“Please look after this bear. Thank you.” The words written on the note attached to Paddington’s coat as he sits forlornly in his namesake station resonated deeply with Framestore when StudioCanal, Heyday Films and Director Paul King provided the opportunity to recreate the famous bear for his big screen debut. Framestore’s London and Montreal studios delivered 760 final shots for Paddington, 570 of which feature the marmalade-obsessed bear.
How Did We Do It?
The major challenge for Framestore’s artists came in the heritage and emotion tied up in the character of Paddington. Reimagining him for the big screen, and in photoreal form, called for significant look development before animation could begin. ‘It was challenging taking on such an iconic character’, said VFX Supervisor Andy Kind. ‘From the Peggy Fortnum illustrations to the 1970s BBC series, there are a lot of looks for Paddington, and everyone has their favourite; we spent a lot of time on the design before we found something that hit the mark’.
Old Meets New
For Animation Supervisor Pablo Grillo and his team, a great deal of responsibility lie in finding a photoreal design for the bear, in order to enhance the emotional connection audiences would feel with his character. ‘We were keen to bring him into the real world, to sit within the live action’, explained Pablo. ‘Being anatomically correct meant we needed more detail compared with the simplicity of the original designs, which often had just two dots for eyes. We had to think about his features, but also make sure that what we created carried that simple essence of Paddington’. Director Paul King briefed the animators on every nuance of his personality, maintaining the old style of the stop-motion TV version — no excess movement, just simple, classic storytelling.
Some of the scrapes in which Paddington finds himself raised interesting challenges for Framestore’s artists. The bear’s appetite for accidental destruction saw his already complex fur coat come into contact with forms of water multiple times, calling for even greater 3D builds. The team used inventive methods to capture genuine reactions from the children, soaking them with a spinning mop-head contraption, and creating a realistic ‘bear lick’ across Judy Brown’s face using a paintbrush.
How Sweet It Is
Paddington’s penchant for the sweet stuff – marmalade, to be exact – also needed to interact with his fur. Framestore used their proprietary fLush solver for the task, pushing it to new limits to create the sticky, viscous finish of the dripping marmalade. We also see the bear tear an orange effortlessly in two, in a super close-up shot. The image called for a careful composition of a CG orange exterior and live action shots and footage of the inside, caught on camera in Framestore’s Motion Capture lab. Add, too, a run-in with a roll of Sellotape, and it becomes clear quite how special this bear had become.
‘You don’t really think about creating a lead character at the time’, comments Animation Supervisor Pablo Grillo. “You think wow, what a great potential to do some really lovely work and work with some wonderful filmmakers. That’s the hook. It’s only when you reach the end and it takes shape that you realise quite what a big thing it is’.
The new version of Paddington, brought beautifully to life by Ben Whishaw and the digital artists at the visual effects house Framestore, is every bit as sweet and charming as Bond’s original creation. - The Telegraph
Charming, thoughtful and as cuddly as a plush toy...the "acting" from Paddington himself, or rather the CGI animators at London’s Framestore, is subtle and expressive. - The Hollywood Reporter
A bouncing ball of fur, brought memorably to life by a combination of Framestore’s excellent CG and Ben Whishaw’s excellent, epitome-of-innocence vocal performance... - Empire
Ben Whishaw... brings an affably well-spoken and vulnerable quality to the orphaned Paddington, who's brought to vivid, wet-nosed life by Framestore 's spectacular visual effects work. - Digital Spy