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Though the Nicolas Cage medieval horror flick SEASON OF THE WITCH failed to work box-office (black) magic last weekend, the film at least spotlighted some snazzy CGI FX gags by Tippett Studio (the TWILIGHT and JURASSIC PARK films, PIRANHA 3D, DRAG ME TO HELL, etc.), including (SPOILER ALERT!) the heroes’ climactic battle with a winged demon. The Oscar-winning company shared some exclusive SEASON OF THE WITCH creature photos with Fango (see below the jump), and members of the Tippett FX team answered a few questions about the shop’s infernal contributions to the Dominic Sena-directed movie.
FANGORIA: What were your marching orders on SEASON OF THE WITCH?
BLAIR CLARK, VISUAL FX SUPERVISOR: We were asked to come up with a series of different designs for the demon and a design for a partial transformation of the girl [Claire Foy]into that creature, then complete the shots of the transformation, and the demon fighting Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman in the final battle. Our visual effects supervisor Eric Leven and data supervisor Eric Marko joined overall visual effects supervisor Adam Howard and visual effects producer Nancy St. John in Shreveport, Louisiana to shoot the additional footage for the third act.
FANG: How closely was Tippett Studio involved in the designs of the demon?
NATE FREDENBURG, ART DIRECTOR: We became involved very late in the film, so we had a very short development phase, but there had been no design work done on the demon when we came on. When we asked what they were looking for, we were told, “You know, a demon.” So it was an open playing field.
FANG: What were the inspirations for the design?
FREDENBURG: The demon was identified as Baal, so we started there. We looked at both old engravings of Baal and more contemporary renditions to familiarize ourselves with the range of interpretations. We decided this demon needed to be derived from old manuscripts to best support the story, so we leaned toward a classic representation.
FANG: Was it difficult coming up with something new and unique? What attributes did you want to give the demon to make it stand out from past devil creatures?
FREDENBURG: It’s always a challenge to find a fresh approach to well-established characters and monsters. Demons are amalgamations of our worst fears, and we expect them to have certain qualities. So we fully embraced the classic horns and wings you would expect. The demon possesses a girl throughout the film, so we decided to give it a more feminine look. It was also supposed to be ancient and [have gone] through many trials and tribulations in its quest to destroy the books, so we gave it a desiccated and tattered look.
FANG: What was the greater challenge: making it walk, fly or talk?
JIM BROWN, ANIMATION SUPERVISOR: Walking was the greatest challenge. Walks are always difficult with bipeds because audiences are very used to looking at walks and will immediately call out something that doesn’t look “right.” Then if you add wings, cloven feet and painful convulsions, it becomes a difficult task to create a believable walk that sells the weight, balance and emotion of the demon.
FANG: How long does it take to create a CGI sequence like SEASON OF THE WITCH’s finale?
CLARK: After the demon design was approved and ready for production, we started working on shots in early September and finished mid-November 2010.
FANG: What kind of stuff will Tippett Studio be creating for the upcoming PRIEST?
CLARK: We are working on shots of vicious, slimy, vampire goodness. Yum!
In regards to other upcoming projects (Tarsem Singh’s IMMORTALS, BREAKING DAWN, etc.), the lips of the FX supervisors are sealed. But you can learn more about these magicians here, here, here and here.
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