fxpodcast #366 The Oscar Winners from War is Over

War Is Over! Inspired by the Music of John and Yoko is the Oscar-winning animated short film directed by Dave Mullins and produced by Brad Booker. The 11-minute short was inspired by and featured John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s famous anthem, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” The film was written by Mullins, based on a story by Mullins and Sean Ono Lennon.

Dave Mullins and Brad Booker pose backstage with the Oscar for Animated Short Film,.

At the Oscars this year, the film won Best Animated Short Film, a remarkable achievement not only creatively but also because it was made with Unreal Engine UE5. The film cleverly blended much of Wētā FX’s traditional tools into a complex and highly effective real-time UE pipeline.

Joining Brad and Dave on the fxpodcast are Wētā FX’s Keith Miller, the film’s VFX Supervisor, and Aidan Martin, the Animation Supervisor. As you can hear in the FXpodcast, the creative and technical team worked for several years to bring the project to the screen and, in the process, refined a real-time pipeline that will hopefully soon lead to a feature film project. Wētā FX found they needed to adapt even their most simple production processes to work in a much more agile and dynamic way, as you can hear in the fxpodcast. (Even to allow for shots being revised and iterated on during morning dailies).

The film’s production was handled by Booker and Mullins’ Los Angeles-based animation studio ElectroLeague, with Mocap at James Cameron’s LightStorm motion capture studio (ex Giant Studios) and in New Zealand at Wētā FX’s capture stage. 

Epic Games was naturally incredibly happy about the film and the Oscar success. Kim Libreri, Epic CTO officer, told fxguide, “Weta has been one of the most fantastic customers of Unreal Engine in the cinematic space for a decade now.” Starting with the Thief in the Shadows –  Smaug demo in 2015, and most recently with the UE 4.26 real-time hair and fur system: MEERKAT piece, Wētā have been pushing and exploring the limits of the Unreal Engine and real-time rendering.

“Over the last few years, they have been exploring more complex animation pipelines and come up with some really brilliant approaches for stylised animation,” Kim Libreri remarks. “We just watched and helped when we could, but this is a Wētā piece, and they did just an amazing job. We are so proud of them – and that they have shown that Unreal can power something of that level of importance.”

The film is set in a version of the First World War. Amid the war, a heroic pigeon delivers messages across the battlefield. The messages are exchanged by two soldiers playing a game of chess on opposite sides of the conflict. As the fighting and the game escalate, they exchange their chess moves, delivered by the brave pigeon.

Dave Mullins, Chris Hemsworth, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Brad Booker pose backstage with their Oscar during the telecast of the 96th Oscars at Dolby Theatre.

The film is not yet widely available for streaming, but we will update when it moves into wide release.

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