The Quest for Camelot FX Animation

In early 1995, after I completed a stint doing special FX on live action films such as Demolition Man and Mortal Kombat (the original live action movie), I was offered to head the Special FX division at Warner Brothers' new formed Feature Animation division. I began at WB by doing concepts and animation on a bunch of films that never materialized (Shangri-la, King Tut and Blue Beard). Then, I got my first major assignment - Heading up the Special FX department on the movie The Quest for Camelot.

My role was to style, design, animate, build a library of self-cycling FX animation, as well as supervise and train a team of FX animators. Despite the film failure at the box office and a multitude of atrocious reviews, I'm very proud of the level of FX work myself and the team were able to achieve. Here's a small sample of the effects I personally animated on the movie.

The Magic of Excalibur

Being the head of the department has its advange - like being able to pick the best and most juicy sequences for yourself. For me, the most interesting FX in the movie were all the magical stuff that revolved around the Excalibur sword. There were two sequences: one at the begining of the movie where Arthur repulses the Ruber attack; and the other was the grand finale where Ruber sticks the sword back in the stone and all hell breaks loose.

For the animation, I created a lot of rendered drawings using 6B pencils, electrical effects using Sharpies and Micron pens of various sizes, and traditional FX animation such as smoke, floating rocks, breaking vines, sparks etc. All my hand drawn FX were then scanned in the computer, painted, and digitally enhanced with glow and blur filters. It was cool getting to kill the villain!

The Three Rings

For the "Magical Well" sequence, I created a library of self-cycling animation such as smoke and bubbling liquid which were used in several scenes. For the end of the sequence, I was asked by the director to animate the smoke forming into three rings (which was one of the iconic symbol in the movie), and have them turn into evil snakes. Here's a clip of the last part of that sequence.

Watch Clip QT 6.3mb
Three Torches

For this particular scene, I animated three torches being blown out by the wing of the griffon. I animated the shadow, the fire (2 levels) as well as the smoke. It's a very short scene but I like the way it turned out.

Watch Clip QT 0.4mb

Viscous Liquid

Many in the industry say that liquid is the most difficult FX element to traditionally (hand drawn) animate. Although, I don't particularly enjoy animating liquids, I did animate a few of those scenes in the movie including a self-cycling waterfall and the scene here, featuring a viscous liquid.

Watch Clip QT 1.4mb

Dragon Country Climax - A Team Effort

Watch Clip QT 2.6mb

When I first saw the storyboard for the dragon country sequence, I got really excited at the potential of the climactic scene. The scene featured the three main characters trying to outrun a deadly wall of fire and explosions.

Then, I heard that the scene was being revised because some people in the background department didn't think it was feasible. I made a case for it and assured the production people that my team and I would have no difficulty in creating the scene as originally planned. And so, we were given the go ahead.

In term of special FX, this scene, more than any other in the movie, was a real team effort. I started by animating the flames shooting out of the dragon's mouths. Then, I sat down with the only digital animator in my department at the time, Kevin Oakley, and choregraphed a series of explosions using Maya's particle systems. Once I was happy with the results, I had each frames printed and registered on animation paper. At that point, I brought in animator Actarus (Ahmed) Aksas to animate the ground plane receeding in perspective and had him supervise and coordinate a big team of animation assistants to create tons of rocks exploding.

Once all this animation was done, I animated the ground ripping behind the characters to really help tie everything together.

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