Rogue Robot's virtual Cheshire Cat takes to the stage

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Cheshire Cat GrabWith its grinning smile and distinctive eyes, Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire Cat is a recognisable icon from literature across the globe.

Now those essential features have been used to create a virtual version of the cat for a Christmas production of the children’s classic.

The video and motion graphics studio, Rogue Robot Visual Industries, based in Hebden Bridge, came up with the idea after being approached by Role With It productions.

They were given just two weeks create a back projected, animated, interactive cat.

“This was just the kind of challenge we love,” explained Chris Johnson-Standley, Rogue Robot’s creative director. “No budget, no time, but a fantastically open, creative brief. Other than the words the cat had to speak, we were given free range to create what we liked.

“The eyes were the biggest challenge. We created a rig in AfterEffects that allowed us to control eye movement, dilation, top and bottom lids and brow. Using these parameters we could bring the eyes alive, acting out the scenes in a mirror by the computer screen, and then translating the eye movements into keyframes.

“What was interesting was how much we could strip away whilst retaining the look of a cat. As my two-year old watched some of the tests (he’s our harshest critic!), it wasn’t until one face appeared with simple whiskers on that he shouted ‘Cat!’ That told us how much, or little, we needed to show.”

The production of Alice in Wonderland is currently showing at Hebden Bridge’s Birchcliffe Centre, takes the Lewis Carroll classic and transposes it into a steampunk world.