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'Narnia's' Special Effects Wizards in DVD Spotlight

16 Feb, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which arrives in two DVD versions April 4, marks the first time a Disney DVD production crew has been on a movie set throughout filming.

Andy Siditsky, SVP of worldwide DVD production and creative services for Buena Vista Home Entertainment, and his crew carefully chronicled the film's elaborate creation. Fans will get a detailed look at the hard work from the folks behind Narnia's Academy Award nominations for best visual effects, best makeup and best sound, said executives at an event celebrating the noms.

Narnia's Oscar-nominated team included three computer animation studios, Rhythm & Hues, Imageworks, and Industrial Light and Magic, as well as traditional makeup, costume and physical effects artists working as a cohesive unit under the film's head of special effects Dean Wright.

Often there is a sense of rivalry between traditional effects and digital effects teams, but not so on this set, said Howard Berger, head of Narnia's makeup crew.

Director Andrew Adamson was the glue that held it all together, Wright said, his colleagues agreeing.

The DVD offers in-depth looks at the painstaking, intricate process of creating elaborate digital characters that also have to convey deep emotion — such as the lion, Aslan, one of Rhythm & Hues' projects.

Bill Westenhofer from Rhythm & Hues previewed DVD footage that showed the computer animators working with a real lion to study body movement, the motion capture technology used on set and samples of the many different stages of animation it took to bring Aslan to life.

The studio began working on the project long before Liam Neeson signed on to voice the integral character. Effects wizards gathered a library of facial expressions, using Gregory Peck's performance in To Kill a Mockingbird, Westenhofer said.Jim Berney of Imageworks showed a sneak peek at behind-the-scenes DVD footage that unwinds the film's extremely complex frozen waterfall scene.

Makeup supervisor Berger showed a sequence from the DVD illustrating the merge of traditional and digital effects in the film, highlighting the faun character, Mr. Tumnis. DVD film crews followed Berger's makeup team and actor James McAvoy through the long hours of makeup required to create his character's upper body. The lower half of Mr. Tumnis came from Berney's team at Imageworks. Other DVD extras go into great detail on how computer animators created the legs and coordinated movement for the half-man, half-deer character.

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