Courtesy of Sony Pictures
By Ron Magid, Special to The Times Can a computer-generated character appear to evolve throughout its lifetime? That was the challenge facing Peter Jackson's FX powerhouse, Weta Digital, and master creature visual-effects supervisor Joe Letteri (whose credits include Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" films and "King Kong") on "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep," the story of a boy, Angus, and Crusoe, his Loch Ness monster, who grows from hatchling to prehistoric monster in a matter of weeks. "We'd never done a character that grows through its life cycle," Letteri says. Typically, CG superstars like Gollum or Kong appear only in their adult form. Not so in director Jay Russell's film, which begins with Crusoe's birth and follows him through four successive growth stages, each using a different CG model. The key to audiences' acceptance of each model was using character animation to create a through-line from adolescence to adulthood. "The animators had to establish the bits of personality that carry through each stage," Letteri says.
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