MPC’s VFX magic allows Wiggy the toupee to take flight for Virgin Australia
Directed by Gary Freedman, Virgin Australia has launched their fun new campaign ‘Up, Up and Toupee’. The 60-second spot, which is set to Jo Cocker and Jennifer Warnes’ iconic tune ‘Up Where We Belong’, follows Wiggy the toupee, an unconventional lead character that rediscovers how amazing flying is, and the joy of seeing the big, wide world on his way to the family’s holiday destination.
MPC’s role was integral in helping DDB Sydney achieve their vision for the spot by bringing the toupee to life and showing its journey across Australia. With VFX led by Jonathan Box, CG led by Fabian Frank and colour by Jean-Clément Soret, the spot is a journey of ease and effortlessness, and most importantly, fun.
On developing the toupee, Fabian explained:
“You’d think that the biggest challenge on this spot was simulating long hair, but designing a character without legs, arms or face from a bunch of hairs that the audience would engage with was the true challenge. We started by creating character design sheets that would outline what the toupee would be able to do. How do the wings form? How do we suggest facial expressions by using strands of hairs to outline eyes and eyebrows? We even explored dynamic animated poses of how the toupee could roll itself up to do a barrel roll or playfully dive through clouds”.
To achieve the final look there was a lot of testing involved, such as playing with the balance of hair stiffness. The toupee was created entirely in Houdini using proprietary grooming and simulation tools, which meant that the grooming, simulation and rendering was in one software package, allowing for quicker iterations and more efficient workflows.
“Upfront testing and look development helped to shape and speed up the finishing as most of the big decisions, in terms of the look and movement, were approved in advance of the shoot. What I am most proud of is that when the CG toupee is placed alongside the practical real reference it’s very hard to distinguish any differences.”
On collaborating with the Director, Fabian said: “For Gary the key to the story was to portrait a character that spreads its wings and finds its confidence throughout the journey finishing in a playful sequence above the clouds. To convey this progression of personality through animation we worked closely right from the beginning when we started the previs. Collaboratively we came up with some great creative solutions, always trying to support the key storytelling points”.