Superfad takes Chapman back to Scarborough

We caught up with Geraint Owen, a big Monty Python fan and managing partner at award-winning US design and life-action production company Superfad, who worked on the sequence based around Graham’s teenage holiday to Scaroborough with his parents, and were the only company out of all those involved who had read Graham’s memoir previously.

DA:  What made you decide to work on the Chapman film?

GO: "First off, my love of Monty Python goes way, way back. They influenced so many of us. The opportunity to contribute a manageable chunk of a feature film was a wonderful opportunity, and gave our team a chance to stretch, bring some fresh thinking, and really challenge themselves creatively."

DA:  Why did you chose to work on the 'Scarborough' sequence?

GO: "Well, truth be told, we wanted the ‘Sit on my face’ sequence – who wouldn’t? – but another shop got it first. So we picked ‘Teen Sex’ and ‘Fish Shop’, not realising at the time that Fish Shop is part two of the Scarborough sequence."

"The Scarborough sequence does represent a pivotal time in Graham’s life, and we wanted to explore how to best tell that part of his story. By placing it entirely in the tiny Ford Anglia, we were able to create that feeling of being unable to escape, that claustrophobia…that’s something people identify with. We wanted to challenge ourselves to make that palpable, as visceral as possible."

Graham Chapman's father from storyboard to layout to final render

DA: What was the design process like?

GO: "Once we got the audio, we began storyboarding, then shared the boards with the filmmakers, got some very good feedback, and made revisions.

"Simultaneously, we began designing the characters, and shared a wide range of styles, including 3D modeling and illustration. We went through quite a bit of back and forth, maybe three or four rounds with the directors, then agreed to lock down the characters and begin to model in 3D. At the same time, we were developing the town and other environments.

Superfad's design for the schoolboy Graham
Superfad's design for Graham's father
Superfad's design for Graham's mother

"The entire film was rendered for stereoscopic 3D, which means rendering for left and right channels, in other words: twice the number of frames! Because of the tight deadline, we opted to go with [a feel that was] more stop-motion, by holding on 2s.

"Another factor was the use of Arnold global illumination renderer, which increases render times, but looks beautiful. So once it again, it made sense to animate on 2s and sometimes 4s.

"In the end, this was a stylistic choice informed by some very practical reasons. It shortened our render time, and helped us meet the delivery schedule. And we think it worked quite nicely.

Interestingly, we were one of the first studios to say ‘Yes’, so our character development was a bit further along. Because of that, we helped influence the overall style of several of the key characters; namely Graham’s father and mother."

Next page: Mr and Mrs turn Pythons into monkeys