Animating History: Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction

From the drawing board to the computer monitor, Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero goes through 3D modeling tests with Mikros Animation

At its core, Sgt. Stubby is a story about a man and his dog, set against the backdrop of World War I. Beyond the universal themes of friendship and survival, the script speaks directly to special interest audiences – families, animal lovers, military historians and veterans – all of whom find details included specifically for them.

This multilayered story has to be reinforced by an intricately detailed on-screen universe: the dark alleys of Stubby’s life as a stray, the bright grass of the Yankee Division’s training grounds at Yale, the wooden trenches beneath the haze of the front lines, the electric Parisian nights unlike anything the Americans had ever experienced…

Yet the image itself will be flat. Physically without dimension. Light projecting pixels onto a white mesh screen.

To bring this story to life, our artists and animators have to spend countless hours developing a visual language to synthesize our three-dimensional world.

THE STUDIO

In animation, every single detail has to be created from scratch. Each facial movement, reaction, expression, and emotion has to be individually created by personal character teams.

Once our artists have depicted our characters in all their nuanced glory, it’s up to the animators to conform their 2D drawings into a functional, photorealistic physical space. Scale, proportion, texture, light reflection/refraction…these are just some of the considerations that must go into a 3D model before naturalistic movement can even be attempted.

For this intensive combination of artistry and science, Sgt. Stubby‘s production team have turned to Mikros Animation.

Mikros Animation | SGT. STUBBY AN AMERICAN HERO
Photo courtesy of Mikros Image Group (Facebook: Paris | Montreal)

Recently acquired by Technicolor and with offices in Paris, London, and Montreal, Mikros has long been on the cutting edge of the digital revolution. Long known for their postproduction and visual effects work, Mikros’ animation division launched head-first into feature filmmaking in 2014 with Asterix, the Mansions of the Gods.

Just one year later, they released the first ever adaptation of the beloved children’s book The Little Prince. The film is widely recognized as the most successful French animated film in history, dating back to France’s invention of the global cinema industry over 120 years ago.

The Little Prince Banner
The Little Prince (2015)

NEW DOG, OLD TRICKS

It’s important to understand that 3D (the process of animating objects that appear in a three-dimensional space) is not synonymous with stereoscopic cinema, a technique for enhancing the illusion of depth by displaying two images simultaneously and wearing special glasses to interpolate the images (what most cinema chains market as “3D glasses”).

While Sgt. Stubby won’t require the use of 3D glasses to create a fully immersive experience, it is interesting to note that many of the features we typically don’t associate with early cinema – color photography, stereoscopy, special effects, large format projection – actually date back prior to World War I…but that’s another story for another time.

THE FILM

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero is an upcoming computer-animated feature film based on the incredible true story of America’s most decorated dog. After being rescued off the streets by a young Soldier on the eve of World War I, Stubby is given a home, a family, and the chance to embark on the adventure that would define a century. For his valor and courage, Stubby is recognized as the first dog promoted to the rank of Sergeant in U.S. Army history.

Starring Logan LermanHelena Bonham CarterGérard Depardieu
Music by Patrick Doyle
Animation by Mikros Image

The film is slated to theatrically debut on April 13, 2018. For exclusive production updates, follow Stubby’s big screen adventures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest!

Sgt. Stubby marches into theaters April 13, 2018!

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