Meghana Reddy, the Lead 3D artist of Netflix’s Elf Pets: Santa’s Reindeer Rescue talks about the scope of animation
The news of Elf on the Shelf going Hollywood and Netflix nabbing the rights to the Christmas-themed story had everyone talking
CE speaks to Meghana Reddy, the Lead 3D artist who has worked on Netflix’s Elf Pets: Santa’s Reindeer Rescue and Elf Pets: Fox Cubs Christmas Tale based on popular Christmas-themed story Elf on the Shelf about her experience, the scope of animation in Hyderabad and India and more.
The news of Elf on the Shelf going Hollywood and Netflix nabbing the rights to the Christmas-themed story had everyone talking. But to take the story and develop it into original live-action and animated content for the streaming service, catering to young kids and their families was no mean task. CE speaks to Lead 3D artist Meghana Reddy, who has roots in Hyderabad and has worked on two films based on the Elf on the Shelf story — Elf Pets: Santa’s Reindeer Rescue and Elf Pets: Fox Cubs Christmas Tale.
Talking about her experience working on the films, she says, “One of my biggest takeaways from working on these films was the dream team I had the pleasure to work alongside. This was my first 3D film, and the entire team was extremely helpful, I learnt a lot from them.
We were a team of close to 20-25 people on these films. When we got to know that these films were going to be bought by Netflix, we were all so excited because it is every artist’s dream to have our names credited as a part of a successful Netflix film.” Meghana graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2018 and then she moved to Atlanta, Georgia. “Most of my dad’s side of the family lives in Hyderabad. So, we used to make quite a few trips there when I was still in India. I love the city. My favourite thing to do is visit all the amazing cafes and restaurants and try all the different kinds of food. I would say one of my favourite restaurants is Olive Bistro & Bar, I highly recommend it. And of course, Hyderabad is one of the hubs for the animation industry in India with many companies that use cutting-edge technology,” says Meghana.
After moving to Atlanta, she started working with the award-winning animation company Primal Screen. At Primal Screen, she had the opportunity to work for two widely known 3D animated films based on the popular characters, Elf on the Shelf. “I was responsible for 3D modelling the environments, the character lighting, and rendering, and I was also the sole illustrator on the team for all the 2D illustrated scenes.
Typically, when you start a 3D film, there is a 2D team that does the initial pre-production part that includes character design, background design, prop and asset design, colour tones, storyboards and animatics. In this case, our client had provided the whole 2D handbook for us to kickstart the 3D production process. Our team was split into groups of modelling artists, texturing artists, lighting artists, rendering artists, riggers, animators, layout, and camera artists pre-visualisation artists and finally the compositors.”
Elaborating on how she became an artist in the animation industry, Meghana shares, “I enjoy telling stories, so the idea of combining that love with the development of wildly imaginative characters that could bring the story to life always fascinated me. I also must acknowledge that my father’s influence on my passion was rather important. He possessed the most insatiable appetite for the arts, particularly film and visual effects. He always saw movies from the viewpoint of an artist and became curious about the making. He was a stickler for ‘detail’.
I always looked at art as a hobby but the moment I decided that I wanted to pursue my career in art and in the creative industry was when I first laid my eyes on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. For me, that was filmmaking at its best. I was in awe of the visuals and the concepts and dug a bit deeper into the making of all the three films after I had watched them. That was when I came across the brilliant Alan Lee. His work inspired me to pursue design and art.”
Meghana feels that the animation industry in India is rapidly growing. “The animation and VFX industries are growing at a fast pace in India. I also see rapid development in the gaming industry. I love that a lot of filmmakers in India are experimenting with various resources to create and incorporate really good visual effects in their films. To pick a few, I loved Sabu Cyril’s work for Baahubali and Enthiran, Wasiq Khan’s work for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Ram-Leela, Pallab Chanda and Vinayak Joshi for Gangubai Kathiawadi, and many more. I would love to be a part of the films that have a combination of both live action and VFX.”
Meghana at present is now working toward a PhD in Business. “Despite my long-standing fascination and interest with the field, I have never found the time to learn more about it on my own. I, therefore, made the decision to enrol in a weekend-only executive programme. The business world is a vast ocean and understanding how the entire system functions are mind-boggling. I want to navigate my career by combining my skills as a 2D/3D Artist with User Interface and User Experience Design and take up meaningful projects that positively impact the day-to-day lives of people,” she concludes.