Flora & Ulysses is the story of a young girl named Flora who rescues a superhero squirrel that she names Ulysses. Squirrels are pretty hard to train so one of the costars of this film is pretty much all CGI. This means that the VFX team had a lot of work on their hands. In fact, the movie itself wrapped about a year and a half ago, but it took over a year to add in the squirrel and make him perfect.
Lena Khan, the Director, gave the VFX team references for the type of squirrel she thought that Ulysses would be – a Eurasian Red Squirrel. “Turns out they’re very difficult to track down and find. They aren’t available in North America. They are only available in the UK.” VFX Supervisor Daryl Sawchuck says. He then went on to explain how they created the final image of Ulysses. The first step is to start with a realistic-looking image and start playing around with different things like eye size and ear size. They do this to give him more personality and take him beyond being just a squirrel.
Fun fact, squirrels actually do a superhero landing in real life – go ahead, Google it, we will wait. This is the only reason we see Ulysses do this movie. The VFX team wanted to be sure everything Ulysses did is practical and something real squirrels would do.
One of the most interesting things Daryl explained is that they had to talk to Lena about how she would direct Ulysses if he was a real person on set. They do this to make sure that they take him in the direction she wants him to go. “We really have to treat him as a character because he is such an important part of the movie.”
The Flora & Ulysses set was very in-depth. Flora’s mom Phyllis is a romance novelist and her office has the walls filled with covers from her books. The set design team came up all of the names of these books, and created the covers for them so that they look real and fit Phyllis’ office. This team also had a lot to do with the Easter Eggs in this movie. Lena claims there are close to 1,000 so keep your eyes peeled!
The costuming is just as intricate as the sets are which was very evident in speaking with Costume Designer Mona May about them. Mona loved making the costuming personal. For example, George’s clothes feature a lot of graphics that were created for him with input from Lena’s superhero nerd friends. “People will really believe who these people are and find themselves in them. We are all enchanted with the story and the squirrel that brings heart to our lives.”
In Flora & Ulysses there are superheroes which she said was a lot of fun to create. The process is a lot more difficult than you might think and there is so much thought that goes into it. For Incandesto, Mona pointed out that even the small details are important. “He used to be a janitor so [we looked at] the elements from being a janitor. The belts of janitors and how does it fit. This was my first superhero so I was learning about the material and how to build it.”
Mona added that with Lena’s direction they went away from the modern Marvel stuff and went back to the more classic costumes. For The Condor the only description she had to work with was that she had wings and a scale-like skin. “What I designed is a bodysuit that has little triangle cutouts and underneath there is shiny spandex so when you look at it the triangles kind of pop up and the light hits the spandex material and makes it three dimensional.”
Lena calls Flora & Ulysses a live-action Pixar film. She went on to explain exaction what this means. “A little bit of a heightened sense of reality while the character troubles that they are experiencing are very real and grounded, and people aren’t cartoony. It’s just the situations you find them in are a little off-beat – hilarious, but real.” She also said that Pixar never holds back on deeper issues, and she didn’t want to do that in this film either.
While yes, Flora & Ulysses tackles real-life deep issues, it is also filled with hope and the message to never give up. When you tune in to Disney+ on February 19th, hopefully, this article will help you to appreciate all the small details that were lovingly placed throughout the movie.
Tessa Smith AKA Mama's Geeky, is a journalist that covers geek and Disney culture on her own website, as well as freelances for other sites such as What's On Disney Plus and Screen Rant. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Marketing and loves all things geeky. She is a Disney Vacation Club member and a Founders Circle Member of Disney+. She is also an approved critic for Rotten Tomatoes and a member of the Critics Choice Association. Tessa lives in Upstate New York with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs named Sansa and Khaleesi.