Visual Effects Supervisor: Jimmy Mitchell
Animation Supervisor: David Andrews
Associate Visual Effects Producer: Ellen Poon

As if ILM didn't make *enough* visual effects breakthroughs this year, they have completed yet another landmark film of computer generated imagery. The tiny aliens in MARS ATTACKS! were fully realized with CG animation, courtesy of ILM.

The Martians for MARS ATTACKS! were created as computer generated images
courtesy of ILM. Especially attractive is the alien's jawbone, the glittering
cape animation, and the accurate character facial animation.

A closeup of a Martian getting teary-eyed. The production allowed the Martian
shots to be long, so that the audience could fully examine the alien creatures.
Even in this closeup, the computer generated alien looks very realistic and integrated.

ILM's first duty on the film was creating test CG animation to convince director Tim Burton to go all-digital, instead of using stop-motion photography for the aliens. ILM was approached early on to composite the stop-motion elements into live-action backgrounds--eventually, Burton was convinced to go with all CG. ILM did not let him down.

Going off of full-scale Martians created by Global Effects and puppets by McKinnon & Saunders, ILM created highly realistic computer generated models. ILM's proprietary texture program, Viewpaint, was used to make patterns and textures for the Martians. Instead of modelling an intensely complicated model for the Martian brain, a smooth model was created, and the grooves and valleys of the brain were made as texture maps. Dirt and stains were painted on the plastic-looking suits of the Martians.

Integral to the animation process was Caricature, or Cari, the animation software developed for DRAGONHEART by Cary Phillips. It allowed animators to animate a fast-rendered version of the model, instead of animating to wire-frame models. Lighting and reflections of the Martians are right on the money.

The interiors of the spaceships were miniatures, originally created for the stop-motion aliens. The CG aliens were composited into these miniatures. Camera moves and compositing were all aligned and accurate--the CG creatures looked as if they were actually on the set.

Martians were meticulously animated and integrated into miniature background
plates. Reflections and lighting remained consistent and believable.

In my favorite Martian shot, a Speedo-clad alien dozes off in his chair as
lights and alerts ring on his control desk. He wakes up and quickly looks busy.

Other ILM creations included the demented experiments performed on reporter Nathalie Lake, played by Sarah Jessica Parker and Professor Kessler, played by Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan's reveal shot of his severed head and hanging body parts contained an uncharacteristic blue glow around background objects, due to the focal length of the lens and the bluescreen photography.

Lake's head was also removed from her body and was replaced with the head of her chihuahua. The melding of Lake's head on a CG dog was fantastic. Other great sequences include the disguised alien that enters the White House as a human female. The actress' head was digitally erased and the CG head was put in its place by match-movers determining the position of the virtual camera and actors.

A chihuahua's head is grafted onto Nathalie Lake's head in this gruesome yet
funny scene from the film. Extremely careful attention was placed on
compositing the dog's head to Sarah Jessica Parker's body. Many 2D and 3D
elements were added, such as the metal staples and shadows.

Actress Lisa Marie's head was completely erased by the ILM roto team, and
ILM match-movers precisely placed the virtual camera to ensure a
perfect fit of the CG Martian head onto the on-set human body.

MARS ATTACKS! completed a banner year for ILM, which also created effects for 1996's DAYLIGHT, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, TWISTER and STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT.

ILM also created the disintegration effect of humans getting blasted by the
Martian's death ray. Some mischievious Martians bring a huge weapon through
the halls of a rest home...

... and aim their ray directly at the head of the oblivious
Grandma Norris, played by Sylvia Sidney.

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All text Copyright © 1998 Todd Vaziri, unless otherwise noted