The Stellar Visuals in ‘IF’ Are Anything but Imaginary

The Stellar Visuals in ‘IF’ Are Anything but Imaginary

From an enormous blue guy to talking bananas and slime balls, VFX Supervisor Chris Lawrence and Animation Supervisor Arslan Elver break down their work on John Krasinski and Paramount Pictures’ live-action/3DCG hybrid comedy adventure.

There’s a surprising detail in the production notes for IF, Paramount Pictures’ live-action/3DCG hybrid film about a girl whose superpower lets her see everyone’s imaginary friends. While it’s a given that the production would highlight such luminaries as director/writer John Krasinski and stars Ryan Reynolds, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Steve Carell, or its Oscar-winning composer and cinematographer, it’s a pleasant surprise to see the VFX and animation supervisors singled out for recognition.

It's true: the notes make it a point to acknowledge the IF team’s delight at snagging both Chris Lawrence, “one of Framestore’s most experienced VFX supervisors” (and himself an Oscar winner), and Framestore animation supervisor Arslan Elver (creator of the Rocket Raccoon character in Guardians of the Galaxy, among other illustrious achievements) to join their ranks. It goes without saying that they were not disappointed.

To hear Lawrence and Elver tell it, they had a pretty good time as well, despite the not inconsiderable challenges that invariably attend the intermingling of live-action and animation. Much of the pleasure came specifically from working with Krasinski, who proved to be very interested in and sympathetic to their craft. But wait… there’s more.

Dan Sarto: How early in the process did you guys come on? Did you do any initial tests, or were you pretty certain – just from your past successes in this type of hybrid animation – that you could pull it off?

Chris Lawrence: We had our first meeting with [director John Krasinski] in April 2022, I think. Someone had given him production notes, clearly, because he knew all about us. He was über-enthusiastic. He was very familiar with our prior work, especially, in my case, Christopher Robin, and in Arslan's case, Rocket Raccoon and Guardians. He was trying to bring this film to life and get it made. And he'd done some testing and some artwork, but really the main thing he'd done was he'd imagined the whole thing.

He had sat there during lockdown, when it was conceptualized, and he had thought through every single shot, every single character. He had a structured plan for every bit of it. And he came to us with that. I took the meeting thinking I was doing another show, so I was probably a bit more relaxed than I normally would've been. And I remember finishing the Zoom and going, "Oh, man, I really, really wish I was doing that movie because that's going to be great." And then a week later, my other show pushed, and suddenly I was available.

John was very sweet about it. He was like, "It really cost me a lot of money to put that show on hold. But I'm glad I did - I've got you here." And so it was really quite a quick process, because that was April-May, and we were shooting at the end of August.