hilarious roller coaster of a TV show; it was a huge amount of fun to pitch the ever-positive character of Happy against the acerbic and nihilistic Nick Sax, and to develop what that meant in animation. The whole Axis Studios crew pitched in across London, Bristol, and Glasgow, using the individual expertise of each location in order to make this show the success that it is.”
New episodes of Happy! debut Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on SyFy channel. You can also catch it online at www.syfy.com/happy.
axisVFX has previously worked on the Royal Television Society Award-nominated VFX for BBC’s Doctor Who, and on Aardman Animations’ Early Man — in theaters in the UK Jan. 26 and the US Feb. 16. Learn more at www.axisstudiosgroup.com.