British Columbia

Thanos realized: Vancouver animator on creating Marvel's ultimate bad guy

Jan Philip Cramer, Vancouver-based animation director of blockbusters including the Avengers movies, Avatar and Spiderman: Homecoming on creating his favourite character to date.

Jan Philip Cramer made sure audiences could recognize actor Josh Brolin in the villain

Josh Brolin as Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. The visual effects for the character were created under the direction of Vancouver-based animator Jan Philip Cramer. (Marvel Studios)

Jan Philip Cramer is living his childhood dream working on blockbusters such as Avatar and Deadpool, but his favourite creation so far is the nightmare supervillain Thanos.

Cramer, animation director at visual effects company Digital Domain, spoke with Renée Filippone, the guest host of CBC's The Early Editionabout turning actor Josh Brolin into a comic book bad guy and why Vancouver was the perfect city to do it in.

His team had six months to create the visual effects for the Marvel character and Cramer wanted to ensure Brolin's own physical traits were visible in the character as much as possible.

"We tried to infuse the realism of an actor into him" said Cramer. "So when the character is in motion he forms into Josh Brolin."

This included replicating the actor's wrinkle lines and dimples on Thanos' face and advising his team on how the animated nemesis should look when he moves.

"I want to make sure all the nuances of performances of Josh come through on the actual character ... It's non-stop development," Cramer told Fillipone.

Actor Josh Brolin poses on the red carpet at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

He is very happy with the result. And so are audiences.

Avengers: Endgame made box office history in April by surpassing $1 billion US at the box office during its opening weekend.

Cramer said during the creation process the animators weren't thinking about awards or box office success.

"We really were so focused on bringing the details to life that it doesn't matter much, but, that said, it is somewhat important that everybody watched it."

As an animator, he has had far less-satisfying project experiences.

"We don't write the stories, so often you work on something, that later, the story isn't that great, so this is extra sweet."

Jan Philip Cramer speaking on The Early Edition in Vancouver on July 16, 2019.

Thanos came to life in a Vancouver studio and Cramer said the talent pool in the city runs deep.

'We have fantastic schools here locally that supply us with talent," he said. "At Digital Domain we constantly try to find ways to bring on interns and make them succeed."

His advice to those breaking into the field is not complicated. 

"All of the people with success in the industry, they're really, really hard workers. Work hard and you're gonna get some success."

It's the formula that worked for him.

Cramer told Fillipone he got into the field because when he was a little boy he dreamed about creating new worlds. After helping bring the Marvel universe to life for fans across the globe, it's safe to say he has realized that dream.

Cramer will present a lecture Tuesday night titled Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Langara College in Vancouver.

To hear the complete interview with Jan Philip Cramer use the audio link below: 

The Early Edition


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