When local f/x house Iloura took on post for the Guillermo del Toro-presented “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,” they didn’t know the creatures they were designing would be part rabbit. Initially tasked with designing eight bogeymen, including the lead creature Blackwood, it wasn’t long before it was on board to produce up to 40 after finding out the creatures had bred.

Glenn Melenhorst, visual effects supervisor at Iloura, says although a lot of the design work had been done Stateside by Spectral Motion he was pleased they were given so much latitude designing the creatures. “They all had to look like they were from the same family.” Albeit a particularly creepy family that is not that fond of light, a fact that was another challenge for the f/x crew.

“They were creatures that exist in the half light, just on the verge of being seen,” Melenhorst says. “We had to make sure when we composited them and lit them that they sat in their environment nicely. … There was a lot of subtlety to be brought into play.”

The creatures were also meant to seem ancient, which Melenhorst and his team conveyed through movement: When upright they walk hunched like old men, but when on all fours they scuttle like cockroaches and scurry into the cracks in the film’s New England gothic setting.

“It was all key-frame animated, and the number of characters grew from one or two in a shot to 30 or 40 in a shot and being hand animated, and they were all spindly little guys with fingers and claws and facial expressions, and that all had to be hand keyed, getting the motion right was quite difficult,” he says.

“Dark” producer Mark Johnson, who was also overseeing the third Narnia installment “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” at the same time on the Gold Coast, was thrilled with the result.

“We had some of the best work I have ever had done and for a very attractive price. I would love to do more work with them,” he says.

And while the strong Aussie dollar is making it harder for runaways to make it Down Under, f/x is one area where it can compete. Recently the federal government raised the Post, Digital and Visual Effects (PDV) offset from 15% to 30% to make it internationally competitive.

Says Iloura’s VFX topper Ineke Majoor: “I think visual effects globally is an area that requires very specific artist talent, and I think the studios are very good at sniffing out where that talent is.”

Aussie hospitality | F/x house Iloura steps into the light | Going Down Under