Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem / Paramount Pictures

Social AR

Out of the Ooze

The iconic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles emerged from the underground comics scene in the 1980s to become a pop culture phenomenon across TV shows, figures, video games, movies, and more.

After a seven-year hiatus from the big screen, the turtles were returning to theaters in the new animated feature, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. Paramount Pictures looked to Pretty Big Monster to create a marquee immersive experience that would introduce the characters to new audiences, reconnect with existing fans, and announce the characters' updated, stylized look.

More specifically, they hoped to let legions of fans "become" the turtles, using advanced techniques now available on social AR platforms like Snap and TikTok.

More specifically, they hoped to let legions of fans "become" the turtles, using advanced techniques now available on social AR platforms like Snap and TikTok.


Put Some Heroes in a Half Shell

Arguably lead by Snap, social AR platforms have been expanding their capabilities with regard to features like body tracking and AI-based visual effects.

Full-body puppetry of a virtual character—combined with Snap's machine learning-developed ability to “erase” portions of images in Snapchat—enables a novel form of real-time social AR where users disappear entirely from the screen to appear as characters controlled by their own movements. Early examples were getting a lot of attention on social media and teasing the possibilities—the time was right to let fans become the turtles!

Starting with original models from the film, we optimized and re-textured a turtle mesh for use in real-time 3D. Social AR file size limits are famously lean, ranging from 4 to 10 megabytes, while film production assets are often several gigabytes in size.

Fitting all four turtles into one lens was a challenge as each would need their own body shape, mask, accessories, and textures. But with some extra optimization work from the team, all four characters were accessible to users.


The results were off the charts! On Snapchat, fans had a full range of facial and body movements to play with. On TikTok and Instagram, where the platforms don't support image-erasing, users were placed in front of a city wall; TikTok enjoyed full body tracking from their platform's Body Avatar Drive system, while Instagram and Facebook users could see their facial expressions reflected in the turtle's, thanks to an assortment of blendshapes attached to the turtles' faces and driven by the user's.

No matter which platform users were on— Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, or Facebook —we made sure the experience was shell-tastic!

The response was totally radical, with thousands of videos created in the first week alone. Fans busted out some killer dance moves, pulled off epic stunts, and captured hilarious moments. It was pure awesomeness seeing everyone embrace the turtle life!

What's more, the lens received the unexpected honor of the Best Branded Lens award at Snap Inc.'s LensFest 2023! It was a pleasure working alongside our friends at Paramount Pictures and our tireless partners at Snapchat.