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Month: December 2016

Behind the ILM Mars Attacks! tests that convinced Tim Burton to go CG

Illustration by Aidan Roberts.

1996 was a break-out year for digital visual effects, with advancements in front and centre CG characters (Dragonheart), heavy environments and digital compositing (Independence Day), and photoreal CG simulations (Twister).

Another film that took advantage of the the state of VFX was Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks!, a quirky off-shoot of the 1960s Topps trading cards. Although its martians were initially imagined by the director to be stop-motion characters, Industrial Light & Magic would ultimately produce a series of tests that convinced Burton to realise them in CG. The newly formed Warner Digital Studios also crafted other key CG shots.

On its 20th anniversary, vfxblog revisits ILM’s breakthrough animation tests for the martians with Mars Attacks!’s visual effects supervisor Jim Mitchell and animation supervisor David Andrews (who actually has a VFX supervisor credit on the film). Plus, Mike Fink, then VFX supervisor at Warner Digital, looks back at the saucer and robot effects for the cult classic.