Sandman Studios contributes to ‘Witch Mountain’


It’s in the details: Utah’s Sandman Studios contributes to ‘Witch Mountain’

By Sean P. Means
The Salt Lake Tribune

Updated: 03/12/2009 03:20:37 PM MDT

By the time you swallow your first handful of popcorn during “Race to Witch Mountain,” you already will have seen the handiwork of Pleasant Grove special-effects firm Sandman Studios.
“They open the movies with our work,” said Stephen Sobisky, Sandman’s CEO and visual-effects supervisor.

The first scene of the Disney adventure movie opens in a NORAD control room, where the flight of an incoming UFO is being tracked. The images on the NORAD screens were produced and animated by Sandman.

Sandman received about a month’s notice to produce the “motion graphics” that appear on video screens and monitors within the film. In addition to the NORAD scenes, Sandman created the computer-screen images read by a UFO conspiracy expert, played by Garry Marshall.
Then Sandman’s team, led by Sobisky and lead animation artist Christian Perry, had a month and a half to produce 60 shots.

When it was all finished, Sobisky said, they had to tweak it to make it look a little less authentic. “The NORAD people said it looks better than their stuff,” he said.

Sandman was founded in 2002 and has been making animation and visual effects for major Hollywood productions — such as animation for the much-loved, but short-lived ABC series “Pushing Daisies” — since 2007, said company president Lee Baker.

Sandman landed the “Witch Mountain” gig after impressing Disney and director Andy Fickman with its work on “The Game Plan.” For that movie, Sandman created a realistic copy of the Madden ’07 video game, featuring Dwayne Johnson’s character.

The company is hard at work on its next project, a feature-length musical titled “Lost in Love,” based on the music of Air Supply. For the movie, Air Supply singer-songwriter Graham Russell — a Park City resident since 1994 — wrote three new songs.

Utah’s lower cost of living allows Sandman to compete with Hollywood effects houses. “They’re able to get the same kind of work [from us] for a much lower price,” Lee said.