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The Master

Key Credits

STUDIO: Warner Bros., Animal Logic
DIRECTORS: Jon Saunders
ART DIRECTOR: Felicity Coonan
PRODUCTION DESIGNER: Simon Whiteley, Kim Taylor

Animal Logic in association with Warner Animation Group have created a beautiful and hilarious short featuring Master Wu voiced by Jackie Chan and a larger than life Chicken, voiced by Abbi Jacobson.

The Master: A LEGO Ninjago Short follows the story of Master Wu, a solitary and focused Kung Fu Master who displays incredible poise and ability. While completing his training, Wu is interrupted by Chicken, who is quickly thrown out of his tranquil temple. Master Wu begins his training once again, only to be interrupted again and again by this cunning and crafty Chicken. What ensues is a battle of catastrophic consequences, which leaves Wu’s majestic temple in ruins.

Work on The Master presented an exciting opportunity for the team at Animal Logic. We had to match the look and style perfected in The LEGO Movie with a perfectly realised natural world. Creating a Kung Fu playground in the clouds, with photorealistic LEGO existing in a realistic setting, was a new challenge for the team. CG Supervisor, Greg Jowle, explains how Animal Logic’s proprietary render software Glimpse played a big part in the process. “We were pushing things more with The Master. We had these photorealistic plants and ground plains and rocks that we had to incorporate next to photorealistic LEGO” Jowle said.  “We already knew we could do the LEGO part, we had a lot of practice with The LEGO Movie, so the challenge was to get up to speed on rendering everything else that doesn’t have a LEGO shader. We wanted all elements to have the same quality and have it feel like it’s part of that same world.”

Brick destruction, which played a big role in The LEGO Movie, was used in The Master with the added challenge of interacting with plausibly realistic environments. “The new challenge was that not only were we going to have brick destruction,” explains Jowle, “but the brick destruction was meant to crash into and kick up sand, with clouds wisping around. Most of that work was done in Houdini with some proprietary modifications allowing natural elements and LEGO successfully coming together.”

Production Designer, Kim Taylor explains how lighting helped to create the look on The Master, with a large focus on creating a naturalist light outside the temple, with an on-set, studio feel inside the temple. “What we found was that as you go through the short, the natural world and the studio world start to blend. There were interesting challenges making two very different lighting scenarios,” said Taylor.

Facial ROM was an amusing process when creating Chicken’s eyes as Taylor explains. “All you have is a single circle to work with, so we just did a sheet with different levels of closed circles. Angry eyes, squinty eye, bendy angry eye. The animators were able to add so much more than we could imagine.”
Finding new ways to bring life to inanimate objects was given new freedom with Master Wu’s skirt. “The skirt is around the waist and allowed us to cheat by popping his legs out and moving the legs around a little bit more underneath the skirt. It gives Wu a better ability to do some of the Kung Fu moves”, said Jowle.

The animated short will play in theatres ahead of the animated feature Storks, which opened 23 September 2016. In the words of Master Wu, “It’s so on!”.