This November get ready to travel to a Strange World via Walt Disney Animation. Director Don Hall and co-director Qui Nguyen introduce us to a legendary family of explorers, the Clades, as they attempt to navigate an uncharted, treacherous land. Along the journey, they are joined by a motley crew that includes a three-legged dog, a mischievous blob, and a bunch of ravenous creatures that can surprise you around every corner.
In Strange World, the Clades end up in a vast, hidden, subterranean world where bizarre creatures, and looming danger. One of these creatures is that mischievous blob that we mentioned above, and its name is Splat.
During a recent press event held by Walt Disney Animation at their studios in Burbank, LRM Online got to know this blob that is sure to become beloved by many who watch Strange World in theaters.
Splat is a blue blobby creature from the strange world that befriends one of the Clades, Ethan. It guides Ethan and the rest of the Clades through the mysterious underground land. Splat had an overabundance of personality but a lack of facial features. While this would be a challenge for Disney animators, it’s not unfamiliar territory. In the past characters like Aladdin’s magic carpet and the broomstick from Fantasia have been able to hold their own next to fully developed characters.
Heads of animation Amy Smeed and Justin Sklar on Strange World were on hand to share with us the challenging process of creating Splat. To understand some of the details about creating Splat, it’s important to first know the rules animators of this world had to follow.
“The creatures in this world are very fluid and always moving. We were trying to avoid any sharp angles for the creaturs. They could bend but we wanted to avoid the feeling that these creatures had bones or anything that really felt too anatomical. But then after that really anything goes. We didn’t want to be too fussy about it. We just tried to make fun weird choices that would make us laugh or surprise us.” Said Smeed.
The first challenge to overcome was the fact that even with no face Splat often had to act against human characters and often needed to communicate very specific information in Strange World. He would need to communicate via pantomime. But according to Sklar, they decided to make this task even harder by not allowing Splat to shapeshift, even if it would have made the storytelling easier. The character needed to be as far away as human as possible.
“We also really just wanted to avoid anything that made splat feel too human or too bipedal. Which really meant trying to be careful of how Splat walked or how Splat ran or Splat stood. To take advantage of the fact that splat has so many limbs and different ways that splat could be oriented. Then also trying to give you a place to focus when you look at Splat but not have that that be the tentacle at the top of Splat’s body, so that you didn’t feel like that was Splat’s head.” Said Sklar.
The next challenge was moving Splat around. This taking into account that it doesn’t have a proper front, back, top, or bottom. It also has a lot of limbs, seven tentacles, and several of what they call “nubbins”. Which made Splat very time-consuming to pose because they had to pose it 24 times a second every time he was on screen.
“Splat needed to be able to roll around and be upside down and act on two legs. Or three legs, or four legs, or five legs, or on its head. Splat has no real structure so we really had to do all of that while still hitting a bunch of different poses. Giving our animators a huge range of flexibility and controlling very carefully how each of those drawings moves over time.” Said Sklar.
All of this for a blue blobby creature? This just shows the level of passion and commitment of the animators at Walt Disney Animation Studios. Despite the challenges, the animators are always up for the challenge of delivering compelling visual storytelling. A character like Splat in Strange World gives them the opportunity to do just that.
Walt Disney Animation’s Strange World will open in theaters on November 23.