How Method Studios conjured up the magic with ‘The Christmas Chronicles’

Netflix’s original feature The Christmas Chronicles has the fans buzzing with delight as the serendipitous modern-day Santa Claus goes about his adventures. Directed by Clay Kaytis and starring Kurt Russell as Santa, the comedy shows a pair of siblings trying to save Christmas and joining forces with a glum hero. From Photoreal Reindeer launching off through Northern Lights to the CGI elves that frolic about, Method Studios Vancouver helped realise the action-packed and visually-pleasing holiday tale, with artists led by Method VFX supervisor Hamish Schumacher. Method artists captured extensive stills and video footage of live Reindeers for reference on look and movements. Paying close attention to scale in relation to the actors and precisely designing antler and body measurements to dovetail with one-set riding rigs. The textural and colour variations were taken care of only after the finalisation of Comet and Donner’s assets. Method supervisors themselves served as reindeer stand-ins, helping lay the foundation for close interaction between actors and CG characters. For convincing visuals and credulity, the technical animation team regulated each reindeer’s motions, adding nuances from the way the reindeer’s muscles fired up for the flying scenes to the facial twitches and movements for close-up shots. “The scene when Katie meets Comet is very intimate — she’s stroking his muzzle and feeding him a candy cane while explaining what happened to Santa. Her connection with him is what motivates the herd to help out and move the story along, so it was crucial that the bond feel authentic,” said Schumacher to Method artists also designed the sleigh flight sequences, using psychedelic imagery and deep colour to deliver travel time and distance as Santa manoeuvres across the globe. Pressing a button, Santa enters a wormhole and whizzes past a spate of iconic landmarks including the Statue of Liberty and Eiffel Tower, with the flickering Aurora Borealis bringing the sequence together. Santa’s transformation when he slides in and out of the chimney also demanded visual effects work. The Christmas Chronicles is available on Netflix.