Mjølnir, Thors Hammer (2013)

Mjølnir, Thor’s Hammer

On the eve of Ragnarok, the legendary battle between the Norse Gods, Loki steals the hammer of Thor, the God of Thunder. This hammer, Mjølnir, must be returned to Thor, so he can fight against Loki’s spawn.This is the story of the Dark Ride “Mjølnir, Thor’s Hammer“, which runs in a cave in the Norwegian theme park Tusenfryd. The new theme park ride was conceived and built by our client P&P Project Development. A 2D animated preshow, which was also produced by Lemonade, shown in the queueing area, introduce
s us to all the characters involved in the story. From Thor and Loki to Fenrir the Wolf, Jormungandr the Snake, to Surt, the ancient Fire God, and Hel, the goddess of the Underworld.A cart with 4 degrees of rotational freedom takes us through the beautifully decorated cave, from Asgard where the Gods live, through 9 specific environments. At ten positions the cart halts, and 3D stereoscopic animation which integrates with the decor, show parts of the story. During the whole experience the voice of Thor is the guide, and he even helps us once in a while, although his powers are much diminished without his trusty hammer.

Lemonade Animation (my other company) produced the high quality, high resolution stereoscopic 3D content for the ten screens. One screen is eleven meter wide, and uses a set of 4 HD projectors for the 3D image. Other effects include heat and wind, to enhance the experience of a flaming sword and a flight over a snowy mountain landscape.

We like to work with other people, because we believe that one person can never do everything right. Especially for a large project such as Thor’s Hammer. We had a previz team, consisting of two generalist CG people, right next door. A modeling team of four in Portugal, a creature animator in the south of Holland, the motion capture was done in England, the environments, shading, lighting and motion implementation was done by a team of six in Amsterdam, and we had a dedicated stereographer on our team to get the best 3D results possible. Music and sound design was done by a two-man team in Utrecht.While working at Lemonade, our two-man team was responsible for content research, (art) direction, project management, and getting (and keeping!) everyone involved on the same track. I concentrated mainly on art-direction, direction, content research. The ride features an introductory animation, which is shown in the waiting area. In this animation the events are explained that lead to the current story, and all characters are introduced to the audience. This Preshow Animation was done in  2D by me, with a lot of help from a great visual artist to hand me the drawings for each character.
We did content  pre-viz. We did calculations on viewing angles. We did a complete ride pre-viz of the cart moving through the cave. We built a stereo projection set at the right size right in our studio. And still: there’s no thing like the real thing. So, at the end of the production, we flew to Oslo to see the work in progress on the decorations and projections with our own eyes. Only that way can we be sure it will all work out the way we planned. Luckily, we were spot on and it all worked beautifully!
One of the main reasons to go there, was to see which deformations were present in the projections, and also to exactly measure out where the shadows of the decorations were, on the screens. We had to mask them out pixel perfect, so there would be no animation projected on tree roots, stone pillars, or rough rocks, but only on the visible parts of the screens. We photographed the hell out of the projected custom grids, and used that to calculate exactly the way the image on each screen was stretched and warped. That way we could compensate in our postproduction, so all content would be deformation free in the end. Preparation is one thing, but final tweaking should be done on location.