Union VFX - Happy!


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Director | Various

Union Ensure Happy! Has Guts

Based on Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson's graphic novel, Happy! follows corrupt ex-cop turned hitman Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni) whose life is changed forever by an imaginary, relentlessly positive blue-winged horse called Happy (voiced by Patton Oswalt).

VFX Producing Supervisor Ajoy Mani approached Union to create 129 VFX shots over four episodes of season 2 including the season finale.

The second season involves a plot to make Easter great again courtesy of malevolent child-kidnapper Sunny Shine.  Merry McCarthy is keen to pursue Shine again, but Sax is reluctant to get back into the fray.

Union’s work involved facilitating a lot of this season’s trademark violence.

Episode four uncovers a Nazi population in an old folks home that need to be dispatched.  The ensuing fight gets pretty gruesome and required bullet wounds, spattering blood, a cane piercing through someone’s neck, teeth being knocked out by a prosthetic leg, a thrown colostomy bag, someone’s head being stomped on and a fist punching right through a man’s body taking his, still beating, heart with it.

In prison, Orcus wields his horrific power forcing one of the Russians to cut off his own hand with a cleaver before driving it into a couple of other awful places.

To achieve this live action was shot with a cleaver handle with no blade, but a single contact point. The actor’s arm was moving, so Union stabilised the shot and matched the movement before adding a CG blade built in maya and tracked in 3DE and lighting it to match the scene.  Element blood and some Houdini simulated blood were added and composited.

In the post-severing sequence, the actor turns as the camera moves with him through 180 degrees.  He was wearing a green glove, so everything behind it had to be restored and rebuilt from on set photographs and elements from other shots in the scene.  We also added spurting blood from the arm.

Episode seven features an action-packed, bullet-time effect riot in a basement including teeth being punched out of someone’s face, weapons flying, a hammer hitting someone in the head and Sax being thrown through a wall.  The Union team added CG weapons, wounds, teeth and wood splinters to add realism to the time slice effect action.  The motion of the blood, saliva and pieces of wood were simulated in Houdini to finish the shot.

Other work on the show included green screens, set extensions, burn enhancement using DMP, fire, exit wounds, wound and blood enhancement, atmospherics, stabbing, throat slitting and decapitation.

In episode 9 we also built a large CG egg for the Easter Extravaganza show that spins and explodes with confetti and facilitated Jessup (dressed in a leather bunny outfit) being bludgeoned to death on the stage.

The season finale our hero Nick dies, but instead of moving to the afterlife, gets stuck in a void where nearly naked angels form an alluring ball inviting him in.  This ‘orgy ball’ was created by filming a half sphere blue cage against blue screen filled with actors writhing around - some on wires.  There were several arrangements and we picked a combination that created a varied sphere when put together.  We created the background for the void using deep particles in Nuke and disguised the physical blue frame with actor limbs and lighting effects.