Dav Pilkey’s best-selling Captain Underpants book series is coming to the big screen, and this large format hardback book shows how the filmmakers approached the storylines, the characters, locations, objects and the modelling, lighting, animation and visual effects to bring his adventures to the silver screen.
The foreword by Dav is in comic book form telling us ‘How Captain Underpants Came to Life’. As he says, he evolved from the scribblings of a disheartened boy who didn’t like school and was only kept going through the encouragement of his mother.
After forty years he has now allowed Dreamworks to unleash his two cheeky and subversive schoolboys, George and Harold, to a wider audience. It is fascinating to see how they managed to take story elements from his twelve books and transfer his very sketchy cartoon style to the screen without losing its charm.
As production designer Nate Wragg reveals, as a starting point his team used Dev’s illustration of Principal Krupp sitting at his desk, which doesn’t have a single straight line. ‘There is a wobble and shake to his line quality’, says Nate ‘ that we felt we needed to include in our modelling to get as close as we could to his illustrative style’.
In most instances the filmmakers worked hard to stay true to Dev’s style of illustration and how it works with the story. There are certainly ample colour pictures comparing the originals with the movie version, showing how they achieved this creative balance.
Surprisingly, using CGI was more difficult on this project as it is geared towards making things look more realistic, whereas in some sequences they wanted to emphasise the cartoony qualities of the story to reflect the the characters’ childish imagination. Visual effects supervisor David Dulac says it was not a simple task to recreate Dev’s ‘simple’ drawings in 3D. To do this they had to use software to add a natural painting stroke on every surfacing texture.
Whether you are a fan of the inept, yet enthusiastic, Captain Underpants, or not, this is a great visual insight into how his magical world has been recreated for the cinema. Lets hope the film is worthy enough to spawn eleven more sequels to match the books!
THE ART OF CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE / AUTHOR: RAMIN ZAHED / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW