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Local Rat Makes Good


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To create an American setting of bucolic farms and state fairs for the movie version of Charlotte’s Web, Paramount Pictures filmed in Australia. But the studio didn’t outsource the movie altogether. Effects wizards at Berkeley’s Tippett Studio were hired to digitally animate a key character: the self-serving, food-obsessed rodent Templeton.

Animation Supervisor Todd Labonte, who lives in Berkeley, managed a team of 17 computer animators to craft Templeton, whose voice is provided by actor Steve Buscemi (Fargo, Monsters, Inc.). “He’s such a great voice actor; half our job was done for us,” says Labonte modestly. Labonte’s team studied rats for hours so they could re-create their movements and generate a naturalistic (although talking) rodent with computers.

Because the movie was shot down under, Tippett’s artists worked with director Gary Winick via videoconference calls. “He would draw all over the screen, like John Madden does during a football game,” says Labonte.

Fans of the book will note that this live-action version of Charlotte’s Web tries to be closer to the gentle tone of E. B. White’s beloved book than the 1973 musical cartoon version by Hanna- Barbera studios. And animation buffs will be pleased to know that Tippett Studio’s next project is a big-budget adaptation of the best-selling fantasy books The Spiderwick Chronicles.

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