Australia — Universal’s latest comedic masterpiece Ted, directed by Seth MacFarlane (creator of Family Guy) has just released in the USA. Australian VFX studio Iloura was instrumental in creating the furry, foul-mouthed leading star in the unusual story of a toy teddy bear who magically comes to life after a childhood wish is granted.

Iloura’s VFX Supervisor Glenn Melenhorst and CG Supervisor Avi Goodman led a creative team of 75 artists at its Melbourne-based studio with Ineke Majoor, Head of VFX overseeing the production and delivering over 500 shots for the film.

Ted , set in Boston, follows 30-something year old John (played by Mark Wahlberg) and his friendship with his childhood teddy bear (featuring the voice of Seth MacFarlane). The friendship becomes strained when John’s love interest Lori (Mila Kunis) enters the scene.

In order to win the job, the team at Iloura first brought Ted to life through an initial animation test, and as a result, was awarded half of the character animation scenes in the film. In fact, Iloura’s Ted test was so convincing it set the look of Ted for the rest of the film. Iloura shared the character animation work on the film with San Francisco based Tippett Studio.

On-set, director and star Seth MacFarlane wore a Moven suit which captured his upper body movements making Ted’s performance more realistic and natural. “We captured the data taken of Seth in the Moven suit in each scene and this gave us a really fresh performance. It got us more into the real world which is what he was looking for, instead of Ted looking like an animated cartoon character. We were also always looking to match Ted with Seth’s natural gestures and vibe so that the performance looked natural”said Goodman.

As Avi Goodman points out, developing the cutting edge, in-house technology to create Ted’s fur was a major challenge for the artsists: “A lot of work went into getting Ted’s fur just right, especially trying to create the right amount of wear and tear on his body. It was really important for us to make Ted look like a teddy bear brought to life and not an animal or a cartoon character. It was an interesting challenge and we solved this by running a cloth simulation to replicate how fabric would fold or crease rather than using muscles and skin.”

Glenn Melenhorst continues “Seth has had a long career in animation and he understands it intricately. He also understood Ted’s character perfectly and clearly communicated his vision to the Iloura team. He was really encouraging of our work and he trusted us and gave us latitude in the staging of the performance and timing of the gags. We thoroughly enjoyed the process. It was a great lesson for all of us to learn from Seth and his years of experience.”

The opening sequence of the film with the integrated Universal logo was also created by the Iloura team. Glenn Melenhorst said Iloura were keen to make this a standout shot: “The scene required a seamless fly-in using the new Universal logo of the Earth in space (sourced from Weta) zooming down to street level to show kids throwing snowballs, all within a single shot. We used the 3D files of the new Universal logo and used high-res satellite imagery to create a feeling of flying from space onto the surface of the Earth. We then created digital assets of houses, digital kids, and streetscapes fully transitioning these into the live-action shot.”

Iloura is highly regarded for its visual effects and character animation work. Past projects include Columbia Pictures’ Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance; Guillermo del Torro’s Don’t be Afraid of the Dark; HBO’s The Pacific and Paramount Picture’s Charlotte’s Web. The team are now working concurrently on feature films; Emperor, I Frankenstein and After Earth.

Written by Seth MacFarlane and his Family Guy co-writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, Ted is produced by MarFarlane, Wild, Jason Clark, John Jacobs and Scott Stuber and will be released in Australia on 5 July 2012.

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Chris Arrant

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