AnimationStop Motion

How was Isle of Dogs made? – Behind the scenes of the new Stop-Motion marvel from Wes Anderson

Isle of Dogs - Wes Anderson

How was Isle of Dogs made? – Behind the scenes of the new Stop-Motion marvel from Wes Anderson

One of our favourite film directors has recently released a new stop-motion movie, and here at UPuno we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a closer look at it. On this occasion, Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Fantastic Mr. Fox) is uniting this animation technique with his fascination for Japanese culture, in a beautiful story with plenty of dogs. In Isle of Dogs, every image is a magical trip to the peculiar vintage universe of this remarkable creator.
The film was brought to life at 3 Mills Studios in East London. Thanks to the making of videos published by the producers, we can follow the most relevant steps in the practical process to play out the script, using Stop-Motion Cinematography.

The project

The project took two years to complete, involving the work of a crew of around 700 skilled professionals. To achieve the unmistakable handmade Andersonian look, most of the scenes were shot using practical effects only. According to Animation World Network, more than 1,100 handcrafted puppets (both dogs and humans) were required to film this outstanding animated movie.
Isle of Dogs - Story board - puppet
Isle of Dogs – Story board – puppet
The voices are recorded ahead of time, before the animation. The use of world famous actors brings personality to the animation; Isle of Dogs features an all-star cast including  Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum or Harvey Keitel to name a few.
Isle of Dogs - Puppet sculpt
Isle of Dogs – Puppet sculpt

Once a character is out of concept art, it is sculptured with plasticine. Each one has to be recreated in four different scales for the dogs and five for the human.

Isle of Dogs - Puppet Mould
Isle of Dogs – Puppet Mould

If the prototype gets approved, another artist makes a mould with the shape of the figure. All the characters are created by hand, using very little 3D printing.

Isle of Dogs - Armatures
Isle of Dogs – Armatures

Lead Armature Maker Josie Corben commented that the armature is the moving facility of the puppet. These armatures must fit into the mould and are the next stage in the process. The dog characters had also ball-and-socket armatures for their facial expression.

Isle of Dogs - Puppet making
Isle of Dogs – Puppet making

The silicon is cast on the top of the armatures, to give a flexible skin to the puppet.

Isle of Dogs - Face sculpt
Isle of Dogs – Face sculpt

Then you can paint over this skin. Human puppets get a face replacement system for the mouth. Tracy is the character who was the hardest work to make, as the artists had to replicate her freckles exactly in the same place for the many versions of the head.

Isle of Dogs - The Dog
Isle of Dogs – The Dog

Another painstakingly elaborate job was to punch the hair, one at the time, to cover the head and skin of all the dogs. Human characters also have to be dressed. After that, puppets are ready for action.

Isle of Dogs - Creating Visual Effects
Isle of Dogs – Creating Visual Effects

Furthermore, over 240 detailed sets were created for the film, some of them just to appear in the movie for 3-4 seconds.

Isle of Dogs - few seconds of pure art
Isle of Dogs – few seconds of pure art

The mock-ups and puppets are delivered to the animator, who has the work to bring the scene to life. Here is where the real magic happens, making a performance out of these pieces of metal, silicone and rubber.

Isle of Dogs - Walk animation
Isle of Dogs – Walk animation

In parallel, cameras are placed on the bodies of real dogs in order to track their movements, which animators then used to build a dog movement database. According to Lead Animator Jason Stalman, one of the hardest things to do in animation is emulate a real walk.

Isle of Dogs - Creating audiences
Isle of Dogs – Creating audiences

27 animators worked on the production, using very little CG (like to fill up the rear rows of the scene pictured). Also use of green screens was necessary when the action could not be filmed at the same time.

Isle of Dogs - Awesome shots
Isle of Dogs – Awesome shots

Stalman also commented that his job feels like sculpting a performance, step by step. Like children do when playing… Which toy was your favourite when playing?


All the images by courtesy of Fox Searchlight

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Atlas Of Wonders - Ra MoonAbout the Author

Ra Moon is a traveller nomad who writes about the most exciting filming locations of your favourite movies and TV series.
You can find more details about his work on: Filming Locations

 

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