<I>Thelma the Unicorn</I>: Co-director Lynn Wang
June 12, 2024

Thelma the Unicorn: Co-director Lynn Wang

In Netflix’s Thelma the Unicorn, a singing pony finds instant fame when she transforms into a sparkly unicorn. Her newly-found celebrity status also comes with some unexpected surprises.

Thelma the Unicorn features the voices of Brittany Howard, Will Forte and Jemaine Clement. The feature was directed by Jared Hess ( Napoleon Dynamite) and Lynn Wang ( Unikitty!). Wang recently spoke with Post about the animated feature, which saw theatrical release and is now streaming on Netflix.

Hi Lynn! What was the timeframe for production and post on Thelma the Unicorn?

“It was about four years from the time I started to production wrap, and most of that was done during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the movie was built over Zoom, SyncSketch and Evercast, but by the time we got to post we were able to work in-person.”

Which studios contributed animation, design, environments, etc.?

“We worked with a fantastic art team in-house at Netflix, lead by production designer Trevor Dalmer and art director Paul Sullivan. They defined the look and feel of the movie, which was then further realized and refined by our creative partner studio, Mikros Animation. They had teams based in Montreal, Paris and Bangalore, and they all brought their talents to elevate the look of the movie.”

Do you recall the tools they were using?

“For rigging, modeling and animation, our animation team used Maya. Surfacing was done in Mari, Painter and Katana. Lighting was done in Katana. I cannot take credit for knowing all of this — I had to ask our excellent animation director Guillaume Arantes! My answer would have been ‘beautiful magic.’”

What were some of the challenges in executing the look you were after?

“One of the major challenges was trying to diversify the crowds in the movie. Our art and animation team would essentially ‘paper doll’ the extras — using one model but changing out accessories, hair, clothing, color to create different-looking humans. We couldn’t paper doll the animal extras as easily, so those tended to be animated separately. Since we were a performance musical movie, we needed to create believable large crowds without feeling the repetition from a glance.”

Is there a scene that you would point to as a highlight?

“A personal highlight for me was early on in production — the team showed a finished, textured, turntable of a prop — a hay bale. It seems silly and inconsequential, but I couldn’t contain my excitement when I saw it! For the rest of the production, I got teased for being so excited for such a small prop, but I remember seeing that hay bale was the moment that I knew we knew we were in good hands with Mikros.”