Stuart Little is a proper name, not like Mickey
Mouse, a name for a person - or at least a personality. Stuart
speaks like a person, thinks and feels like a person, and
although he looks like a mouse (sort of), he wears clothes like a person - even brushes his funny teeth like a person. Yet he
doesn't exist. The creation of a team of animators working with
the mouse of a computer and lots of clever software, Stuart
Little is big on the visual but zero on the tangible. (Except
perhaps as a piece of merchandise.)
He does, however, have a history: the orphan of Russian
immigrants, Stuart was adopted by the Little family when they
wanted to adopt a little brother for their son George, but didn't
have the heart to choose one of the orphan kids at Mrs Keeper's
"A spark of life"
Stuart's 'person' is intrinsic to the success of Stuart
Little, the movie; if we are to accept the film as a story of a
mouse that speaks, dresses and has feelings (sad as well as
happy, scared as well as courageous), we have to believe he is a
character. To do that, there has to be a spark of life in him.
The extensive act of creation took 30 animators headed by
Henry Anderson, who was, in effect, Stuart Little, in a symbiotic
relationship with Michael J. Fox's voice. "It's his
mannerisms, attitude and personality, created over a two year
period," explains CG Supervisor, Jay K. Redd, who visited
Sydney for the Digital World conference in February 2000,
accompanied by teammate Sande Scoredos.
"The magic of creating
"We started with the original story and the underlying
issue: being different and not giving in to that. . . we all
related to him in some way," says Redd. "It was a huge
drive for everyone, the magic of creating the character."
As Scoredos recalls, "there was a moment…a moment
when we first saw him on the screen and we collectively fell in
love with him."
Elaborate and innovative computer work helped create his fur
and his features, while animation and the human voice breathed
life into him: Stuart Little may not exist, but he's real. But
Stuart isn't the only marvel in this movie: Snowbell, the house
pet who has to learn to live with a mouse as part of the family,
and the other cats who don't see things as pragmatically as that,
all have speaking parts. Chazz Palminteri gives the mafioso
strong man, Smokey, a decidedly dangerous personality, while
Steve Zahn helps create an edgy Monty - alley cats all, but with
"Illusion is the
nature of film"
There are reams of paper written on how the animators sought
the ultimate results in making us believe, using every trick
known to filmmaking - and inventing several new ones. But it's
probably more important to enjoy the effect than know how it was
done. Just like magic, illusion is the nature of film.
The lessons learnt at Sony Imageworks while creating Stuart
Little, are already being applied elsewhere. The Sony team are
already hard at work on The Hollow Man, a technology-driven
remake of The Invisible Man, starring Kevin Bacon, and a CGI
created version of him, a 100% anatomically correct human - who
is nothing more than a series of digits in a computer.
"Every organ, veins, everything is CGI," Scoredos
explains. "We've had scientists in to make sure it was all
absolutely correct. It's not replacing Kevin, just doing things
Kevin can't." Like disappear.