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Prix 1987 - 2007

ORF Oberösterreich

The ChubbChubbs
Eric Armstrong

The ChubbChubbs is the first animated all-CG short to be produced by Imageworks, the award-winning character animation and visual effects division of Sony Pictures. Honored with an Academy Award® for Best Animated Short Film, The ChubbChubbs introduces the alien inhabitants of the Planet Glorf, including our hapless hero Meeper, a singing Diva, the Zyzaks and the ChubbChubbs. In this debut short, Meeper valiantly tries to warn the patrons of the Ale-E-Inn, an intergalactic watering hole with its own constellation of stars, of impending danger, only to find himself face to face with the toughest creatures in the universe.

The ChubbChubbs began as a test of Imageworks’ production pipeline and workflow process as the live action visual effects company moved toward its goal of producing all-CG animated features. Imageworks president Tim Sarnoff encouraged his company’s artists and animators to create an original story for the test, which would serve as a proving ground for the demands of the CG feature films currently in development at Sony Pictures Animation. A single page treatment was selected from dozens of stories submitted and then developed into a viable script. Animation director Eric Armstrong was chosen to direct and Jacquie Barnbrook to produce. Their very first challenge would be to balance the needs of the character-driven story, its length and complexity, with the hard realities of a tight budget and limited resources.

During this time Imageworks was heavily involved in production of two major films, Spider-Man and Stuart Little 2. Artists could only be used on The ChubbChubbs as they came off their current projects and before they were assigned to the next one. While this presented yet another logistical challenge, it also provided valuable resources in the form of technology that had been developed for those films. The artists were proficient in the latest skin and fur shaders and new skeletal structures and techniques for character set up. A new muscle-based facial animation system gave animators precise control over any part of a face. This proprietary tool extended capabilities well beyond a substantial library of expressions and blendshapes, resulting in a higher level of creativity and faster turnaround of shots.

The story was refined and polished, layout and timing established, more than 40 characters digitally created and humanly voiced, music licenses locked and an original score composed. The lighthearted parody of Yoda and Darth Vader and their equally famous sci-fi friends as denizens of the Ale-E-Inn was well received by their respective originators, who were appreciative of the affectionate homage.

As the tale of a little alien with a big problem neared completion, it was screened for the Motion Picture Group at Sony Studios and before long, the epic short was enjoying a theatrical release with Men in Black II. Recognized at film festivals around the world, The ChubbChubbs was nominated for a BAFTA Award and ultimately took home the Oscar, much to the delight of everyone at Sony Pictures Imageworks.