In the great nation of Emperor Penguins, deep in Antarctica, you're nobody unless you can sing--which is unfortunate for Mumble (ELIJAH WOOD), who is the worst singer in the world. He is born dancing to his own tune... tap dancing.
Though Mumble's mom, Norma Jean (NICOLE KIDMAN), thinks this little habit is cute, his dad, Memphis (HUGH JACKMAN), says "it just ain't penguin." Besides, they both know that without a Heartsong, Mumble may never find true love.
As fate would have it, his one friend, Gloria (BRITTANY MURPHY), happens to be the best singer around. Mumble and Gloria have a connection from the moment they hatch, but she struggles with his strange "hippity-hoppity" ways.
Mumble is just too different--especially for Noah the Elder (HUGO WEAVING), the stern leader of Emperor Land, who ultimately casts him out of the community.
Away from home for the first time, Mumble meets a posse of decidedly un-Emperor-like penguins--the Adélie Amigos. Led by Ramon (ROBIN WILLIAMS), the Adélies instantly embrace Mumble's cool dance moves and invite him to party with them.
In Adélie Land, Mumble seeks the counsel of Lovelace the Guru (also voiced by ROBIN WILLIAMS), a crazy-feathered Rockhopper penguin who will answer any of life's questions for the price of a pebble.
Together with Lovelace and the Amigos, Mumble sets out across vast landscapes and, after some epic encounters, proves that by being true to yourself, you can make all the difference in the world.
Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Village Roadshow Pictures, a Kennedy Miller production, in association with Animal Logic Film. A George Miller film, "Happy Feet" features the voices of Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Brittany Murphy, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving and Anthony LaPaglia. The film also features the tap dancing of Savion Glover.
"Happy Feet" is directed by George Miller, who also co-wrote the screenplay with John Collee, Judy Morris and Warren Coleman. The film is produced by Doug Mitchell, George Miller and Bill Miller, with Zareh Nalbandian, Graham Burke, Dana Goldberg, and Bruce Berman executive producing. The music is composed by John Powell, and the soundtrack also includes songs performed by Prince, Yolanda Adams, Fantasia Barrino, Gia Farrell, Chrissie Hynde, Patti LaBelle, k.d. lang, Jason Mraz, and Pink.
"Happy Feet" will be released by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company, and in select territories by Village Roadshow Pictures. The film has been rated "PG" for "some mild peril and rude humor."
"If 'Babe' was the 'talking-pig' movie, then this is the 'dancing-penguin' movie," states George Miller about the films he helped bring to the world in the 1990s, and his most recent work, 'Happy Feet,' which he co-wrote, produced and directed. Miller came to the idea of the story of an Emperor Penguin who happens to be a great tap dancer after watching a number of documentaries on the wildlife of the Antarctic.
"There's only one thing that attracts me to any project, whether it be 'Mad Max,' or fables about pigs or penguins--the power of the story," Miller states. "Story is king! What's so seductive about working in film is that you can go into whatever world you like, but you're always trying to find the most meaningful stories. So, to me, there's not much difference between 'Mad Max,' 'Babe,' or, indeed, the creatures of 'Happy Feet.'
"I was always attracted to the epic nature of Antarctica," the director continues. "About ten years ago, when I saw 'Life in The Freezer,' the BBC/National Geographic documentary on penguins, it struck me that there was a great story there. Penguins live such extraordinary lives, richly allegorical in terms of how we conduct ourselves as humans. The way they survive at the far end of the planet, huddling against the cold, sharing the warmth, singing to find a mate."
Miller is referring to the penguin's 'Heartsong,' the identity-defining croon of the Emperor Penguin, and the way they distinguish each other within the flock. "To us, it sounds like squawking," he clarifies. "But to each individual penguin, it's like a song. There might be 25,000 birds on an Antarctic ice shelf, each having a song unique to themselves, and somehow one manages to find another through the cacophony.
"This story follows our main character from the moment of his parents' coming together, his hatching and childhood, all the way up through young adulthood and all the experiences that he endures trying to find his way in the world."
Into the community of the Emperor Penguins, the hero, Mumble, is born unable to sing. His parents take him to a remedial teacher who encourages him to give expression to his deepest feelings. But they come out in the form of tap dancing, which is regarded by his community as being a little weird.
The use of the Heartsong idea allowed Miller to incorporate music and dance into his story, which would go on to feature contemporary and classic songs, as well as various styles of dancing.
"'Happy Feet' started long before 'March of the Penguins' was released," explains Miller in answer to a question he is often asked. "The fact that the documentary was so successful was a double delight because it helped set up interest in our computer-animated movie about penguins."
Characters and Casting
To bring the central character of Mumble to life would require a fleet of technical wizards and a special voice talent. Co-writer Judy Morris offers, "Mumble is earnest and open to new things. We knew whoever voiced him would have to be able to communicate an intelligent innocence, and, at the same time, be hip and cool. We needed an actor with a real, open quality; we found the perfect match in Elijah Wood."
"Mumble's confidence and innate sense of self is extraordinary," says Wood, who portrayed another determined hero in the "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. "He refuses to see his dancing as a problem, and he doesn't want to give up the part of himself that makes him unique. He's saying, 'I have this oddity, but it's not odd to me, it's just odd to you. I'm okay with it, so you're the one who has to come around.'"
Wood is proud to send a strong message of self-acceptance to children and adults alike. "It's really important for everyone to realize that we shouldn't compromise on those things that are individual to us, especially for other people."
While Wood provided Mumble's voice, his unusual Heartsong would come from another talented performer--Tony Award-winning dancer Savion Glover. "I can relate to Mumble a lot," declares Glover. "Because, while I'm true to my own art form, which is tap dancing, I'm not much of a singer. I've tried it; I'll continue to have a go at it, but I'm better at expressing myself through my feet, just like Mumble."
Glover also responded to the character's fish-out-of-water feeling. "At school, Mumble feels like a geek. I'm a geek, too. A tap dance geek."
Adding to the all-star voice talent of the cast are two of Australia's leading native stars: Hugh Jackman as Mumble's father, Memphis, and Nicole Kidman as his mother, Norma Jean.
"Memphis is a pretty cool penguin," says Jackman, a Tony Award winner for his performance as Australia's "favorite son," Peter Allen, in Broadway's hit show "The Boy From Oz." He continues, "And he sure does love Norma Jean. When they fall for each other, he's the happiest he's ever been in his life."
Kidman, an Academy Award winner for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf in "The Hours," was also no stranger to singing on-screen, having played Satine, the songstress of the Moulin Rouge in Baz Luhrmann's film of the same name.
"Working with Nicole again was just wonderful," states Miller. "She's quite something. When the producer Doug Mitchell called her to talk about the film, she agreed to do it on the spot. When I asked her later why she took it on without even reading the script, she said that, given our past relationship, she would never say no. I was really taken aback by the kindness of that gesture."
"When you first meet Norma Jean, a lot of the penguin boys are interested in her. She has this wiggle and this walk and this voice. It's cute and sexy. But she only has eyes for Memphis," says Kidman. "Then they have a baby together, and from the moment she sees Mumble, she just loves him. She doesn't care that his Heartsong sounds a little different; she thinks he's perfect just the way he is, which is the way any mother feels about their child."
"One of my favorite things about Norma Jean is that she's the only one in the community who truly believes that there's nothing wrong with Mumble," adds Miller. "She stands up for her son."
But Memphis blames himself for Mumble being so "different" because of a mishap when his son is still in the egg.
"He starts to lose his mojo," says Jackman. "For much of the story, Memphis is very unhappy because he does the thing that Mumble refuses to do--he loses his sense of who he really is."
"Memphis and Norma Jean want Mumble to be happy," says Kidman. "But Memphis has a harder time with the dancing, so Norma Jean tries to help him bridge the gap. She says, 'He may not be exactly like you, but he's yours. Love him for who he is.' Then, once Mumble shows his Dad that he's going to be all right, the family comes together again."
"I'm very proud of the family we assembled," beams Miller. "Hugh, Nicole and Elijah really gave the story a beating heart."
The penguin who makes Mumble's heart leap is the strong and daring Gloria, voiced by Brittany Murphy. "Gloria is the greatest singer in a whole generation of penguins," attests Miller, "so naturally I needed an actress who not only had a great speaking voice, but an inspiring singing voice as well."
Known for a variety of film roles, Murphy had never sung on camera. "I didn't know Brittany could sing until someone showed me a test she did," recalls the director. "It turns out that she trained as a singer before she trained as an actor. She sang two songs in the movie and she was just superb."
Gloria's Heartsong is key to Mumble's story. Presented at first as a slower version of the disco anthem "Boogie Wonderland," the song is a true expression of her character. But it's not until Mumble begs her to listen to the music he makes with his feet that her song finds a rhythmic match, and something new is set free.
Having always loved music, Murphy says that the passion to express oneself through song was an idea to which she responded. "Although Gloria knows she's talented, her singing is viscerally driven. It's a form of expressing her innermost thoughts and feelings, as Mumble does through the rhythm of his feet."
The actress adds that she immediately liked her character. "Gloria's very confident, strong and sassy, with tons of heart. She's all about good intentions and she's never afraid to speak up. She's someone I would want for a best friend."
Murphy's character is devoted to her best friend Mumble, but her appreciation isn't shared by the elders of the community, including Hugo Weaving's cantankerous Noah.
"Hugo has a lovely voice," says Miller, "but I pushed him to the limit. In one scene he had to shout above a fierce blizzard and a thousand singing voices."
Wandering the wilds of Antarctica, Mumble finally finds true camaraderie in an unlikely place--with the Adélie Amigos, a group of five wisecracking Latino penguins, who may be a lot smaller than Mumble in size but have personalities that are larger-than-life. Led by Ramon, the most rambunctious of the crew, the Adélies quickly befriend our hero and, for the first time in his life, Mumble truly has somewhere to belong.
The Adélies brand Mumble's moves "so accidentally cool" and show him how to really enjoy life.
To give the Adélies their fast-and-furious repartee, Miller first went to a master: legendary comedian Robin Williams, who plays Ramon. "All I needed to know when I agreed to do the film was that George Miller was directing," declares Williams. "I mean, this is a man who has worked with talking pigs, and this movie is basically 'March of the Penguins' meets 'Riverdance.'"
With Williams ready to voice the frenetic leader of the Amigos, Miller reached out to some of the Latino community's established comedians to round out the group. Carlos Alazraqui, Johnny Sanchez III, Jeff Garcia and Lombardo Boyar gave voice to Nestor, Lombardo, Rinaldo and Raul, respectively.
"George was determined that we record the Amigos in a group, with all the microphones open," notes co-writer Warren Coleman. "The actors stood in a loose circle so that they could always see and react to each other. They spurred each other on, searching for the line or idea that would make the whole room laugh. This spirit served our story superbly, as the Amigos are a family--a band of brothers who love and support each other."
"We basically let them improvise and riff off each other," adds Miller. "It got completely wild."
"We were Los Penguinos," exclaims Williams of his co-stars. "When we get together, we throw down!"
Williams especially enjoyed his character's bravado and eye for women. "Ramon is great at finding pebbles. In the penguin world, pebbles are like bling and Ramon knows the girls like bling. He's always trying to impress the ladies. That's one of the reasons I wanted to do this character--because every one of us has a little macho penguin inside, and I wanted to get in touch with my macho penguin."
The energy of the incomparable Williams could not be contained in just one role. The actor does double voice duty in the film, also starring as the eccentric Rockhopper penguin Lovelace, the Guru of Adélie Land, who also narrates the story.
Much of Lovelace's allure is represented by his strange "talisman," a discarded plastic six-pack ring that has gotten stuck around his neck. "Lovelace is smooth like Barry White. He dispenses wisdom. He answers all of the Adélies' questions through his contact with the mystical beings who gave him his funky necklace," notes Williams.
Playing both parts would require the actor to create two very distinct characters. "Robin has this intuitive talent," notes Judy Morris. "His acting is a lot like Savion's dancing--it's something unexplainable. They're both so talented and fast."
"Robin makes no claim to be a singer, but he took it on--in Spanish no less. And, as with everything he does, he put all his heart and soul into it," observes Miller.
Rounding out the cast are movie and television star Anthony LaPaglia as the Boss Skua, the leader of a gang of birds who menace young Mumble; and veteran actresses Miriam Margolyes and Magda Szubanski as penguin school teachers, Mrs. Astrakhan and Miss Viola, who try to coax a more palatable Heartsong from Memphis and Norma Jean's young son. World famous zoologist and animal lover, the late Steve Irwin voices one of the humongous elephant seals who Mumble and the Adélies encounter in the vast wilderness of the Antarctic.
Miller offers, "I've been very lucky with this voice cast. Robin Williams, as the world knows only too well, is a force of nature. It was just a marvelous experience to work with him. What was also great to see was Robin working with the young actors like Elijah Wood and the four fine comedians who played the other Amigos--Johnny Sanchez, Jeff Garcia, Carlos Alazraqui and Lombardo Boyar."
The director continues, "There is not a lot of difference working with voice actors or working with actors on a set. We organized the voice recording much as we do on a live-action set, recording as many actors as possible at once. It was such a lovely cast; we just put them together and let them go at it. I forced myself to close my eyes lest I became beguiled by those fabulous movie star faces.
"We recorded in many, many different places, depending where the actors were working at the time. Hugh, Nicole and Elijah were all recorded in Los Angeles and New York, and Robin in San Francisco and LA, along with Brittany and Anthony. Hugo Weaving was recorded in Australia. So the voicing was done all over the place. Acting is a contact sport and, at every opportunity, we put as many actors together as we could."
When George Miller was first inspired to write "Happy Feet," he wasn't imagining it as a musical. "As I was conceiving this story, it occurred to me that the way the Emperor Penguins find their soul mates through song required that there be songs in the movie. When it turned out that Mumble couldn't sing but could dance, I suddenly found that I was in the middle of a musical. I like to call it an accidental musical," Miller remarks.
Miller ended up focusing the film around the Heartsong concept and, because popular music is a form of expression familiar to everyone, the producers selected iconic songs to bring the story to life. "Happy Feet" enlists many kinds of musical styles, including rock, funk, opera, rap, liturgical, pop, gospel and latin in the narrative.
"Because all the penguins look essentially the same, each had to be differentiated by unique voices and, indeed, unique songs, so I decided from the get-go to mainly use a repertoire of songs from the twentieth century," Miller elaborates. "Judy Morris has a remarkable, encyclopedic knowledge of music; she's like a walking iPod. She can conjure up any tune or any lyric of any song at a moment's notice. In the countless sessions we held to select music, she came up with some inspired choices that fit our story."
Helping to craft the musical soundscape for the film was noted composer John Powell. "We didn't just need a composer on 'Happy Feet,' we needed a multiple-threat player," suggests Miller. "I wanted someone who wouldn't feel like they were slumming in pop music, and who wouldn't be intimidated by the more classical orchestral pieces or opera, or even rap. John Powell really understands world music, and he's young enough as a composer to draw on many musical disciplines and genres."
"John created some really incredible arrangements," offers Brittany Murphy. "For one of Gloria's songs, we did an homage to Freddie Mercury with Queen's 'Somebody To Love,' which was a perfect selection to go along with the movie's theme. We went in this gospel direction; it was very sensitive but still really fun. It was incredible working on the arrangements with John. He is a great musical mentor to me."
Some of the other Heartsongs featured in the film include: The Beach Boys' "Do It Again," Frank Sinatra's "My Way" (sung by Robin Williams in Spanish), and a version of Prince's "Kiss" (sung as a duet between Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman). The last led to a coup for the musical repertoire of the film. When Miller wanted to change the original "Kiss" lyrics (to "make them more penguin"), he asked for Prince's permission, which was initially denied. After watching an early cut of the film, not only did the musician agree to the lyric changes, he liked it so much that he wrote an original song for the film that is played over the end credits. Prince's "The Song of the Heart" will also be featured on the "Happy Feet" soundtrack, being released by Warner Sunset/Atlantic Records on October 31, 2006.
The same album will showcase a wide array of popular artists, including the legendary Patti LaBelle, Yolanda Adams and "American Idol's" Fantasia Barrino, all singing "I Wish"; Pink performing "Tell Me Something Good"; Chrissie Hynde and Jason Mraz singing an original mash-up of the songs "Everything I Own/The Joker"; k.d. lang singing The Beatles' "Golden Slumbers"; Gia Farrell's new single "Hit Me Up"; and the Brand New Heavies' song "Jump N' Move." John Powell's orchestral score will also be featured in "The Story of Mumble Happyfeet."
"Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman also sing in the film," Miller recalls. "But given that Mumble's character is excluded from his community because he sings so badly, Elijah Wood wasn't required to sing well. So the truth is I don't know if he can! I did, at one point, ask him to sing very badly--and he did that magnificently."
"I learned a lot about the role of music in film on this project," declares Miller. "I watched the great musicals, trying to understand what's at the heart of the choreography and what makes a big production number work. It is clear that dance pieces must be narrative, not merely decorative."
Perhaps no musical element was as integral to advancing the story as dance, which is the essence of Mumble's own Heartsong.
Miller says, "When we decided to make a film about a dancing penguin, I couldn't expect the digital artists to animate brilliant dancing. After all, a dancer, like an animator, acquires their skills over a lifetime. So the best way to make the penguins dance was through motion capture."
Miller believed Savion Glover was just the man to lead Mumble's tap revolution. "Given that Mumble is a virtuoso tap dancer, who better than Savion to play him? Savion's inimitable dancing was motion captured for Mumble's tapping in the main dance sequences in the movie. He's a dazzling percussionist," states the filmmaker. "His rhythms are so complex and sophisticated. Tap dancing is music you make with your body, and Savion is a virtuoso. You can play him anything and he'll improvise to it. At one point, we played him a helicopter and he mimicked the sound with his feet. He was moving so quickly, he was faster than the camera could record... or than I could see with my naked eye. He is quite extraordinary."
Having made his Broadway debut at age 12, Glover has shared the stage with such tap dancing legends as the late Sammy Davis, Jr. and Gregory Hines. "Savion is the latest in a line of classic hoofers," notes Miller. "He loves tap so much, it is absolutely part of him. He feels an obligation to pass his knowledge on, which is why he was the only choice of dancers to give Mumble his Heartsong."
"I truly believe that kids are going to see this tap dancing penguin and say, 'That's too cool.' George Miller is bringing back tap, and I'm just grateful to be a part of that," says Glover. "I'm not the only one; I know there are many great hoofers looking down on George right now and saying, 'Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.'"
Judy Morris backs up Savion's belief. "The composer's little son was completely entranced when he saw Savion at work, and ever since he's been tap dancing like crazy."
Warren Coleman recounts just how extraordinary Glover is. "At the start of every motion capture take, the performers stand still to be 'snapped' by the computers. But at times we could hear a 'brrrrrr' noise... It sounded like a tiny machine-gun. The sound technician desperately tried to find its source so we could start capturing. He checked the air-conditioner, computers, sound equipment, everything. But then it would disappear and we could start. It was only later that Savion let us in on his little practical joke. He had actually been tapping, with foot movements so tiny and fast that no one could detect them even up close, under powerful lights. He had us all completely stumped, particularly the sound guy."
A predominantly live-action director, Miller had initially considered creating "Happy Feet" in a live-action format, a la the "Babe" movies, where actual penguins would be digitally enhanced to sing and dance. The idea was quickly abandoned. "We knew it wouldn't be easy to train a penguin to dance," jokes the director.
"Live action and computer animation are essentially no different--all the principles of filmmaking apply to both," Miller comments. "When I work with animators it's like working with actors in ultra slow motion; you're dealing with nuanced performance frame by frame. The main difference is that you break down synchronicity. The voices are done at one time. The body movements, the facial expression, the lighting, the camera work, the costuming and everything else, are done at different times. In live action they're more simultaneous.
"Also, in making a film in the digital realm, the material is utterly malleable. You can move your characters, or your camera, or your lights anywhere. You can work your story to a much finer degree than you normally would. I think this is one of the reasons that the filmmakers at Pixar, in particular, are such masterful storytellers. For someone like me, who sees film as a medium for storytelling, the opportunity to work with CGI has been a revelation. You get to hone your tale to a degree that is not usually possible."
Working with Sydney-based visual effects house Animal Logic, Miller initiated the use of motion capture technology as a means to allow him to film real actors and dancers and have their performances translated into their on-screen penguin counterparts. Motion capture uses many cameras shooting from different directions, but rather than recording an image, the camera captures information from many small reflectors attached to a body-hugging suit. The recorded motion data is then applied to a pre-designed character model within specialized computers. In the case of Mumble, that model came in the shape of an Emperor Penguin.
On "Happy Feet," motion capture was pushed to the technological limit to allow Miller to direct multiple performers on the capture floor in their suits, while their penguin characters appeared on a computer screen--in real time. "Our crew took this to a new level," notes Miller. "I was actually able to see the actors moving instantly as penguins on the monitor while they performed. It gave me the freedom to get exactly what I needed on stage. I was able to direct the performers to move a little more or a little less to match what is appropriate for a penguin's range of motion."
"The process of making this movie was amazing," says Glover. "It's all about instant gratification. There I was on stage, wearing this suit with all these little reflectors all over it, and then Mumble was right there on the computer screen. You could actually see me as Mumble."
Though tap dancing was chosen to give Mumble his individual style of expression, the filmmakers also wanted to represent other forms of dance in the movie, so Miller recruited choreographer Kelley Abbey. "Kelley has done everything. She's the top stage and music video choreographer in Australia and is also an extraordinary performer. In the film, she dances and performs the dramatic moves for several characters, including Norma Jean, Gloria and Ramon."
"There were some really interesting challenges on this film," states Abbey. "Dancers are meant to move, we flow, but penguins are basically shaped like a football with feet."
Learning to move like a penguin was a required part of every performer's training on the film, so Abbey instituted compulsory "penguin school." However, before she could train anyone else on how to move like a penguin, Abbey had to learn to do so herself. "I watched documentaries; I had to know what was best for several species of the bird."
The choreographer's explorations in movement and dance actually revealed the opposite of what most would expect. "When people think of penguins, they think about turned out feet, sort of like Charlie Chaplin," states Abbey. "But in reality, a penguin's walk is more parallel, almost turned in. They don't have a hip access point, so all of their real movement comes from their neck."
"Penguins do have knees but they are well inside their bodies. Kelley Abbey emphasized the penguin-like quality of the dancing and the dancers 'penguinized' their moves," the director explains.
Another valuable resource was Dr. Gary Miller, a renowned Antarctic bird and penguin expert who gave pointers during early penguin lessons on how, for instance, the beak of an Emperor Penguin outlines a 'figure 8' as they waddle-walk.
"The casting of dancers was key to the motion capture process for the dance, as well as the drama scenes," Coleman comments. "Because of the way we built up a scene by blending the best parts of many different motion capture takes, the dancers' keen sense of where they were relative to each other helped us put it all together. And because our dancers came from a musical theatre background, their movement was always expressive... always telling a story."
Abbey states, "Savion adds another dimension to the movie. He's so unique. He's always expressing himself with his feet. When Savion enters the building, you know it. You can hear him!"
The collaboration was a success on both sides. "Kelley's no longer human," jokes Glover. "She became a penguin on this movie. Working with her was great. She guided me, she had my back... I actually started calling her 'my right-hand penguin.'"
To achieve the larger dance sequences, Abbey and her dancers would employ many different styles of dance. "In the finale of the movie, when everyone finally lets themselves go, the penguins are expressing themselves in different ways, so we have some flamenco, some tango, some riverdancing. Then there's Zulu, gumboot, Navajo and Samoan slap dancing," details Abbey. "When the penguins come together in this universal language of dance, it becomes part of the larger message of the film."
The belief that there is value in the diversity of artistic forms of expression was a unifying idea on-set. "As dancers, we need to be thankful for our musicians, our lyricists, and our songwriters," attests Glover. "I think music and dance are some of the most important cultural investments we have. I don't care what type of a person you are; everyone has a song that makes them say, 'This is me, this is how I feel.' It moves them. Whether you're a singer, a dancer or something else entirely, music is rhythm, it's our heartbeat. Music is life."
Creating a World of Rhythm
"In making 'Happy Feet,' it was one thing to make a few penguins dance, but George envisioned grand musical sequences in the film, with tens of thousands of penguins moving at once. And since dance is a very personal form of expression, he was explicit in his desire to have those moves look as individualized as possible," states producer Doug Mitchell.
"I had to think with a very different level of my brain," says Abbey. "Dance doesn't usually involve complex mathematical equations."
To produce the thousands of penguins and the various dancing styles in the film, a relatively small number of dancers needed to be replicated many times. "Before 'Happy Feet' went into production, we were able to gather the motion capture information for maybe five dancers on one set," says digital supervisor Brett Feeney. "By the time we wrapped, we tripled that number. We could have up to 17 dancers on stage wearing the motion capture suits."
To achieve the mass of penguins dancing on the vast Antarctica-based virtual sets, Abbey had to divide her soundstage dance floor into a defined grid. Each grid-block was roughly the size of a tennis court, which would represent a section of the penguin habitat in the equivalent computer-animated world. She estimates that it took approximately 50 "tennis courts" to fill those virtual sets with thousands of penguin extras for a particular sequence. Abbey would choreograph one grid at a time and the dancers would move within the limited space.
"The way the motion capture technology works, the dancers and I were essentially driving the penguin model," states Abbey. "So I had dancers arriving at one part of the music on specific marks of longitude and latitude in the grid, almost like a street directory or a reference map. I'd tell them, 'By the end of this bar, you need to land on nine and eleven.' Then in the next number, they'd pick up from nine and eleven and continue into the next court section. The action was taking place on the same physical stage, but in the computer-generated world, it's being placed somewhere in Emperor Land." The information provided by Abbey's dancers was then manipulated and enhanced by various digital artists (including motion editors, animators, surfacers and lighters) at Animal Logic. The resulting effect looked like thousands of penguins dancing at once.
"Despite their numbers, the extras dancing in the larger production pieces needed to look like they were moving individually," says executive producer and managing director of Animal Logic Zareh Nalbandian. "And since you can't realistically choreograph many thousands of performances in detail on a production schedule, we developed a system we called 'Horde.'"
"Horde essentially took the information from the smaller blocks of dancers Kelley was choreographing and randomized their movement," explains Feeney. "It's a retiming trick that organically offsets the motions. Using a key piece of software, you can assemble 30 or 40 pieces of motion capture and replicate it to represent upwards of half a million pieces. The effect is such that the penguins look like they are doing the same dance steps with their own individual style. Initially, we were quite proud of producing around 10,000 penguins. Once George saw that sequence he asked us to double the number. Then, in each subsequent viewing, he asked us to double and double again... basically the more penguins George saw, the more he wanted."
Not only does "Happy Feet" have a cast numbering in the tens of thousands, but "that cast is essentially made up of black and white birds that potentially look very much the same," notes Miller.
Character supervisor Aidan Sarsfield offers, "It became apparent that one of our first hurdles was going to be how we create distinct characters and personalities out of a cast that, if we stayed true to life, would all look somewhat identical. It was here that the process of characterizing our penguins began."
Crowd director Greg Van Borssum adds, "When it came to the background penguins, we only varied their look slightly. In terms of their physical appearance and actions, we really tried to stay within the normal range that you would find in nature. The real differentiation came in animating the faces of our main characters in close up."
Many of the characters have certain subtle distinguishing characteristics, such as Mumble's faint bow tie, or his blue eyes, or the feathers on top of Ramon's head. The key frame animation is what gives the characters their fine nuances and creates the facial performances. Miller was meticulous about every detail, which allows the audience to follow individual characters, even with a large cast.
Another device that was employed to ensure the movie's "stars" didn't get lost in the crowd involved the camera work for the film. "We used a style of cinematography that was different from most animation, because the shots in this film are comparatively quite long in duration," notes animation director Daniel Jeannette.
Layout and camera director David Peers elaborates, "The average feature has about 2,000 edits; we have around 800. Our film plays in longer shots designed to experience the story with the characters and to help keep track of them as they mingle in the essentially monochromatic crowds."
Animal Logic developed another motion capture tool called "lattice terrain adaptation," which allowed Miller to direct how the characters interacted with their environment in real time.
"Because of the lattice terrain adaptation tool, even as I was seeing the actors on a flat black stage, on the computer screen they were appearing on an ice shelf in Emperor Land or Adélie Land," Miller illustrates. "The computer could create the set's virtual hills and valleys, so I got the best performance within the specific landscape. I was able to see the characters on the monitor walk up a hill, or even fall off it."
"No one anticipated that jump in the technology when the production began," adds Feeney. "We had to keep innovating every day. The challenge for us was keeping up with George and making his vision a reality."
"It's an extraordinary thing for a director," enthuses Miller. "You've got this real world right in front of you and then you've got a virtual world, and the two are happening simultaneously. You can manipulate it however you want. I feel so lucky to be alive and working as a filmmaker when this technology is available. I cannot imagine doing this movie any other way."
The Photo-Real Look of "Happy Feet"
As they did with the characters, the filmmakers incorporated a combination of artistry and technology to achieve what Miller calls a "photo-reality" for the computer-animated world of "Happy Feet."
"I was always aware of Antarctica, given that we live in the southern hemisphere." The director recalls, "Way back when I was doing 'Road Warrior', I was in the Australian desert and a grizzly old cameraman turned to me one day in a bar and said, 'Antarctica! You gotta make a film in Antarctica.' Well, twenty years later, here I am making a film in digital Antarctica."
Miller adds, "Ten to fifteen years ago the 'white continent' became more accessible to documentary crews. The logistics improved, the equipment and cameras were able to endure the extreme conditions, so we saw for the first time some brilliant footage on the natural history of the Emperor Penguins.
"From the get-go, we decided to make a film that was as photo-real as possible, given that the landscape of Antarctica was so majestic, and the penguins themselves were so magnificent." Miller goes on to describe the process: "We consulted with Dr. Gary Miller and, with the help of the New Zealanders, sent two research expeditions down to the Antarctic. Visual effects and camera crews captured the textures, light and landscapes, which would be fodder for our computers and help create the world of our story.
"I talked to all of our digital artists about the look of the film. I wanted it to seem so real that I'd be compelled to walk up to the screen and touch it. I felt that if we could achieve a look that would create that impulse--if it could send me to the computer screen to actually reach up and try to rub the fuzzy belly of a baby penguin--then we would have succeeded. I'm happy to say I've tried to scratch quite a few virtual penguin bellies since we began production."
"Happy Feet" took almost four years to make, and Miller observes, "Over half that time was spent in creating the digital pipeline. Miller goes on to reveal that Doug Mitchell and a team from Kennedy Miller literally moved into the Animal Logic facility. Working with Zareh Nalbandian and the accomplished technical and creative staff of Animal Logic, "Doug spearheaded the company's ambitious transformation from a conventional visual effects house into a CGI animation studio, capable of delivering a full-length animated feature."
"Working in this digital realm is a revelation," says Miller. "Hundreds of very skilled and talented people came from all over the planet to give their best efforts to this film. Their average age was 26. There were artists from all over the Americas--California, Alabama, Texas, Quebec, Paraguay, Mexico; amongst many others. There were French, Italians, New Zealanders, Germans, British, and people from Africa, China, Iran, Estonia, India, Israel and Spain. It felt like the UN."
"A large proportion of them were math wizards as well as artists," Miller offers. "What surprised me was that so few were your cliché 'computer geeks.' They are body builders, martial artists, motor cycle racers, bull riders, serious rock and classical musicians, and so on. One was even an Olympic level gymnast."
The effort to create a photo-reality applied to every level of production. "We used every technique at our disposal, often in unique ways and combinations," states Nalbandian. "We had to develop processes for rendering fur and feathers, and then the moisture of the fur and the feathers and the way they reacted to light. We knew they had to look wet underwater and slowly dry over the course of a scene once the characters were on land. We also had the characters interact with their environment. We created interaction tools to allow for the penguins to create footprints in the snow as they walked, or for them to kick up powder as they danced. We art directed every aspect because George didn't want anything to take you out of the film."
Doug Mitchell explains, "The little, fluffy penguin, Mumble, has six million feathers on him. The amount of processing dedicated to this project--only a few years ago would have been impossible to achieve. We pushed the computers to breaking point. We are, as they say, on 'the bleeding edge' of the technology."
Fellow producer Bill Miller observes, "When I'm asked who plays the lead character, I try to explain that it's Elijah's voice, Savion's tapping and Matt Lee's motion-captured acting, as well as the efforts of a small army of dialogue and motion editors, layout and animation artists, surfacers, lighters and the technical crew. Multiply that over the many characters and environments in our 90-plus-minute movie, and it's little wonder that the credits run to over 1,000 names."
"Something I love about going to the movies is the idea that I'm being transported. I want to experience something for the first time," states the director. "Antarctica itself is extraordinarily beautiful, full of incredible colors and fantastic formations in the ice; it's part of our planet, but it also seems like a world unto itself."
Prior to the start of production on "Happy Feet," producer Bill Miller embarked on a six-week expedition on a hulking Russian ice-breaker to East Antarctica. "Once I'd experienced for myself what the real thing looked and sounded like, I knew the benchmark for the look and feel of our movie. When final shots began to flow through the digital pipeline, I was thrilled to see that, collectively, we had found the mark."
To fully realize the stunning visuals of this distant frozen world Miller and the production team actually organized two expeditions to the Antarctic continent: One was ship-based to the Antarctic Peninsula with its glorious icebergs; the other, with the support of Antarctica New Zealand, was by air to the 'deep ice' of the Ross Sea.
"While gorgeous, Antarctica is one of the most inhospitable places in the world," notes production designer Mark Sexton. "It's practically all ice and rock. So we knew we were going to have very fresh, clean, barren environments. To stay true to the beauty of the place, we needed the best reference materials."
When Brett Feeney heard there was going to be a trip to Antarctica to acquire photo-real references for the complex environment, he immediately volunteered. "Originally, we did tests to see how the light played on the glacial ice in New Zealand, but then George decided he wanted to really authenticate Antarctica. We took two trips to create a bible of reference material. We gathered over 80,000 images on the treks."
After several months in the field, Feeney returned with images that would go on to become the universe of "Happy Feet." "The photo reference materials were hugely important in generating matte paintings," adds Sexton. "We were excited by the incredible shapes and formations Brett and the expedition crew members harvested. We took all of these amazing ingredients and blended them, so that they seamlessly merged with the textured surfaces we created."
The result is a carefully designed depiction of a world that moved Feeney from his first step onto the ice. "Getting off the plane at the bottom of the world, you just have tears streaming down your face. It's awe inspiring... and a magnificent place to work."
Miller hopes that by bringing the natural beauty of Antarctica to movie audiences in "Happy Feet," he might inspire them to think about how to protect it. The filmmaker wanted the audience to connect how we treat our environment with its effect on wildlife, both locally and globally.
The idea resonated with cast members. "The world can't dump its garbage in the ocean because it simply can't absorb it all," comments Robin Williams. "It's a mess out there. If you get out on the open ocean, you'll see garbage floating all over. We're poisoning the food chain, and that's a big deal."
"There are some real issues we have to face," adds Elijah Wood. "It's a beautiful world, and we're supposed to be living in harmony with these animals and with nature. So it's important that we take all life into consideration as we share this planet."
Brittany Murphy echoes her co-star's sentiments. "One of the many things that I adore about George Miller's film is that he's done an extraordinary job of weaving a much-needed environmental message throughout 'Happy Feet.' It's such an important topic, and this film addresses it in spades while keeping its focus on the audience's entertainment."
"So many of us worked on this film for so long--what sustained us were the characters, the story and our desire to make something special. When I'm asked what this movie is about, I say that, at the end of the day, it's for each individual to take whatever meaning they can from any story. For me, 'Happy Feet' is about belonging."
"Happy Feet: The IMAX Experience"
"Happy Feet: The IMAX Experience" will be released in IMAX® theatres worldwide, beginning November 17, 2006, simultaneously with the film's debut in conventional theaters. The film has been digitally re-mastered into the unparalleled image and sound quality of The IMAX Experience® with proprietary IMAX DMR® (Digital Re-mastering) technology. "Happy Feet" marks the 14th IMAX film release from Warner Bros. Pictures to date.
IMAX Theatres deliver images of unsurpassed clarity and impact, and will enable audiences to experience the toe-tapping music and heart-warming humor of "Happy Feet" on the world's largest screens, surrounded by state-of-the-art digital sound. (IMAX screens can be three times larger than the average 35mm screen, 4,500 times larger than the average TV screen, and as wide as an NFL football field.)
"We've gone to extreme lengths to make this movie as spectacular as possible and be true to the majestic landscapes of Antarctica and the penguins which inhabit them," says director George Miller. "There is no better place to experience the extraordinary world we have recreated than on the massive IMAX screen with its awesome picture and sound quality. We aim to immerse the audience totally."
The sheer size of a 15/70 film frame, combined with the unique IMAX projection technology, is key to the extraordinary sharpness and clarity of the images projected in IMAX theatres.
To fully envelop IMAX theatregoers, the IMAX sound system is a specially designed multi-channel stereo system that delivers exceptional clarity and quality for maximum impact.
The IMAX® brand is world famous and stands for the highest-quality, most immersive filmed entertainment. Visitors to IMAX theatres now number in the hundreds of millions since the technology premiered in 1970. As the number of theatres grows, so does the visibility of the IMAX brand--a name that is unique in the entertainment business.
Elijah Wood (Mumble) will also
be seen this fall in the drama "Bobby," in which he joins an all-star ensemble
cast, including Anthony Hopkins, Demi Moore and Sharon Stone, under the
direction of Emilio Estevez.
Wood starred in the trilogy of films based on The Lord of the Rings novels, by J.R.R. Tolkien, in the lead role of Frodo Baggins. Directed by Peter Jackson, the films "The Fellowship of the Ring," "The Two Towers" and "The Return of the King" became worldwide blockbusters and, in 2004, "The Return of the King" won 11 Academy Awards, including one for Best Picture.
More recently, Wood was seen in "Everything is Illuminated," Liev Schreiber's adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer's bestselling novel. Prior to that, Wood co-starred with Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet in the critically acclaimed off-beat drama "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," directed by Michel Gondry from a screenplay by Charlie Kaufman.
His other recent film credits include Lexi Alexander's "Green Street Hooligans"; Frank Miller's "Sin City," directed by Robert Rodriguez and Miller; Ang Lee's "The Ice Storm"; Martin Duffy's "The Bumblebee Flies Away," opposite Rachel Leigh Cook and Janeane Garofalo; Jeffrey Porter's "Try Seventeen," with Franka Potente and Mandy Moore; "Ash Wednesday," opposite Ed Burns; James Toback's "Black and White"; "The Faculty," written by Kevin Williamson and directed by Robert Rodriguez; and Mimi Leder's "Deep Impact." Wood also lent his voice to the animated film "The Adventures of Tom Thumb and Thumbelina," opposite Jennifer Love Hewitt's Thumbelina.
Wood's additional film credits include Alan Shapiro's "Flipper"; Patrick Von Krusenstjerna's "Chain of Fools"; Jon Avnet's "The War," opposite Kevin Costner; Rob Reiner's "North," with Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus; Joe Ruben's "The Good Son," opposite Macauley Culkin; Stephen Sommers' "The Adventures of Huck Finn"; Steve Miner's "Forever Young," with Mel Gibson; Mary Agnes Donohue's "Paradise"; Richard Donner's "Radio Flyer"; Barry Levinson's "Avalon"; and Mike Figgis' "Internal Affairs," with Richard Gere.
Robin Williams (Ramon) won an
Academy Award for his performance in Gus Van Sant's
"Good Will Hunting." He had previous
Oscar nominations for his work in "The Fisher
King," "Dead Poets Society" and
"Good Morning, Vietnam." In 1990, Williams
shared the National Board of Review Best Actor Award with Robert De Niro for
"Awakenings." In 2004, he received the
prestigious Career Achievement Award from the Chicago International Film
Festival. In 2005, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association honored him with
the Cecil B. DeMille Award for outstanding contributions to the world of
This year, Williams has already appeared in Barry Levinson's political satire "Man of the Year," the hit comedy "RV" for director Barry Sonnenfeld, and Patrick Stettner's dark thriller "The Night Listener," opposite Toni Collette. This December, Williams will appear as Theodore Roosevelt in the holiday comedy "Night at the Museum." He will also star in Kirsten Sheridan's "August Rush," with Freddie Highmore, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Terrence Howard, and the comedy "License to Wed," with Mandy Moore and John Krasinski, both set for release in 2007.
Williams first captured the attention of the world as Mork from Ork on the popular television series "Mork & Mindy." He trained at New York's Juilliard School and made his cinematic debut as the title character in Robert Altman's "Popeye." He followed up with starring roles in Paul Mazursky's "Moscow on the Hudson" and "The World According to Garp," George Roy Hill's adaptation of John Irving's acclaimed bestselling novel.
His filmography also includes such hit films as Chris Columbus' "Mrs. Doubtfire," Mike Nichols' "The Birdcage," Tom Shadyac's "Patch Adams," Steven Spielberg's "Hook" and Joe Johnston's "Jumanji." Williams lent his voice talents in creating the memorable character of the Genie in the blockbuster adventure "Aladdin" and, more recently, voiced the character of Fender in the 2005 animated feature "Robots." Additionally, he was the voice of Dr. Know in Steven Spielberg's "A.I.: Artificial Intelligence."
Williams began his career as a stand-up comedian and is well known for his free-associative monologues. In 2002, after a 20-year absence from the stand-up scene, he hit the road with a sold-out 26-date U.S. tour. With its last stop on Broadway, the one-man show was filmed as "Robin Williams: Live on Broadway" and garnered five Emmy Award nominations.
Offstage, Williams takes great joy in supporting philanthropic efforts around the world, benefiting health, education and the environment. This year he will present "Comic Relief 2006" with Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg, a live concert to benefit families affected by Hurricane Katrina. To date, the Comic Relief organization has raised over $50 million.
Brittany Murphy (Gloria) most
recently wrapped production in Tokyo on "The Ramen Girl," a film in which
she stars and which she produced. She can next be seen in the British ensemble
romantic comedy "Love and Other Disasters," directed by Alec Keshishian and
produced by David Fincher and Luc Besson, and the dark character-driven mystery
thriller "The Dead Girl."
Earlier this summer, Murphy starred opposite Ed Burns in "The Groomsmen." She also played the role of Shellie in the film adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel "Sin City," directed by Miller, Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino. Murphy will reprise the role in the upcoming sequel set for a 2007 release.
Murphy's more than 40 film credits also include such romantic comedies as "Little Black Book," "Uptown Girls" and "Just Married," and such dramatic features as Curtis Hanson's "8 Mile," Gary Fleder's "Don't Say A Word," "Riding in Cars with Boys," "Spun," "Sidewalks of New York" and "Girl, Interrupted."
In 1995, she gained national attention with her breakthrough role as Tai Fraiser in Amy Heckerling's hit comedy "Clueless." She also made her Broadway debut in Arthur Miller's Tony Award-winning "A View from the Bridge." Some of her most notable TV appearances include the critically acclaimed "Oprah Winfrey Presents David & Lisa," Showtime's "Common Ground" and "Devil's Arithmetic." In addition to lighting up the silver screen, Murphy not only lent her voice to "Happy Feet" but will also give voice to the animated "Tinkerbell" for the first time in history. She won an Annie Award for her voice acting work as LuAnn in Mike Judge's "King of the Hill."
Beyond film and television, Murphy's musical collaboration with Paul Oakenfeld, a hit song entitled "Faster Kill Pussycat," recently topped the International Billboard dance charts.
Hugh Jackman (Memphis), a native
of Australia, made his first major U.S. film appearance as Wolverine in 2000's
"X-Men," which marked the first installment of the blockbuster franchise. He
has since reprised the role in "X2" and "X-Men: The Last Stand." In addition,
Jackman earned a Golden Globe Award nomination for his performance in the
romantic comedy drama "Kate & Leopold," opposite Meg Ryan.
This fall, Jackman can be seen in Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige" and Darren Aronofsky's "The Fountain," and heard in the animated feature "Flushed Away." Earlier this year, he also starred in Woody Allen's comedy "Scoop," with Scarlett Johansson. His additional film credits include the title role in "Van Helsing"; the thriller "Swordfish," with John Travolta and Halle Berry; and the romantic comedy "Someone Like You," opposite Ashley Judd.
An award-winning stage actor, Jackman was honored with the 2004 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of singer-songwriter Peter Allen in the Broadway hit "The Boy From Oz." His work in that show also brought him Drama Desk, Drama League, Outer Critics Circle, and Theatre World Awards. His previous theatre credits include: "Carousel," at Carnegie Hall; "Oklahoma!" at the National Theater in London, for which he received an Olivier Award nomination; "Sunset Boulevard," for which he won a 'MO' Award (Australia's equivalent of a Tony); and Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," for which he also received a 'MO' Award nomination.
Jackman began his career in Australia in the independent films "Paperback Hero" and "Erskineville Kings." For his performance in the latter, he won the Film Critics Circle of Australia's Best Actor Award and earned a nomination for the Australian Film Institute's Best Actor Award. In 1999, he was named Australian Star of the Year at the Australian Movie Convention.
Nicole Kidman (Norma Jean) first
came to the attention of American audiences with her critically acclaimed
performance in the riveting 1989 psychological thriller "Dead Calm." She has
since become an internationally recognized award-winning actress known for her
range and versatility. In 2003, Kidman won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe
Award, a BAFTA Award and a Berlin Silver Bear for her portrayal of Virginia
Woolf in Stephen Daldry's "The Hours." In the year prior, she was honored
with her first Oscar nomination and second Golden Globe Award for her work on
Baz Luhrman's "Moulin Rouge!" She was awarded her first Golden Globe for her
portrayal of the wickedly ambitious Suzanne Stone in Gus Van Sant's "To Die
For," and has been Golden Globe-nominated four other times for her performances
in "Birth," "Cold Mountain," "The Others" and "Billy Bathgate."
Last year, Kidman starred in Sydney Pollack's thriller "The Interpreter," and with Will Ferrell in Nora Ephron's "Bewitched." She narrated this year's Sundance Grand Jury Award and Audience Award-winning documentary "God Grew Tired of Us," and was recently seen in "Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus," directed by Steven Shainberg, which premiered this fall at the Telluride Film Festival and the RomeFilmFest.
Upcoming films for Kidman include Oliver Hirschbiegel's thriller "The Invasion," with Daniel Craig, and Noah Baumbach's as-yet-untitled feature, also starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jack Black. She is currently filming "The Golden Compass," director Chris Weitz's screen adaptation of the first volume in Phillip Pullman's popular fantasy trilogy, "His Dark Materials." Kidman is also the narrator in the forthcoming film biography of Simon Wiesenthal, "I Have Never Forgotten You." Early next year, she will reunite with "Moulin Rouge!" director Baz Luhrmann and fellow Australian actor Hugh Jackman to film an epic love story set in Australia's outback.
Kidman's additional film credits include Robert Benton's "The Human Stain"; Lars von Trier's "Dogville"; Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut"; "The Peacemaker," with George Clooney; Jane Campion's "The Portrait of a Lady"; "Batman Forever"; "Malice"; and Ron Howard's "Far and Away."
In January of this year, Kidman was awarded Australia's highest honor, the Companion in the Order of Australia. She was also named Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), a role that will focus on raising awareness of the infringement on women's human rights around the world. For the past nine years, Kidman has served as the UNICEF Ambassador for Australia. Three years ago, she became the first Chair of the Women's Health Fund at UCLA, at the David Geffen School of Medicine.
Hugo Weaving (Noah the Elder) has
starred in two of the biggest trilogies in recent film history: as Elrond in
the award-winning "The Lord of the Rings" films; and as Agent Smith in the
highly acclaimed "The Matrix" films. Weaving most recently starred in "V for
Vendetta," opposite Natalie Portman, and produced by the Wachowski brothers,
the creators of "The Matrix."
Weaving is the recipient of three AFI (Australian Film Institute) Best Actor Awards, receiving the first in 1991 for his portrayal of a blind photographer in Jocelyn Moorhouse's breakthrough feature "Proof." He received a nomination in the same category in 1994 for the role of Mitzi Del Bra in Stephan Elliott's "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert." Weaving won his second AFI Award in 1998 for his role in "The Interview," written and directed by Craig Monahan, for which he also received the 1998 Best Actor Award at the World Film Festival in Montreal. In 2005, his role in the critically acclaimed "Little Fish," opposite Cate Blanchett and Sam Neill, earned Weaving his third AFI Award.
"Happy Feet" marks Weaving's third collaboration with George Miller, having voiced the character of Rex in the hit family comedy "Babe" and its sequel, "Babe: Pig in the City." His other film credits include "Peaches," "Russian Doll," "The Magic Pudding," "Strange Planet," "The Old Man Who Read Love Stories," "Bedrooms and Hallways," "True Love and Chaos" and "Exile."
Additionally, Weaving recently appeared on stage with Cate Blanchett in the Sydney Theatre Company's production of "Hedda Gabler" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Anthony LaPaglia (Alpha Skua) has
received widespread critical acclaim for his portrayal of Jack Malone in the
hit television series "Without a Trace," for which he won a Golden Globe Award
and has earned an Emmy Award nomination and two SAG Award nominations. In 2002,
LaPaglia won an Emmy for his recurring role in "Frasier," and was nominated
in 2000 and 2004 for the same role.
He won a Tony Award, Drama Desk Award and Outer Critics Circle Award for his performance in the Arthur Miller classic "A View from the Bridge." LaPaglia is also producing a feature film version of the Miller play. LaPaglia's additional stage credits include the off-off-Broadway production of "The Guys," the story of a fire captain who must prepare eulogies for the men he lost on 9/11. Sigourney Weaver and LaPaglia starred in the feature film adaptation of the same title.
His other film credits include the critically acclaimed "Lantana," for which he won an AFI (Australian Film Institute) Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, "Betsy's Wedding," "The House of Mirth," "Sweet and Lowdown," "The Client," "Company Man," "Summer of Sam," "Autumn in New York," "Lansky," "Phoenix," "Commandments," "Brilliant Lies," "Winter Solstice" and "The Architect." LaPaglia has also appeared in the television series "Murder One," and the telefilms "Never Give Up: The Jimmy V Story"; "Criminal Justice," for which he received a Cable ACE Award nomination; and "Garden of Redemption."
Miriam Margolyes (Mrs. Astrakhan)
has made over 40 major film appearances in such diverse roles as Professor
Sprout in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"; Nurse in Baz Luhrmann's
"Romeo + Juliet," with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes; Mrs. Mingott in
Martin Scorsese's "The Age of Innocence," for which she won the BAFTA Award
for Best Supporting Actress; Peg Sellers in "The Life and Death of Peter
Sellers," with Geoffrey Rush; Dolly de Vries in "Being Julia," with Annette
Bening; Dorcas, the housekeeper in "Ladies in Lavender," with Judi Dench and
Maggie Smith; and Flora Finching in "Little Dorrit."
"Happy Feet" marks Margolyes' third project with George Miller, having voiced the character of Fly, the female border collie, in the award-winning feature "Babe" and its sequel, "Babe: Pig in the City." Her voice has also been heard as the famous Cadbury's Caramel Rabbit, the Glowworm in "James and the Giant Peach," and the Matchmaker in "Mulan."
Magda Szubanski (Miss Viola) is
best known for her role as Mrs. Hoggett in the Academy Award-nominated and
Golden Globe Award-winning family adventure "Babe" and its sequel, "Babe:
Pig in the City." "Happy Feet" marks Szubanski's third project with director
George Miller. Her other film credits include "The Crocodile Hunter: Collision
Course," alongside the late Steve Irwin, and "Son of the Mask," with Jamie
Kennedy and Alan Cumming. Upcoming, Szubanski will appear in "The Golden
Compass," with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, set for a late 2007 release.
She most recently completed shooting the role of Mrs. Plonk in the latest Rolf de Heer comedy, "Dr. Plonk." On stage, Szubanski has starred in the Melbourne Theatre Company production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," for which she was nominated for a Hellman Award; the national tour of "Grease: The Arena Spectacular," with John Farnham; and "The Rise and Fall of Little Voice," for the STC. In 2002, she won the Australian Film Institute (AFI) Award for Best Supporting Actress in the hit TV comedy "Kath & Kim," and was nominated twice more for the same role in the following years. She has also won several Logies, Australia's People's Choice Awards and Writers Guild Awards. Szubanski's other television credits include the "Dogwoman" telefilms, "Big Girl's Blouse" and "Something Stupid," all of which she wrote, co-produced and starred in.
Carlos Alazraqui (Nestor) can
currently be seen on the Comedy Central series "Reno 911!" now in its fourth
season. He will also star in the upcoming feature film based on the series,
"Reno 911!: Miami," due out January 2007.
Alazraqui has much experience in the world of voicing animation and talking animals. He is probably best known as the voice of the Taco Bell Chihuahua, popularizing the slogan "Yo Quiero Taco Bell." Additionally, he can be heard weekly on such cartoons as "The Life and Times of Juniper Lee" and "Camp Lazlo," both airing on the Cartoon Network. His other television credits include "The Fairly OddParents," "King of the Hill," "Family Guy," "That '70s Show," the PBS series "Maya and Miguel," and his own half-hour comedy special for Comedy Central. Alazraqui has also provided voices for such hit films as "The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie," "Finding Nemo," "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius," "Osmosis Jones" and "A Bug's Life."
Johnny Sanchez III (Lombardo) has appeared on various hit television programs as a stand-up comic, including his own half hour special on "Comedy Central Presents," "The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn," Comedy Central's "Premium Blend," HBO's "Comedy Showcase" and, most recently, on Byron Allen's "Comics Unleashed." As a film and TV actor, Sanchez has appeared on CBS's "Becker," NBC's "Watching Ellie," Fox's "Luis" and in the comedy feature "Pauly Shore is Dead."
Jeff Garcia (Rinaldo) was named by Variety as one of the "Top 10 Comedians to Watch" in 2003. He has performed on "Comedy Central Presents" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live." Garcia is also the voice of Sheen in "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius," for both the feature film and the television series; Pip the Mouse in "Barnyard: The Original Party Animals"; and various characters on "Hey, Happy!" and "Clone High." Additionally, he has hosted such live comedy series as "Loco Comedy Jam" and "Latino Comedy Fiesta."
Lombardo Boyar (Raul) was a series regular on Steven Bochco's war drama "Over There," for the FX Network, and on the long-running comedy "The Bernie Mac Show." He has also appeared in such hit television shows as the Emmy Award-winning action drama "24," "Boston Legal," "Without a Trace," "Boomtown," "Six Feet Under," "ER" and "NYPD Blue." On film, he has starred in Steve Guttenberg's "P.S. Your Cat is Dead!," Takashi Kitano's edgy mob drama "Brother," the gritty LA-based drama "Never Get Outta the Boat" and the biopic "Gia." Fluent in both English and Spanish, Boyar has also lent his voice acting talents to Nickelodeon's animated series "Rocket Power," as well as various commercials and video games.
E.G. Daily (Baby Mumble) reunites
with director George Miller in "Happy Feet" having previously voiced the
title role of Babe in "Babe: Pig in the City." Most recently, she starred in
"The Devil's Rejects," directed by Rob Zombie, National Lampoon's "Pledge
This!" and the title character of the thriller "Mustang Sally." Daily's
additional film credits include "Pee-wee's Big Adventure," "Dogfight," "Valley
Girl," "Streets of Fire," "Fandango" and "Lover Boy."
A seasoned voice-over actor, Daily has been heard in such animated series as "Powerpuff Girls" and the Emmy Award-winning series "Rugrats," now in its eleventh season, as well as all three "Rugrats" feature-length films. Her additional voice-over credits include "Starship Troopers," "Eek! the Cat," "The Little Rascals" and "The Flintstones."
Daily has also composed music and performed on a number of soundtracks, including "Thief of Hearts," "Scarface," "The Breakfast Club," "Summer School" and "Better Off Dead." She also worked on the song "Heart That's True" for the "Babe: Pig in the City" soundtrack, and can be heard on the upcoming soundtrack of "Happy Feet."
George Miller (Director / Co-Writer
/ Producer) is a three-time Academy Award nominee. He was honored with
nominations for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay for his work as a
producer and a writer on the breakout hit family feature "Babe." The film
earned a total of seven Academy Award nominations, winning the Oscar for
Best Visual Effects. In addition, "Babe" garnered four BAFTA Award nominations,
including two for Miller for Best Film and Best Adapted Screenplay, and won a
Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical. Miller had previously
received his first Oscar nomination, for Best Original Screenplay, for the
moving drama "Lorenzo's Oil," which he co-wrote, directed and produced. The
film starred Susan Sarandon, who was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, and
Miller made his feature film directorial debut on the international success "Mad Max," which he also co-wrote. The film launched the career of its star, Mel Gibson, and spawned two successful sequels, "Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior" and "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome." Miller is currently in development on the fourth installment of the film series.
More recently, he directed, produced and co-wrote the "Babe" sequel, "Babe: Pig in the City." Miller's other film directing credits include "The Witches of Eastwick," starring Jack Nicholson, Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer; and the "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" segment of "Twilight Zone: The Movie." Miller has produced John Duigan's "The Year My Voice Broke" and "Flirting," as well as Philip Noyce's "Dead Calm" which brought Nicole Kidman to the world's attention. In 1995, he produced "Video Fool for Love," and then wrote, directed, produced and narrated the documentary "40,000 Years of Dreaming," the Australian contribution to the international celebration of the Century of Cinema.
A native of Australia, Miller earned a degree in medicine from the University of New South Wales. At a filmmaking workshop he met Byron Kennedy, and the two collaborated on a comedy short called "Violence in the Cinema - Part 1." The short won two Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards and, following its success, Miller and Kennedy formed Kennedy Miller Productions in 1972.
Kennedy Miller Productions has since won more than 25 AFI Awards, 10 Australian Logie Awards and various international awards. In 1982, Miller wrote, directed and executive produced a six-hour miniseries called "The Dismissal," which broke all ratings records in Australia. Under the Kennedy Miller banner, Miller produced the television projects "Bodyline," "Cowra Breakout," "Vietnam," "The Dirtwater Dynasty," and "Bangkok Hilton," again starring Nicole Kidman.
Miller is a key figure within the Australian film industry serving as a Patron of the Sydney Film Festival, the Australian Film Institute and the Brisbane International Film Festival. In 1996 he was awarded the Order of Australia for distinguished service to Australian cinema.
John Collee (Co-Writer) previously co-wrote
Peter Weir's historical drama "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,"
for which he won the London Critics Circle Film Award for Screenwriter of the
Year, shared with Weir.
Before starting his writing career, Collee trained as a physician in his native Scotland and worked as a doctor for international aid organizations in several developing countries.
When he began to write, he authored three novels: Kingsley's Touch, A Paper Mask, and The Rig, all published by Viking and Penguin. It was while penning a weekly medical/historical column for The Observer newspaper that Collee segued into writing for the screen.
His first produced feature film screenplay was "Paper Mask," based on his own novel. He also scripted several television dramas, including "The Heart Surgeon," for the BBC.
In 1996, Collee moved to Sydney, Australia, where he has since worked full time as a screenwriter. He has several films in development and, in addition to his own projects, is frequently called upon as a script editor.
He recently co-wrote "Oceans," a drama documentary about the vanishing wonders of the aquatic world, which is slated for release in 2008, and a film version of Tim Flannery's book The Weathermakers.
Judy Morris (Co-Writer / Co-Director)
has collaborated with Kennedy Miller over the last ten years on various
projects, including three feature films and a television sitcom. She co-wrote
the original screenplay for "Babe: Pig in the City," with George Miller and
Mark Lamprell, and played an integral role in the voice casting of the film.
Morris' other writing credits include the feature "Luigi's Ladies," which she also directed, and she has written recently for U.S. television.
Known to Australian audiences as a prolific film and television actress, Morris won the Australian Film Institute's Award as Best Actress for her performance in the film "Libido," and the Australian Logie Award as Best Actress for her performance in the television drama "Jimmy Dancer."
On stage, Morris has had a number of leading roles with the prestigious Sydney Theatre Company.
Warren Coleman (Co-Writer /
Co-Director) is a writer, director and actor who graduated from the Australian
National Institute of Dramatic Art in 1979. His credits for film and television
include "Red Star," which was developed in a workshop production at the
National Institute of Dramatic Art and short listed for the New York New
Dramatists Playwright Award, and "The Castanet Club," in which he also performed.
Warren's acting credits include "The Man Who Sued God," "Young Einstein," "The Crossing," "The Devil's Playground," "Bad Cop Bad Cop," the Kennedy Miller miniseries "Vietnam," "Romeo and Juliet," Judy Davis' production "The School for Scandal" for the Sydney Theatre Company, and Steve Martin's "Picasso at the Lapin Agile," for Belvoir St Theatre.
His directing credits include "The Mystery of Irma Vep" and "The Venetian Twins," for the State Theatre Company of South Australia; "Jack," at the Sacred Fools Theater in Los Angeles; "Buzz," which he co-wrote and also starred in for Belvoir St Theatre; "Tall Dog and the Under Poppy," at The Studio at the Sydney Opera House; "Effie... Just Quietly"; "Rent"; and "The Real Live Brady Bunch."
Doug Mitchell (Producer), George
Miller's business partner, has also produced a number of feature film and
Mitchell was born in Colombia and educated at Scottish boarding schools. After qualifying as a chartered accountant in London, he relocated to Sydney, Australia, where he became the protégé of the late Byron Kennedy, adding his knowledge of finance to the artistic acumen of Kennedy and Miller.
Over the past 21 years he has been involved in producing "Babe" and its sequel, "Babe: Pig in the City"; "Lorenzo's Oil," starring Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon; "Dead Calm," with Sam Neill, Nicole Kidman and Billy Zane; "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome," starring Mel Gibson and Tina Turner; "Flirting," starring the ensemble cast of Noah Taylor, Thandie Newton, Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts; "The Year My Voice Broke," with Noah Taylor; "Bangkok Hilton," starring Nicole Kidman and Hugo Weaving; "Dirtwater Dynasty," with Hugo Weaving; "Vietnam," with Nicole Kidman; "The Cowra Breakout"; "Bodyline," starring Hugo Weaving; "The Riddle of the Stinson"; "The Clean Machine"; "Fragments of War"; and "Video Fool for Love."
Bill Miller (Producer) shares the
honor of being an Academy Award nominee with his brother, George Miller, and
longtime producing partner Doug Mitchell for their work as producers on the
hit family film "Babe." In addition to being nominated for Best Picture in
1996, the film earned a total of seven Academy Award nominations, winning
the Oscar for Best Visual Effects. It also won a Golden Globe for Best Motion
Picture - Comedy/Musical and garnered a BAFTA Award nomination for Best Film.
Following the success of "Babe," Miller also went on to serve as a producer on its sequel, "Babe: Pig in the City." Like George, who gave up practicing medicine to become a film director, Bill, a successful arts and entertainment lawyer, gave up his legal career to collaborate with George and Doug Mitchell.
He worked alongside George and the late Byron Kennedy on their early short films, including "Violence in the Cinema, Part One," a 14-minute parody of the violent films of the 1970s. This short won two Australian Film Institute Awards, and provided the filmmaking trio with the confidence to pursue more ambitious projects. Miller then served as an associate producer on the original "Mad Max," starring Mel Gibson.
Zareh Nalbandian (Executive Producer)
is Managing Director and co-founder of Animal Logic, one the world's leading
visual effects production companies. Under the Animal Logic banner, Nalbandian's
film credits include "Babe," "Babe: Pig in the City," "The Matrix," "The Matrix
Reloaded," "Charlotte Gray," "Moulin Rouge!," "Hero," "House of Flying Daggers"
"Face/Off," "The Thin Red Line," "Planet of the Apes," "The Crocodile Hunter:
Collision Course," and, more recently, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,"
"Stealth" and "World Trade Center."
Nalbandian began his career in the early '70s as a film effects artist, working on feature films and television commercials in the pre-digital world. He trained in many areas of post production and ultimately found himself in a senior management position at Australia's then largest post-production house, Colorfilm. He then joined Sydney's Video Paintbrush Company, the pioneer of computer-generated technologies in Australia during the mid-'80s. In 1991, he co-founded Animal Logic to produce digital animation and visual effects for international broadcast. In 1996, Nalbandian spearheaded the company's move into feature films and established the company's headquarters at the Fox Studios Lot in Sydney.
Nalbandian and Animal Logic recently completed work on the film adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel "300." Directed by Zack Snyder, the film is set for release in Spring 2007.
Graham Burke (Executive Producer) is Managing Director of Village Roadshow Limited. Burke's most recent film credits as executive producer include Tim Burton's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," starring Johnny Depp, and the motorcycle racing action-adventure "Torque." In addition to film production and distribution, Burke has been one of Village Roadshow's strategic and creative forces in furthering the company's interests in cinema chains, radio stations and theme parks. He founded Roadshow Distributors with Roc Kirby in 1968, and was an initial director of radio station 2DayFM. Burke also spent four years as the original Commissioner of the Australian Film Commission.
Dana Goldberg (Executive Producer)
is President of Production at Village Roadshow Pictures. Since joining the
company eight years ago, she has been involved with Village Roadshow Pictures'
entire slate of films, including "The Matrix" trilogy, "Ocean's Eleven,"
"Ocean's Twelve," "Training Day," "Mystic River," "Miss Congeniality," "Rumor
Has It," and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." She also served as an
executive producer on "Taking Lives," starring Angelina Jolie; "The Dukes of
Hazzard," starring Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott; "Firewall,"
starring Harrison Ford; and "The Lake House" starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra
Prior to joining Village Roadshow Pictures, Goldberg spent three years with Barry Levinson and Paul Weinstein at Baltimore/Spring Creek Pictures where she was Vice President of Production. She began her career in show business as an assistant at Hollywood Pictures.
Bruce Berman (Executive Producer) is
Chairman and CEO of Village Roadshow Pictures. Village Roadshow will co-produce
60 theatrical features in a joint partnership with Warner Bros. through 2007,
with all films distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures and in select
territories by Village Roadshow Pictures.
The initial slate of films produced under the pact included such hits as "Practical Magic," starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman; "Analyze This," teaming Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal; "The Matrix," starring Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne; "Three Kings," starring George Clooney; "Space Cowboys," directed by and starring Clint Eastwood; and "Miss Congeniality," starring Sandra Bullock and Benjamin Bratt.
Under the Village Roadshow Pictures banner, Berman has subsequently executive produced such wide-ranging successes as "Training Day," for which Denzel Washington won an Academy Award; "Ocean's Eleven," starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts; "Two Weeks Notice," pairing Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant; "Mystic River," starring Sean Penn and Tim Robbins in Oscar-winning performances; the second and third installments of "The Matrix" trilogy, "The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix Revolutions"; Tim Burton's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," starring Johnny Depp; "The Dukes of Hazzard"; and, most recently, "The Lake House," reuniting Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves.
Berman got his start in the motion picture business working with Jack Valenti at the MPAA while attending Georgetown Law School in Washington, DC. After earning his law degree, he landed a job at Casablanca Films in 1978. Moving to Universal, he worked his way up to a production Vice President in 1982.
In 1984, Berman joined Warner Bros. as a production Vice President, and was promoted to Senior Vice President of Production four years later. He was appointed President of Theatrical Production in September 1989, and, in 1991, was named President of Worldwide Theatrical Production, where he served through May 1996. Under his aegis, Warner Bros. Pictures produced and distributed such films as "Presumed Innocent," "GoodFellas," "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," the Oscar-winning Best Picture "Driving Miss Daisy," "Batman Forever," "Under Siege," "Malcolm X," "The Bodyguard," "JFK," "The Fugitive," "Dave," "Disclosure," "The Pelican Brief," "Outbreak," "The Client," "A Time to Kill" and "Twister."
In May of 1996, Berman started Plan B Entertainment, an independent motion picture company at Warner Bros. Pictures. He was named Chairman and CEO of Village Roadshow Pictures in February 1998.
John Powell (Composer) was nominated
for a BAFTA Award in 2002 for his score in the animated comedy blockbuster
"Shrek." Powell's other animated film credits include "Ice Age: The Meltdown,"
"Robots," "Chicken Run" and "Antz." Beyond animated features, his recent film
credits include "X-Men: The Last Stand," "United 93" and "Mr. & Mrs. Smith."
Powell began his career composing music for commercials and television at
London's Air-Edel Music in 1988. Later, he started his own jingle house with
longtime collaborator Gavin Greenaway, and worked on many mixed media art
installation works with artist Michael Petry, as well as the opera "An
Englishman, an Irishman and a Frenchman."
His score for the Nicolas Cage and John Travolta starrer "Face/Off" marked the beginning of a prolific career. Powell subsequently provided music for "The Bourne Identity," "The Italian Job," "The Bourne Supremacy" and "Drumline" among others, totaling 33 feature films in the last nine years. He is currently working on the animated feature "Horton Hears a Who," voiced by Jim Carrey and Steve Carell, and will be continuing his work on the "Bourne" series with "The Bourne Ultimatum," due out in 2007.
Savion Glover (Choreographer) is
the 1996 Tony Award winner for his choreography in the Broadway smash hit
"Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk." He is also the recipient of the
1996 Drama Desk Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, two Obie Awards and
two Fred Astaire Awards for his choreography and performance in "Bring in
'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk," as well as the 1996 Dance Magazine Choreographer
of the Year Award.
Glover made his Broadway debut at age 12, starring in "The Tap Dance Kid." His additional Broadway credits include "Black and Blue," and "Jelly's Last Jam," co-starring Gregory Hines. Glover made his film debut at age 13 in "Tap," with Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jr. For television, he was a series regular on "Sesame Street" for five seasons and was also featured in Kenny G's "Havana" and Puff Daddy and the Family's "All About the Benjamins" music videos. Glover produced and choreographed the ABC special "Savion Glover's Nu York." He starred in the Showtime movie "The Wall," and choreographed the HBO movie "The Rat Pack." In 2000, he toured the nation with "Footnotes: the Concert," featuring tap legends Jimmy Slyde, Buster Brown and Diane Walker, and starred in Spike Lee's film "Bamboozled."
Kelley Abbey (Choreographer) has
performed, danced and choreographed for theatre, film and television for over
two decades. She has starred on stage in such musicals as "Sweet Charity,"
for which she received the Green Room, Variety Heart and 'MO' Awards for Best
Female Musical Theatre Performer; "Grease - The Arena Spectacular" in the role
of Rizzo; and "Fame - The Musical," which she both starred in and choreographed,
winning a 'MO' Award and the Green Room Award for Best Original Choreography.
Abbey first gained public notice in Australia in Channel Ten's popular soap "E-Street," in which she appeared as Jo-Jo from 1991 to 1993. She is also one of Australia's leading music video choreographers, having worked with such artists as Human Nature, Toni Pearon, Leah Haywood, Scandal'us, Sophie Monk, and the award-winning dance group Girlfriend.
In addition, Abbey was choreographer and staging director of The Main Event Arena concert, starring John Farnham, Olivia Newton-John and Anthony Warlow. Abbey has also choreographed several stage musicals, including "Footloose," for which she earned a Helpmann Award nomination; the Sydney Opera House concert production of "Follies"; "Fame - The Musical," in Australia, Asia and South Africa; and "Grease - The Arena Spectacular." She has just finished choreographing Hugh Jackman's "The Boy From Oz" Australian arena tour for producers Ben Gannon and Robert Fox in 2006.
David Nelson (Supervising Art Director / Live Action Visual Effects Supervisor) worked on the development of digital production processes for characters in hit family film "Babe." His other film credits include "Hotel Sorrento," "Danny Deckchair," "Crackerjack" and "One Perfect Day." Nelson spent many years as a visual effects and animation director in children's film and television, with series credits including "Round the Twist," "Crashzone," "Little Horrors," "Schnorky the Wave Puncher" and "Noah and Saskia." In 2003, he was visual effects supervisor on "Crackerbag," which went on to win Best Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival. Just prior to "Happy Feet," Nelson worked as a Senior Matte Artist on Baz Luhrmann's commercial for Chanel No. 5, starring Nicole Kidman.
Mark Sexton (Production Designer)
made his foray into film design as a storyboard artist on Alex Proyas' sci-fi
thriller "Dark City." "Happy Feet" is Sexton's second collaboration with George
Miller, following work as a storyboard artist on Miller's "Babe: Pig in the
Prior to his five-year stint on "Happy Feet," Sexton was a storyboard artist on George Lucas' "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones." His other film credits include John Woo's "Mission: Impossible II," starring Tom Cruise; "Red Planet," with Val Kilmer and Carrie-Anne Moss; "Once in a Life," directed by and starring Laurence Fishburne; and the sci-fi horror film "Komodo." For television, Sexton's credits include the telefilms "Invincible," with Billy Zane, and the TBS thriller "Nowhere to Land."
David Peers (Layout & Camera
Director) joined Animal Logic in 2003 to work with George Miller on "Happy
Feet." Peers began his film career as a freelance camera operator, working
mostly on commercials and visuals for live events. He joined the facility
Cutting Edge as a studio camera operator and went on to set up the company's
3D department before moving into visual effects supervision.
His credits include music videos for such bands as Silverchair, Something for Kate, Powderfinger, and Darren Hayes, as well as such films as "George of the Jungle 2," "Inspector Gadget 2," "Under the Radar" and "Blurred."
Peers has won a number of festival awards for his work, including an Australian Cinematographers Society Gold Award for his documentary "Rainforest--Beneath the Canopy," co-directed with colorist Eric Whipp.
Simon Whiteley (Art Director) began his career in the early 1980s in television as a Graphic Designer for the BBC, and later for the British Printing Communication Corporation. In 1987, while working with Video Paintbrush Company he met Zareh Nalbandian, who later became Animal Logic's co-founder and Managing Director. Simon worked with Animal Logic as a consulting art director on many of the company's commercial projects, including campaigns for Visa and Gatorade. In addition to commercial work, Simon art directed and designed visual effects sequences for Animal Logic's film projects, including "Babe," "Babe: Pig in the City," "The Matrix," "The Thin Red Line," "Moulin Rouge!," "Danny Deckchair" and "Swimming Upstream."
Daniel Jeannette (Animation Director) received a BAFTA Award nomination for Achievement in Special Visual Effects for his work on 1999's "The Mummy," and Saturn Award nominations for Best Special Effects for "The Mummy," "The Mummy Returns" and "Van Helsing." Jeannette was also animation supervisor on "Mighty Joe Young," which was nominated for a Best Visual Effects Oscar in 1998, and Martin Scorsese's "Gangs of New York." Prior to "Happy Feet," Jeannette spent 10 years with Industrial Light and Magic's animation team, with the last seven of those directing animation sequences. Jeannette is also a member of The British Academy of Film and Television and The Visual Effects Society.
Brett Feeney (Digital Supervisor) has worked on a number of Animal Logic's film and television projects, including "Babe: Pig in the City," "Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring." He was also a 3D supervisor on "Moulin Rouge!" and "The Matrix: Reloaded." Prior to joining Animal Logic, he began his career as a graphic artist and animator for various broadcasting networks, and as a 3D animator the video games producing company Brilliant Interactive Ideas. A self-taught 3D animator, Feeney has seen the Animal Logic team grow from three people to more than 300 artists, technical directors and support crew across ten departments.