Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Rhythm & Hues Wins a BAFTA, gets an Oscar nom - and Goes Bust


It seems that Rhythm and Hues is going under. The pioneering VFX studio, responsible for some of the most ground-breaking visual effects work ever done, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It hardly seems credible that the studio that did such extraordinary work on Life of Pi (you can see FLIP's review of the movie here), has gone bust, even as they collect a sack full of awards, and their Oscar nomination looms.

According to www.deadline.com, R&H employees were told on Sunday night of the upcoming Chapter 11 filing. Many Rhythm & Hues employees were also told not to show up to work on Monday. Worst of all for the employees, paychecks will be delayed indefinitely.

Aslan - ground-breaking VFX
I went to R&H some years ago, just after they had done their amazing work on the lion Aslan in Disney's 2005 adaptation of The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe. I was working as animation supervisor on Racing Stripes, my first VFX film, and I wanted to ask R&H animation director Richie Baneham how they managed to get the muscle system on Aslan to work so realistically and so beautifully.

The studio had a wonderful atmosphere, flowing no doubt from the generous fingertips of its artistically-driven founder, John Hues, who chatted amiably to me in the lunch queue. Everyone at the studio seemed to appreciate Hues' single-minded determination to do the very best visual effects work possible - often regardless of the cost. Hues ran a large studio but he drove a Honda Civic - clearly a man whose passion was to do great work, not to buy himself expensive toys.

And what was the secret of the Aslan muscle system? I asked Richie, hoping for a magic bullet to solve all our vfx problems. That, he explained, was not so simple. It took a 3-year investment to build the Aslan rig. So the answer was time, patience, money and talent. Something that is very hard to replicate overnight.

(Editor's Note: You can see FLIP's review of Life of Pi here, and read more about the campaign to show solidarity with ex-R&H employees here. And, don't miss our September 2012 piece on the sad end of Digital Domain... )

----Alex


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