– by Joseph Jammer Medina

CG Animation has come a long way over the years, and we’ve gotten to the point where we can capture the essence of a city down to the texture and gritty nature of alleys or rooftops. And yet, even if the animation itself is good, it may still fail to capture the essence of what makes a specific city a city.

For DreamWorks’ upcoming film Abominable, their big challenge lied in making a city based on Shanghai. Instrumental to this accuracy was DreamWorks’ partner Pearl Studio, as director Jill Culton revealed in a roundtable interview LRM Online’s Nancy Tapia attended.

“You know, we had such a unique partnership with Pearl Studio and they’re centered in Shanghai. So we had a team of artists there and then we had a really big team of artists at DreamWorks. What we relied on Pearl for really was that authenticity. Like you said, the whole first act takes place in that city. And that city was based on Shanghai. It’s not exactly Shanghai, but to get every detail right in that city, they really helped design that whole city down to the food carts, down to the apartment, the little humble apartment they live in, the dishes, the background of the wallpaper, everything like that. And I think that this really makes a difference because if you’re a Western company attempting to make a movie completely set in China, you’re going to mess it up if you don’t have help from people who live there, who have… Because it’s not even just the details of the stuff, it’s the visceral feeling you get.

“And what was so exciting is our first previews in China, everyone thought that it was just made by Chinese company because it felt so real. So things like that, we’ve relied on them 100% some of the other set pieces are DreamWorks designed, you know, but we worked in tandem with them constantly every day. Peilin Chou, who’s their chief creative officer and our chief creative officer, Margie Cohen, every meeting I had with them that was a creative meeting, which was at least once or twice a week with notes or feedback, they did that together. So it was like we were one studio working together and it really was quite an experienced, because when it comes down to it, like I said, I so excited that Chinese audiences watch this film and they are not pulled out by the fact that, and they’re not saying, ‘Oh well, that’s just a Western company making a Chinese film.’”

RELATED – Abominable Writer-Director Jill Culton On the Challenge Of The Yeti Film And Her Connection With The Lead

While this isn’t necessarily something U.S. audiences would care much about, it would matter to overseas audiences in the same way that capturing San Francisco for Inside Out was important. It does go to show how important those audiences are becoming to the industry, and it could also open up many young viewers’ eyes to the different ways of life out there.

Abominable hits theaters on September 27, 2019!

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Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of LRM. A graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer's always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he's always been something of a story junkie.