The real-looking fur was no problem. CG water and marmalade were a piece of cake. No, the hardest part of animating the bear in the just-released “Paddington” was “finding the character that everyone loves,” says Charles Howell, production head in the Montreal office of vfx house Framestore. “People know the books. We had the daunting challenge of bringing this creature to life. He had to be a realistic, living, breathing furry bear, not just a cartoon character.”
To create the animated critter and integrate him into the live-action movie — directed by Paul King, starring Nicole Kidman and featuring Ben Whishaw as Paddington’s voice — up to 350 effects artists worked for two-and-a-half years, both in Framestore’s Montreal and London offices, Howell says. “We started to flesh out designs in 2012, and completed about 540 Paddington shots out of a total of 750 vfx shots in the film,” he adds.
The shop used a variety of CG software — Maya, Nuke, Houdini — but no motion capture. To perfect the London-dwelling bear, King, Howell and animation director Pablo Grillo brought Whishaw in for separate acting sessions. “We put the life in his eyes,” Howell says, “and retained his English character.”