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October 08
2019

ISSUE

Web Exclusive

Exploring a Field of Hallucinogenic Flowers in DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD

By IAN FAILES

It was always a given that a live-action imagining of the hugely popular Dora the Explorer animated television series would see the characters get into some crazy adventures, meet several obstacles and find their way out of seemingly insurmountable problems.

That is exactly what happens in James Bobin’s Dora and the Lost City of Gold, including a moment when Dora (Isabela Moner) and her friends encounter a bunch of giant red jungle flowers. These shoot out spores that have a hallucinatory effect on the team (causing them to see each other in 2D-cartoon form, an ode to the original series). MPC delivered visual effects for the sequence, working with animation studio Blink for the transitions to 2D.

Official Dora and the Lost City of Gold b-roll footage from the red flower field shoot. (All images and video © 2019 Paramount Players, a Division of Paramount Pictures)

“It was a really interesting project to be involved in, especially taking things from a 2D origin and turning it all into live-action.”

—Richard Little, Visual Effects Supervisor, MPC

“This sequence was originally shot on a set in Australia,” outlines MPC Visual Effects Supervisor Richard Little (the Production VFX Supervisor was Lindy De Quattro). “This included a bluescreen set and a build with the flowers being four or five feet tall. I think it was definitely down to the acting ability of the cast, because there would be, say, 50% of the scene missing for them. So they had to visualize what was there, obviously working closely with James [Bobin], the director, about what would ultimately be in the shots.”

The characters encounter a field of mysterious red flowers.

MPC carried out a number of set extensions for initial wide shots of the flowers as Dora and the team come across the landscape. They then walk through the practical set, which also involved extensions. “We did add a little bit of movement to the trees,” says Little. “There was a lot of this dry ice atmosphere there to give it a moody feel that James was looking for, and we amplified that a little bit more.”

Then one of the characters touches a flower. The flower opens up and spurts the ‘mist’ of particles on his face, a simulation produced by MPC. This starts the hallucinogenic transformation of the characters. Blink delivered layers of 2D animation for MPC to composite into the shots.

Dora (Isabela Moner) on a bluescreen set with flower props.

The final shot by MPC.

“We created a three-dimensional wipe for the transition so that it wasn’t just a simple dissolve between the live-action and the animation,” notes Little. “We also had a transformation for the character of Alejandro, where you physically see his face deform a little. This was because the size of the head relative to the live-action head was completely different.”

The flower sequence was just one worked on by MPC; the studio undertook all of the CG character builds for Dora and the Lost City of Gold, including the animals Swiper and Boots. They also created visual effects for the film’s final Parapata sequence featuring the ancient city, and for a fun quicksand scene which involved animating scorpions and match-moving them to a character’s face and head.

“It was a really interesting project to be involved in,” says Little, “especially taking things from a 2D origin and turning it all into live-action.”

Isabela Moner with director James Bobin on the set of Dora and the Lost City of Gold.

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