Munitions Cart Fire FX: "Mulan" (1998)


Copyright Walt Disney Feature Animation.

This was an FX-heavy sequence. I modeled the cart in Alias, working back-and-forth with the director from hand-drawn model sheets. It is of interest to note that the model was built to satisfy drawing, not lighting requirements. The texture of the mesh on the sides contains tiny extruded curves which emulate line drawing for the puropse of integrating into the hand-drawn environment. The cart was rigged for motion outside of the FX department.

Aside from the cart, I created the fire & smoke FX for these shots, as well as incidentals such as snowprints, animating the rigged cart and flaming arrows.

There is smoke trailing each arrow. For this effect I created several animations to be used as sprites. Those sprite sequences were then placed randomly behind each arrow.

This clip illustrates a test of the rigged cart, final frames and pencil tests.

Below is an montage of stills from the sequence:

It was during this assignment that I observed that fire is nothing more than fresh, hot smoke; that smoke is essentially old, cold fire whose energy has dissipated; and as such, smoke, which encompasses more of the "totality" of the effect, should be animated first and fire second, as an accent. This was a revelation, a trick which made fire more simple to understand.