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Friday, 3 May 2013

The Walking with Dinosaurs 3D trailer lands



Good news, everyone: the PR machine behind Walking with Dinosaurs 3D has provided our first detailed look at the film with its first trailer. I'm rather excited about this because it's my first real look at the film since contributing character orthographics for several (six, specifically) of its animals in early 2011, a process that involved working with a fleet of palaeontological and palaeoartist supernauts: David Krentz, Scott Hartman, Tom Holtz, Scott Sampson, Luis Chiappe, Victoria Arbour and others. Since that time, the guys at Animal Logic have been crunching the ones and zeroes required to breath life into the characters and their world, with the results posted above. There's always an air of uncertainty surrounding palaeontological film projects but, happily, this first trailer suggests WwD3D is taking good shape, and the Facebook and Twitter buzz from the contributors mentioned above suggests they're pretty happy with what they've seen, as am I. Be sure to set the trailer stream to its highest, 1080p HD quality to take in all the details.

Highlights of this first teaser, aside from some excellent zbrush creations from David Krentz and the stunning visuals and animation, include feathered dromaeosaurs, an iridescent gorgosaur and suitably snowy slopes in latest Cretaceous Alaska. I like the efforts to characterise individual animals without resorting to crazy variations in colour and form, such as the hole in the frill of the hero Pachyrhinosaurus. Presumably, this reflects a pathology that never entirely healed, and it's a cool idea. So cool, in fact, that I'm wondering why it's not more common in palaeoart. We can also see that the colour schemes of the animals are striking without being outlandishly garish, and the characters seem capable of emoting without using overblown actions akin to those of other CG dinosaurs, who seem to have gone to an acting school for 1920s silent movies. Moreover - stop press - plenty of shots even show animals not roaring and with their mouths closed. Gosh.

So, there's plenty to be happy about then, and my feeling from reading the comments of others is that I'm not alone in this view. Perhaps the only common niggle being raised is that the tyrannosaur is scaly rather than feathered, which jars with recent discoveries showing some big tyrannosauroids were covered in protofeathers (Xu et al. 2012). Obviously, it would have been extremely cool to render this in WwD3D, but the feathered tyrant Yutyrannus arrived just a little too late in the day for the design team to work feathers onto the Gorgosaurus. As hinted above, the creature designs for the WwD3D animals were being set in late 2010 and early 2011, well over a year before Yutyrannus was unleashed on the world. And we shouldn't be too upset: there is still controversial evidence that another tyrannosaur, Tyrannosauruswas scaly, and the WwD3D Gorgosaurus still looks awesome.

But enough about dinosaurs: what about the real stars of the show, the pterosaurs? It may not be surprising that I had a hand in design and consultancy for the movie's azhdarchids, and I'm happy to say that I like what I can see thus far. Flap-gliding and full-on flapping flight are both on display, and just short of the one minute mark, we see a gang of azhdarchids surround and aggressively 'terrestrially stalk' the hero animals. If you're sad enough to have freeze-framed high-definition shots of the azhdarchids (which, er... I didn't, but a friend of mine did) you'll notice thick coats of soft pycnofibres, and that the internal anatomy of azhdarchid jaws have, for the first time, been accurately rendered on film. Indeed, the contours of the head are the best I've ever seen in a CG azhdarchid. Note the concave lateral skull facia, the tapering shape of the tomial margins... wonderful stuff. I'm very much looking forward to seeing them on screen later in the year.

So, this is all shaping up very well then, making the December 20th release date something to look forward too. It almost seems that fans of Mesozoic reptiles on film are being spoilt at present, with WwD3D following 2011's terrific (and underrated) Dinosaur Revolution/Dinotasia and the excellent BBC series Planet Dinosaur. Indeed, the BBC's dinosaur coverage is on something of a roll at present. Presumably as part of the PR campaign for the new film, its revamped Walking with Dinosaurs website has been providing good coverage of recent dinosaur topics in a way that is extremely accessible but not dumbed down (for a good example of this, see their coverage of the Torosaurus/Triceratops debate). Several well-known contributors to the palaeo blogosphere have been contributing new content to the site too, so it's definitely worth checking out if you haven't already.

And that will have to do for now: lots of work to catch up with. In the meantime, I leave you, and particularly if you're a 20th Century Fox or BBC executive, with a pitch for a WwD3D spin-off, starring the animals I'm sure will steal the entire movie. It's Box Office Gold, I tell you.


Reference

  • Xu, Xing, Kebai Wang, Ke Zhang, Qingyu Ma, Lida Xing, Corwin Sullivan, Dongyu Hu, Shuqing Cheng, and Shuo Wang. 2012. A gigantic feathered dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of China. Nature, 484, 92-95.

15 comments:

  1. Those azhdarchids are just awesome. They really are.
    And by the way, my congratulations for achieving such a milestone ;) . Gosh, 2013 must be a pretty damn impressive year for you, isn't it?

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    1. The azhdarchids owe a lot to the excellent zbrush work by David Krentz, who brought the schematics I provided to life in fantastic detail. I hope there's a 'making of' book to go with this so that the work behind each animal can be shown off: they're real works of art. And, of course, it looks like the animators and, er, enfluffeners at Animal Logic have a good handle on how to make these things look convincing. As I felt with Planet Dinosaur, it's very satisfying to work in a designer/consultant role where you actually feel valued, and not just giving credibility to a production which is doing whatever it wants.

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  2. Good to see this trailer get an expert's approval. Also, many thanks for confirming what I said about the pterosaurs & tyrannosaurs in response to BrianL ( http://chasmosaurs.blogspot.com/2013/05/walking-with-dinosaurs-3d-movie.html#comment-form ). Seeing such beautifully rendered animated animals (especially fuzzy ones) gives me new hope for a future "Raptor Red" movie.

    BTW, what kind of bird is that in the trailer? Avisaurus? I was also wondering if there was more than 1 kind of tyrannosaur in the trailer or just Gorgosaurus?

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    1. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to give too much away at this stage (and bear in mind that I've not been involved with the film since early 2011, so things could have changed a lot since then), but I don't think there's two tyrannosaur species.

      The little enantiornithine is Alexornis, which I'm OK with identifying as Albertonykus correctly identified it at LITC.

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  3. Almost forgot to ask a pterosaur question: Is it safe to generalize basal pterosaurs as having 5 toes per hind foot & pterodactyloids as having 4 toes per hind foot? Just making sure.

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    1. Um... sort of. Non-pterodactyloids have the very long and mobile fifth toes that we're all familiar with, so they very obviously have five toes. All pterodactyloids have a chunky fifth metatarsal, but only some have the remnants of the fifth pedal digit. Even in these species, however, the toe bones are so small that you probably couldn't see an obvious toe in the living animal. It may not strictly be true to say that pterodactyloids have four toes, then, but they certainly only have four 'obvious' pedal digits.

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  4. prehistoric crocodilian with no armo croc bums skin 2 row or more on there backs that could not climb tree what a joke of a movie.scientific evidence say triceratops had them by the fossil find

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    1. OK, Coelophysis, I'm getting pretty sick of this now. Whether deliberate or not, you're trolling my comment feeds with blocks of near-incomprehensible text championing an idea that no-one agrees with or even wants to entertain. You were warned that these comments were trying my patience. I'll be deleting any further comments you post up on this topic.

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  5. Have just encountered your page and I guess you should be complimented for this piece. More power to you!

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  6. I appreciate what scientific accuracy means to professional palaentologists, and how gratifying it must be not to have their concerns ignored for once, but to a lay-person with a love of dinosaurs this film looks as disappointing as every other CG-fest that has graced our screens in the last decade.

    None of them have the poetry or sense of wonder of a classic wildlife documentary or the otherworldly atmosphere of a film like Phil Tippett's "Prehistoric Beast". Fanciful behaviour and characterisation, eccentric colour schemes, sterile lighting and environments and absurd plotlines are the order of the day. "Planet Dinosaur" on BBC was an honorable attempt to move in the right direction but no-one seems to be running with it...

    No disrespect to those who clearly worked hard on this project, but maybe one day accuracy will be fully addressed and filmmaking technique can get a look in!

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    1. It might be worth seeing the film before writing it off. We have no idea how atmospheric the movie will be, or what the plot will entail. I'm also unsure where you're drawing "eccentric colour schemes, sterile lighting and environments" from: I can't see any of these in the trailer.

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  7. I really do love the behavior exhibited by the Gorgosaurs in these trailers, it really reflects well on the new insights into therapod intelligence. And these pterosaurs, well they manage to look both beautiful and terrifying. It's such a wonder to see all we've learned about these incredible animals represented in such stunning detail!

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    1. Hi Anonymous,

      Apologies, but your comment got held up by my spam filter. First time that's happened. Glad you like the look of the trailer, though.

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  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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