DC League of Super-Pets is the first film adaptation of The Legion of Super-Pets Comics. The Super-Pets first appeared in issue #293 of Adventure Comics in 1962, with Krypto, the beloved hero of the film, making his first appearance in 1955 in issue #210. The film follows the inseparable best friends, Krypto the Super-Dog and Superman, who share the same superpowers and fighting crime in Metropolis side by side. When Superman and the rest of the Justice League are kidnapped, Krypto must convince a rag-tag shelter pack—Ace the hound, PB the potbellied pig, Merton the turtle and Chip the squirrel—to master their own newfound powers and help him rescue the Super Heroes.
Pre-production began in June 2018 between the creative team at Animal Logic and Director Jared Stern and Co-Director, Sam Levine to establish the look and feel of the film. The filmmakers wanted a classic painterly look that referenced the golden age of DC Comics while incorporating modern filmmaking techniques. The most common reference was the realistic comic book style of Alex Ross, which brought classic superheroes into the world of fine art with gouache paint. The goal was not for the film to look like a painting or cartoon but to be informed by the direction and choices of more traditional art styles. The end result is a blend of the modern-day CG medium that feels handcrafted.
Even when it came to animating the characters, the idea from the filmmakers was to have a classic hand-drawn performance. To achieve this, the squash and stretch capabilities of the rigs were used in a way that was felt by the audience but not overtly seen to add an organic element to the performances of each character.
The art team went through many iterations of Krypto the Super Dog before landing on the clean lines and heroic proportions needed for the lead character, with 2,675,496 hairs covering the final Krypto model. Ace the Bat-Hound was Krypto’s foil and eventual best friend and needed to contrast with Krypto, which led to a much more stocky and thick-set bruiser. PB, the Potbelly Pig, needed to be able to shrink and grow from teeny tiny to skyscraper huge. Her size ranged from 0% to 829% of her average size, nearly as tall as two stacked Empire State buildings! Merton the Turtle needed to feel like she had seen and done it all, reflected in the various period stickers holding her shell together. Multiple legs were used in animating when she was running at her top super-speed, ten times the speed of sound! The effects team had a lot of fun creating the Merton speed trail, developed not to look photoreal but to be more of an artist’s impression of fire, smoke, and lightning. Even though Chip the Squirrel has a superpower, he needs to have the crazy energy and fluid movement we see in squirrels in the real world. Lulu and the Guinea Pigs had to look cute and like funny little oddballs as they tried to take over the world.
Well into production in 2020, Animal Logic went into lockdown with the rest of the world, which meant adapting quickly to accommodate the rapid changes that working from home required. Our Vancouver team of 381 and Sydney team of 202 tallied up a whopping 18,315 WFH meetings during production!