Wonder Park: Animators Javier Abad and Javier Romero on Creating Realistic, Fun Environments and Characters

Wonder Park is perhaps one of the most challenging and daunting as actually designing an amusement park in real life.

With so much creativity in the animated Wonder Park, Paramount Animation and Nickelodeon collaborated with Madrid-based Ilion Animation Studios in Spain to bring this ambitious project to life. Ilion was also the mastermind behind the CG-animated films like Planet 51, Martadelo and Filemon: Mission Implusible. The film’s production designer, editorial and story teams were done in Los Angeles.

The animation has an all-star voice cast that included Jennifer Garner, Ken Hudson Campbell, Kenan Thompson, Mila Kunis, John Oliver, Ken Jeong, Norbert Leo Butz and Matthew Broderick. Brianna Denski makes her voice acting debut as the main character of June.

The film is about June, once an imaginative happy girl, who created an incredible amusement park with interesting characters and vibrant rides. As her mother fell into sickness, she lost all hope and imagination as she had to grow up. One day, she discovered her old imaginary amusement park came to life and she must be the one to save the park from destruction and oblivion.

LRM Online had an exclusive phone interview with animation director Javier Abad and visual effects supervisor Javier Romero of Ilion Animation Studios. We talked about the development of the environments, amusement rides, characters looks and the overall challenges with everything.

Wonder Park is currently playing in theaters nationwide today.

Read our exclusive interview below.

LRM: First and foremost, tell me about your roles in this particular production of Wonder Park. What do you do?

Javier Abad: I would be the Head of Animation. My job was to bring to the characters to life. It was to animate the whole movie and to help to create the looks of the characters. And you Romero?

Javier Romero: Yeah, my job is in developing the techniques and technologies keep the look that the studio wanted by working with the production and the producers. So, yeah. We teamed up with the lighting team and the layout team in able to produce the amazing images that we have in the movie.

LRM: What kind of approach did you want for the process for Wonder Park? What did you want to try to accomplish?

Javier Abad: Wonder Park was tough for us. It required extensive environments and with a lot of complex geometry. It is one of the most difficult things to do in animation. It was big for us in terms of how we were going to do model them. It was on how to shade them. It’s on how we were going to manage the scenes that were pretty heavy. The surprising thing was also the cinematography. We wanted to capture the realism for the film. By that time, there were movies coming out that are like long shots within the wide angles. It can show off the entire environments. We developed a lot of technologies for that. It was on how the camera reads on the streets, trees and vegetation. There were also a lot of special effects work on the hair of the characters. We used a lot of outside tools, but with a lot of internal developments as well. We were allowed for the allocation of trees and complex geometry.

LRM: This film is a very ambitious in its own way. Could you tell me about the challenges of the color palettes and lighting to make this such a vibrant world?

Javier Romero: That’s a good point. We wanted to give this stylized look. All the models, geometry and environments were realistic in terms of quality. In terms of shading and lighting, we wanted it to be more vibrant. We wanted to expose this happiness and joyful of June. It was showing her entire journey and growing up. I think we were very successful about it. It was a choice.

LRM: As I actually watched the film, I was actually that fascinated in terms of creating the populations that littered throughout the entire film with the amusement park visitors and with the monkeys. Could you talk about the difficulties on trying to create the many variations of people and monkeys throughout the entire film?

Javier Abad: We felt that this was one of the big challenges for the movie. We need to create a tool to help us with this since the rest of the movie will be so huge. With this software, we also had to create this big library for the visitors of the park. For the monkeys, we were able to create a certain number of them with 10 to 20 variations of looks in order to play around with them.

LRM: How about talking about the characters that you developed? How do you want to make them look more unique and visually stimulating for us?

Javier Abad: We wanted to have a simple approach. We have a lot of shots and we have a lot of characters in the film. We developed on top of the skin with a very simple lifelike simulation and sometimes with a little bit more complex simulations. June was a bigger challenge, because her hairstyle required more simulation per shot. Also, she had a complex sweater on.

We have plenty of freedom to do this. That’s a great sign. We really didn’t want to have much restrictions based on the complexity. It would behave properly. For the palette process, I chose Boomer to be blue.

Javier Romero:
At the beginning, Boomer was brown, right?

Javier Abad: We decided to the color to create distinguished and fun for the character. It was difficult to choose the palettes for the other characters, including the beavers.

LRM: Well, it worked. The film looked a very fun. Could you talk about the difficulties of the park itself? For Wonder Park, there were a lot of scenes that were very fast paced. I could imagine that was very difficult.

Javier Abad: Doing the park was challenging, because we were developing the story at the same time. We had to break down the designs of the park with production. During production, we were designing it. We were doing action sequences for their location when that area of the park was not designed yet. Also, the park was huge. We wanted to be able to get a sense of being a big amusement park and we wanted it to be correct in terms of location. It wasn’t like it was an individual sequence approach. We tried to be like an overall constant approach of the park.

Actually, we hired park designer to assist us with the areas. We also used mapping as well. We developed the mapping to get a better geometry or loading assets. We have all the consistency anytime while we’re shooting anywhere in the park. Sometimes at the beginning, we would have to be filming without locations assigned. It was quite challenging, because it was like empty spaces in the film during production. Then we were trusting and pretending that the attractions were behind them.

LRM: It sounds like realism is the primary focus for both of you, right?

Javier Abad: At the end of the day, we wanted to create a warmth for the amusement park so that you could feel you could go there. Actually, some of earliest developments were too realistic, we pulled back a little bit to be more stylized. It ended up that the environments were more realistic, while the characters were more cartoony.

LRM: Both of you worked on Planet 51 before. Did you find this project to be very much different from your previous project?

Javier Abad: This [Wonder Park] was the first time we got to work with Paramount. The director, the writer, the story team were based in LA. We had to figure out to work for hire at a distance or a studio. The work in this environment was incredibly huge in comparison to Planet 51. It was with the number of scenarios, characters and the special effects. Everything was a challenge.

Planet 51 was challenging as well since it was our first movie. We were like creating the company at the same time. Wonder Park was working with a new studio. We had to development the technologies for the environment production. They’re both very different scenarios.

LRM: Hey, thank you gentlemen for speaking with me. I found the Wonder Park movie very vibrant and happy for me.

Javier Abad: Thank you.

Javier Romero: We’re glad you liked it. Thank you.

Wonder Park is currently playing in theaters nationwide today.

Source: LRM Online Exclusive

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