Olive Kitteridge is a four-part miniseries based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, directed by Lisa Cholodenko and developed by HBO in conjunction with Tom Hanks’ Playtone. It’s a powerful and compassionate story about love and loss, sorrow and joy, and in the same vein as Daredevil, it proved to be an example of exceptional television that was willing to let its story breathe.
Matching The Mood
With overtones of mental illness running throughout, this was a heavy, moody composition and the visual effects needed to match the tone and performances within. Shade were brought in at the initial script stage to solve specific creative problems around a couple of the show’s more surreal moments. We were able to work alongside Cholodenko so that the animations built maintained her integrity and wouldn’t rip the audience out of the show’s style.
For a pivotal scene in which Kevin Coulson (Cory Michael Smith) returns to the town of Crosby with a shotgun and plans to take his own life, we see him sitting in his car talking to Olive (Frances McDormand), whom he briefly imagines as an elephant sitting beside him eating from a bag of donut holes while conversing with him. During a dream sequence in another episode, Olive is seen peeling an apple and the peel becomes a snake. For this, we wanted the transformation to progress in such a way that the audience only think they saw it.
The Elephant In The Room
For mounting a gargantuan elephant head on a woman’s body, it was paramount that these transformations did not look cartoonish. Concept drawing and character designs began in-house at Shade from the production’s outset. A great deal of research and design was pored over before work began. Shade’s animators eventually took cues from McDormand’s complex portrayal of the character, even going so far to create CGI eyes to act as a facsimile of McDormand’s own eyes, and allow for the elephant to be able to more realistically mimic the actress.
This was an excellent project to be involved with, take a look at how our animators built subtlety into the elephant in the scene in the video below.