Animator from West Chicago gives 'Beauty and the Beast' a visual boost
Visual effects artist Matthew Doll hails from a West Chicago family of MDs.
His parents, Mark and Marie, plus his brothers, Merrick and Mike, all share the initials MD.
So what happened to his sister Emily?
"You're missing the phonetic pun," Matthew Doll pointed out. "Her first name also starts with an 'Em.'"
That's the kind of family Matthew Doll came from before he grew up to be a visual effects artist on the new live-action production of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," opening this weekend. His official credit on the movie is "compositing supervisor."
"We take computer-generated images and put them together with the live-action footage shot on set," Doll explained. "We color-correct everything, then add elements like smoke, fog and sparks.
"In a perfect world, if we've done our jobs, the audience has no clue that what they're looking at is fake."
No need to rehash this tale as old as time. It's the same as Disney's 1991 animated hit movie, but with "Harry Potter" star Emma Watson as Belle.
Doll worked on several parts of "Beauty and the Beast," and most of the battle scenes.
"I wanted to be a Disney animator when I was 7 or 8," he said. "I saw 'The Lion King,' 'Aladdin,' all the classics. I watched those movies a million times."
The movie that cemented his destiny came along when he was 10 years old.
"'Jurassic Park' was the first movie I saw as a kid that really blew my mind," Doll said. "I love monster movies. I loved dinosaur movies as a kid. So, there you go. I've known what I wanted to do since I was 10."
Born in Hinsdale, Doll grew up in West Chicago. After graduating from West Chicago Community High School, he majored in film and animation at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Then he packed up and headed for the land of animation opportunity: California.
"I didn't even have a job," he said. "I just knew where I needed to be to find work in this field."
The film gods apparently rallied to his aid, for Doll landed his first L.A. job while driving to the West Coast.
"I had a telephone interview while on the road," he said. "I started the job within 48 hours after arriving in Los Angeles."
This is the kind of kismet you'd usually find in a Disney movie, not in real life.
Most of Doll's work has been as a freelancer, a computer artist for hire. He has worked for a few effects companies, the longest tenure being at George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic.
We hit a few of his career highlights:
• "Iron Man" -- "That was a great experience," Doll said. "Jon Favreau is a very demanding director with a very good eye."
• "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" -- "I worked on the holograms in the World Security Center," he said. "I was in Beijing for two years working on that film plus 'Metallica Through the Never.' That was fun."
• "Paranormal Activity 4" -- "Hey, companies take large and small projects to balance out their budgets. I did mostly ghost effects on that one."
• "The Amazing Spider-Man" (not credited) -- "I did what we call 911 work on that. Helping to finish the movie and get it out at the last minute. I did shots of the lizard and Peter Parker in the sewers."
• "Transformers 4" -- "We have to add all the sparks, explosions and smoke and interaction with feet on the ground. I try to find unique little moments to add my personal touch, as well as put in little details for the audience that they might notice if they are very observant or watch the movie multiple times."
Doll, 33, expects to return to Chicago in the next few weeks to help launch a local office for the London-based visual effects company called Framestore. Doll has been training for the opening while on "vacation" in London. He can't wait.
"Most of my friends and family still live in Chicago," he said. "I've wanted to move back home for forever, pretty much."
-- Dann Gire
• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are looking for suburbanites who now work in showbiz. If you know of someone who would make an interesting feature, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.