Why G-Force may be kids' stuff, but its V F/X ain't

The plot of G-Force sounds simple enough and perfect for an animated feature: A group of animals eager to prove themselves worthy of being U.S. government special agents venture off on a mission to save the world.

G-Force, however, isn't just an animated tale. It's also a live-action/animation hybrid. And it's not just a live-action/animation hybrid: It's also in 3-D. Bringing it to the screen meant developing effects and shooting methods that allowed the filmmakers to deliver on the ambitious nature of the project.

Calling the shots on G-Force was Hoyt H. Yeatman Jr., an Oscar-winning special-effects veteran whose credits include Star Trek: The Motion Picture, The Abyss, Mighty Joe Young and Armageddon. He makes his feature directing debut with the July 24 release.

"We broke some ground, and we had to," Yeatman said in an exclusive interview in New York on July 13. "I've known Scott Stokdyk, our visual-effects supervisor, for many years—actually, in the 3-D world—and it was interesting in choosing Sony [Pictures Imageworks], because visual effects are usually split amongst a number of visual-effects houses, and that really couldn't occur on this film because our main character [Darwin, a gung-ho guinea pig voiced by Sam Rockwell] has to permeate all the scenes. So there are very few places on the planet that have the capability to do what we were trying to do, and Sony was the best because they have classic animation and they also have digital effects."

Discussing the film and its look with Stokdyk, Yeatman explained to his colleague that his ultimate goal was to make G-Force and everything in it—including the creatures and their assorted James Bond-esque gadgets, gizmos and vehicles—as real as possible. And it all had to blend seamlessly with the live-action footage.

"I've always found, through the years, that if you have a live-action backdrop, it's better to raise the level of the animation up to that rather than the other way around," Yeatman says. "It's a better blend. So I said, 'Let's take the latest in technology, the highest grade, whatever we can put into it, the best visual effects, and use that for a children's film.' And that's what we did."

Yeatman continued, "So, for instance, the characters, they have a million and a half hairs. They're wet. They're underwater. They're blowing in the wind. That's some of the most sophisticated hair stuff ever done. The fact that you're dealing with 3-D also means a lot of the cheats we do in 2-D can't occur. So all the stuff inside the layers, it's all volumetrically rendered so that you can actually see depth through all the layers, smoke and haze. All of that gives it the feeling that it's not coming at you, but that you're immersed in it. That was the idea. And, believe it or not, this is the biggest film Sony Imageworks has ever done. It's actually bigger than Spider-Man when you get right down to it."

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