A young girl, Nemo discovers a secret map to the dreamworld of Slumberland, and with the help of an eccentric outlaw – Flip, she traverses dreams and flees nightmares, with the hope that she will be able to see her late father again. From director Francis Lawrence starring Jason Momoa and Marlow Barkley, the movie Slumberland is a visual extravaganza in which the characters traverse into different imaginative worlds full of butterflies, mirrors, seas, mountains and much more.
In this film full of magical worlds and dreams, DNEG, the global VFX and animation studio, worked on some awe-inspiring scenes. For in-depth knowledge about the visual effects work done on the film, Animation Xpress got in touch with DNEG’s CG Supervisor Eve Levasseur-Marineau.
The DNEG team joined the movie in December 2020 when it was in the pre-production stage. At that time, they were involved in building the assets for the film whereas the shooting for the film was done between the period of February – June 2021. The team worked on 231 shots in the film with the help of over 200 artists from DNEG Vancouver and Mumbai. As the CG Supervisor, Marineau joined the project in the post-production stage.
This was a dreamy sequence where everyone and almost everything in the Cuban Hotel turns into butterflies. DNEG created a CG environment for this scene with a reference from on-site pictures. They also enhanced the scene with particles wherein the butterflies reinstate on the wall and pick up the colour behind it. The ballroom in this sequence is filled with Salsa dancers and musicians. An intense mocap shoot was done for this portion of the project and after DNEG received the mocap data, they were responsible for the digidoubles and adding the cloth simulation. The team added particle effects on the dancers where based on the dancers’ movements in the scene, the butterflies would detach and reattach to the dancers. The same process was used for the musicians in the scene.
Towards the end of the movie, the lead characters return to the ballroom in the Cuban Hotel which is being destroyed. In this scene, the lead character Flip crashes a truck in the window. The crash was shot on location and the DNEG team had to replace the pieces from the crash with the butterflies. Even the chandelier – which was made using CG – had to be turned into butterflies as it fell on the ground.
The butterfly sequence was the most challenging and interesting one for the DNEG team to work on. They had to make note of all the details – from the butterflies and their movements to the dancers and the original ballroom itself.
Sea of nightmare and Squid
For this underwater sequence, the team built an inverted seabed wherein Nemo enters an old tunnel under the sea. DNEG created an environment that looks like it was made from the skeleton of a gigantic fish. It was shot on set. To show the underwater movements of Nemo’s clothes, the team used cloth simulation here as well.
Throughout the film, a big black squid is seen chasing Nemo. The squid was made using fluid simulation. In two scenes particularly, the DNEG team worked extensively on the squid. One was the mirrored bathroom which was challenging to work on considering the reflections being caused by the mirror. Another one is where the squid chases the aircraft on which Flip and Nemo are riding. For this sequence, DNEG had to reconstitute the squid using fluid simulation as it grows, wraps and reforms itself based on the plane.
DNEG also worked on the huge underwater tornado using fluid simulation.
Slumberland was a very creative project for DNEG as they got the opportunity to work on some unconventional scenes like the Cuban Hotel sequence. In Marineau’s opinion, “The filmmakers had an amazing idea of what they wanted to do for those sequences. Our work required amazing teamwork and I was glad to work with such wonderful people on this project.”
DNEG recently worked on The Last of Us television series and is currently working on Bong Joon Ho’s Mickey 17, Oppenheimer, Furiosa, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom along with several other projects.