Tuesday, May 26, 2015

May 26, 1995

Funny, but it doesn't seem that far back. (And this was before Toy Story).

Twenty years ago today, Universal released "Casper." ...

There were almost 40 full minutes of Casper as a character, requiring him to act and interact with Christina Ricci, and Dennis Muren was put in charge of the digital effects team on the film. It took 15 months for ILM to accomplish all of the character animation in the movie, and at the time, they were turning out an average of five to eight shots a week. Total. There were 350-plus visual effects shots in the finished film, and Silberling actually walked into the production at the last minute when Alex Proyas dropped out. That means you had a guy who had no effects background shooting one of the most technically difficult visual effects films since "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." ...

It's hard to know all the milestones when you're sailing past them at a high rate of speed.

Jurassic Park seemed a much bigger deal than Casper, even though JP has comparatively few CG shots embedded in it. But the dinosaur picture made a ton more money than the ghost movie, so of course it looms larger in collective memory.

My most vivid memory about CG in the middle nineties is the corporate feeding frenzy that took place for qualified employees on high-end pictures. If you had production experience, you were as precious as diamonds. Disney was recruiting for Dinosaur at the time, and it took the studio eighteen months to field a full crew.

Part way into Dinosaur's production, Disney's new CG recruits decided they were being treated badly and staged a revolt over better pay. A Disney Vice-President said he would fire the troublemakers.

"What're you going to do then?" I asked him. "It took you a year and a half to find these people."

He glared at me thirty seconds, then broke into a smile. "Good point."

Shortly afterwards, Disney caved on the crew's demands. It's one of the few times in my illustrious career I've seen that happen.

Leverage works.


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