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Exclusive: Light years ahead - Makers of Lightyear on the film's VFX- Cinema express

Exclusive: Light years ahead - Makers of Lightyear on the film's VFX

Director Angus MacLane and producer Galyn Susman discuss how yesteryear hits paved the way for the visual effects of Pixar's latest film 

Published: 22nd June 2022

Pixar's latest release Lightyear might be a small step for the production house but a giant one for animator Angus MacLane who has turned director with the Toy Story spin-off. Similarly. Galyn Susman, who served as the lighting supervisor for Toy Story (1995) has now produced Lightyear. Both of them say that they owe a lot to the VFX effects of Hollywood's biggest yesteryear hits. “CG looks great in the dark. Jurassic Park was made in the early ’90s and it still looks amazing because it was largely shot at night. I wanted to take advantage of that,” says director MacLane. “The design aesthetic, in general, is a little retro. A kind of chunky, early ’80s look that is inspired by films ranging from Star Wars and The Parallax View to Raiders of the Lost Ark and a lot of anime of the time. I wanted the film to feel tactile with a high level of contrast like the French New Wave.”

Echoing MacLane, producer Galyn Susman says, “The look as a whole is a cool mishmash of retro and futuristic. Throughout the film - the knobs, the dials, and the buttons are all very tactile. The edges are all rounded to capture the feel that Angus wanted.” Susman adds that they hired veteran modelmaker John Duncan for the desired result. “He is the one who had done a lot of work for Star Wars, and had him build our first spaceship design as if he were building it for a live-action prop use. We then took the same designs and built them on the computer because we wanted to see what it was about CG that lacked the warmth that you get when you use practical models like in a Star Wars set. From that, we developed a film language that put the warmth back into the CG models—curves where you would normally do straights, making sure that there’s no such thing as a single edge—all to move away from that super sharp, super crisp CG look,” she concludes.

With actors like Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn, James Brolin and Taika Waititi voicing for the lead cast, Lightyear opened to positive reviews last Friday. 

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