Patrick Osborne creates an animated noir version of Billie Eilish
Animation fans know Patrick Osborne as the brilliant director of the Oscar-winning short film Feast (2014) and his Emmy-winning, Oscar-nominated VR short film Pearl (2017). The latest animated creation of the talented artist can be seen in the next musical special Happier than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles (Happier than ever: a love letter to Los Angeles), a new special concert with famous artist Billie Eilish. The special, premiered on Disney + on September 3, takes viewers on a dream journey through Eilish's hometown of Los Angeles and its iconic landmarks. The live-action footage of the project is directed by Robert Rodriguez, best known for films such as From Dusk Till Dawn, Sin City, Spy Kids (From Dusk Till Dawn, Sin City, Spy Kids).
“Billie is a huge fan of classic films set in Los Angeles and classic animation / live action hybrids like those of Richard Williams. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Ralph Bakshi's Fantastic world, so we wanted to pay homage to these fictional versions of Los Angeles that only exist in movies, ”Osborne says in a recent phone interview. "This was the basis of our plan, to build this modern version of a classic animated character, which ended up being an animated noir femme fatale version of Billie against the live-action backgrounds of Los Angeles."
The plan involved creating animated segments between songs performed by Eilish at the iconic Hollywood Bowl. Osborne says he was very excited to work with the chart-topping artist. “I've used her music as temporary music for some projects, so it's been a dream to work with her,” he says. "When my friends from Nexus Studios talked about this collaboration, I was thrilled and told them to sign up!"
The animation, which was produced at London's Nexxus, with the help of Digital Frontier and Zoic Studios, was a combination of CG with some drawn motion-capture footage. “We shot about 90 minutes of Billie's motion capture, but what we got was iconic,” says Osborne. “It has this way of moving and interacting with the camera, as well as breaking through the fourth wall. We were only about 12 weeks old, so we had to do everything very quickly ”.
Mixing Live-Action and Toon Worlds
The creative team had to focus on the musician's performances before filming live at the Hollywood Bowl, which also includes her brother Phineas, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and conductor Gustavo Dudamel. They also needed to fix everything before the summer season started at the Bowl. “We needed Billie and her live animated version to interact with each other, so it was complicated. But with a wish and a prayer, it all came together, because there was no way to go back and re-shoot the Bowl. We shot all night from 19pm. at 00 am with the symphony and directors and filmmakers for a whole week in July. I've been playing music all my life, so it was nice to watch the life of a pop star for a second. Also, it was great to be back in the Bowl, which is one of the great icons of Los Angeles ”.
Osborne and his team aimed to create a moody Los Angeles with an old-time vibe, a fantastic noir backdrop seen in classics such as Chinatown e LA Reserved. “Even the simple set design of the show was very interesting,” says the director. “The Hollywood Bowl's historic reflective pool, which separated audiences from artists in the 50s and 60s, before being drained in the early 70s, brought back to life. The caustic effects of the water gave this spectacle Blade Runnertype effects. The models helped us go from animation to show. Our goal was to create these vibrant animated vignettes between songs that seemed related to the music.
Overall, Osborne and his team created around 12 minutes of animation for the Disney + special. “We were editing the footage until last week,” he says. “Some of the things were left on the cutting room floor. We also have some fantastic motion graphics animations by Robertino Zambrano for one of the songs ”. The live-action footage was shot by Pablo Berrone.
The veteran animator says he anticipated everything from motion capture footage in Blender to building interstitial scenes based on the performances they had. “Then, later on, we would have animated and cleaned up that footage by hand. It was a fascinating and fun editorial process. There were storyboards, but they were simple drawings, perhaps one per shot. It wasn't your typical animatic. We had about five or six animators for Billie's animation. Sallyanne Massimini was our vfx supervisor who oversaw all studies on the project.
Osborne, who has worked on Disney features such as Bolt, Rapunzel, Big Hero 6 and Wreck-It Ralph, says it was fun learning about Eilish's personal take on classic animation. He adds: “I hope the younger audience will be inspired to search Roger Rabbit and other great works by Richard Williams and Ralph Bakshi after seeing this special. "
You can watch the trailer here:
Billie Eilish premiered on Disney + on Friday 3 September