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Sucker Punch

Wiseman: “Don't ever write a check with your mouth you can't cash with your ass. Oh, and one more thing... don't wake the mother.”

Key Credits

  • Released: 2011
  • Studio: Warner Bros.
  • Director: Zack Snyder
  • Producers: Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder
  • VFX SUPERVISOR: John 'DJ' DesJardin
  • VFX PRODUCER: Tamara Watts Kent
  • PRODUCER: Edwina Hayes
  • VFX Supervisor: Andy Brown
  • VFX Producer: Luke Hetherington
  • CG SUPERVISORS: Emmanuel Blasset, Andrew Chapman

Zack Snyder’s feature film Sucker Punch is an epic action fantasy, that takes us into the vivid imagination of a young teenager known as Baby Doll, whose dream world provides the ultimate escape from her darker reality.  Unrestrained by the boundaries of time and place, she is free to go where her mind takes her, and her incredible adventures blur the lines between what is real and what is imaginary.
Animal Logic produced visual effects for the 12 minute Dragon Fantasy sequence in Sucker Punch.
Typical of Zack’s directing style, all the shots are action packed and full of visual impact. When Animal Logic took on the 200 shot sequence, our artists worked with Zack Snyder and John ‘DJ’ DesJardin for six weeks on the pre-viz prior to the shoot.

In the sequence, the girls are sent on a quest to retrieve two fire crystals from the throat of a baby dragon - but they are warned not to wake the mother dragon. The girls arrive in a retrofitted B-25 bomber, circling a medieval castle surrounded by a moat of lava. The castle is under siege and a fierce battle between orcs and knights is at play as the girls drop into the castle's courtyard.
The sequence was shot using minimal sets on a green screen stage in Vancouver.
Animal Logic designed and built the entire volcanic environment and a medieval castle, which had to work in wide-angle view for aerial shots, and also had to have a lot of detail for the scenes where the girls were in the courtyard.
In order to establish the battle between knights and orcs, we used a combination of motion capture, Massive software and hero animation in XSI.  A proprietary tool was written for viewing and animating of our Massive crowds in Maya, that added speed and efficiency to our pipeline.  To populate the castle with digital Orcs and Knights, we worked with 10 variants of Orcs and 10 variants of Knights.  In the final shots, thousands of Orcs and Knights are present.

Animal Logic finessed the dragon design and worked tirelessly to build and animate two complex CG dragons (mother & baby) to a scale never created by Animal Logic in the past.  With very strong creature leads at Animal Logic, we were able to build a Wyvern style dragon that was huge in scale but still believable.
Our sequence required many complex FX Elements; explosions, collapsing bridges, catapult fireballs, impact debris, the magnificent flare and dragon fire.
To create the dragon fire, we used our in-house fluid simulator called ‘Snap’.  This tool was originally written and used in ‘Legend of the Guardians’. Sucker Punch’s requirements for fire was to a much larger scale, appropriate for the fire-breathing dragons.  The fire needed to look realistic and, with significant art direction and numerous iterations, we created shots with complex dragon fire, seen in flight and interacting with other objects such as the B-25 bomber and knights on the bridge.
Digital doubles were required for all the Sucker punch girls.  Animal Logic built and surfaced two of those models, Sweet Pea and Blondie, and these were provided with textures to the other VFX vendors on the project for their use.

One of the key CG shots we did features an ECU of Baby Doll as she hangs suspended, sword in hand, above the dragon.  Animal Logic's R&D department wrote a custom hair simulation tool called “ALFRO”. This was Animal Logic’s first foray into creating digital doubles with long hair, so ALFRO was a useful tool for our production.
A crew of approximately 150 at Animal Logic worked on the 12-minute sequence for 14 months.  The results speak for themselves!