Rhythm & Hues lays off 12 as projects wrap up

Computer animation and visual effects production company Rhythm & Hues Studios — best known for its Oscar-winning work providing the power of speech to animals in 1995’s hit pig pic “Babe” — has pinkslipped a dozen of its digital artists as work on two major projects comes to completion.

The last of the layoffs takes effect Nov. 21, according to a Rhythm & Hues spokeswoman. About 80 CG technical directors will remain on staff at the 11-year-old firm.

The company had largely wrapped on the Imax project Atlantis, a location-based ride that incorporates 3-D film projection and motion-controlled seats, slated to open this fall at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

Other laid-off CG artists had been working on a Rhythm & Hues-produced videogame that’s nearly complete. Effects design on DreamWorks’ “Mousehunt” animated pic is also drawing to a close, but the company doesn’t expect further layoffs.

Meanwhile, film’s most lovable pig is preparing to speak again, thanks to Rhythm & Hues.

The company has been awarded the visual effects contract for the sequel to “Babe,” titled “Babe in Metropolis.” The new pic, about the adventures of the porcine hero in the big city, will involve more effects shots and many more talking animals than the first.

The film is now lensing in Australia, under the direction of George Miller, and is skedded for a Thanksgiving 1998 release.

Recently, Rhythm & Hues provided effects scenes for “Speed 2: Cruise Control,” “Batman & Robin” and “The Nutty Professor.” The firm also designed CG effects for “Star Trek: The Experience,” a motion-based ride for Paramount Parks, opening soon at the Las Vegas Hilton.

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