Behind the Scenes

FLUBBER - FX Credits - FX Review - Behind the Scenes - Stills

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FLUBBER, directed by Les Mayfield, is based on the Disney classic starring Fred MacMurray as the original ABSENT MINDED PROFESSOR, where a dopey yet loveable scientist invents a new substance, dubbed "Flubber"--a rubber-like polymer that absorbs and amplifies energy. For the original film, the effects team created the Flubber with traditional animation techniques. But for the 1997 version, Flubber's role would be greatly expanded and actually becomes a character in the film.

It was decided early on that Industrial Light & Magic and a host of other vendors would create fully computer generated Flubber; at no point in the film is the green goo represented as a physical, on-set effect. Every frame of Flubber in the film is a computer generated image.

ILM co-supervisor Tom Bertino works on one of ILM's Flubber shots.
ILM was approached to handle the character-intensive shots of Flubber, as well as design the look and feel of the goo. Co-supervising the ILM effort was Tom Bertino, who supervised the animation on such films as THE MASK and CASPER, and is currently serving that capacity on the upcoming HULK feature. "Early in preproduction," Bertino told me, "they didn't really have any sort of tangible idea of what this character might be, and they came to us soliciting our input as far as what form he might take, and what sort of antics he might pull, which is not something every producer/director does. It was nice to have that kind of creative input at the very beginning of the process."

The look of Flubber was one of the many tasks tackled early in the process, Bertino explained: "We took a field trip down to the drug store and picked up all sorts of things to look at--like hair gel products, toothpaste and gummi candy--things that we could study and use as reference. We even scanned a jar of hair gel to use as a texture map for some of our early character studies."

The animation ideas that were being thought up had to go through proper channels before being approved for the film--an interesting process in that describing how a handful of goo will perform isn't a simple task. "Selling the idea to the Disney executives and production staff was quite an interesting experience," Bertino said, "since I personally had to act out Flubber's part in walking everyone through the storyboards. Every time I was done, I was bathed in a warm sweat. One of the more memorable occasions was when I was at Disney acting out a storyboard, and wiggling my butt in front of the face of a Disney executive... I haven't decided if it was a high or low point in my career to this point," Bertino joked.

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