A Breed Above
ILM revisits and remixes its iconic digital creatures for the return visit to the land of dinosaurs in
By Bill Desowitz.
Though barely a drop in the bucket on the geologic scale of time in which scientists discuss real-life dinosaurs, a lot has changed in the creation of the digital versions in the 14 years since moviegoers last visited the world of Jurassic Park.
And the visual-effects artists at Industrial Light & Magic have tapped into new animation, lighting and rendering capabilities to give Jurassic World, due in theaters June 12, a new breed of greatly improved digital dinosaurs.
Director and co-writer Colin Trevorrow ( Safety Not Guaranteed) wanted to recapture the spirit of director Steven Spielberg’s original 1993 Jurassic Park film but also give it a contemporary spin. In the new movie, which stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, the theme park tries to reverse declining attendance by creating something bigger and more spectacular: an entirely new species of incredibly vicious dinosaur called Indominus rex.
“It’s a hybrid of Tyrannosaurus rex and
Walt Disney envisioned Tomorrowland — an original Disneyland attraction that opened in 1955 — as an inspiring and optimistic vision of the future, full of sweeping towers, clean open spaces and life-improving conveniences science could only hint at.
But in turning that vision into the feature film Tomorrowland, which hit theaters May 22 from Disney, it was the contrast provided by later years’ pessimism and darker visions of the future that appealed to director Brad Bird, writer-producer Damon Lindelof and star George Clooney.
To bring the visuals of the story to life, the filmmakers tasked ILM with creating the landscape of Tomorrowland, which incorporated Disney’s Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, or EPCOT, idea of urban planning as well as a recreation of much of the 1964 New York World’s Fair, where Disney premiered “It’s a Small World,” along with “The Carousel of Progress,” the animatronic attraction “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” and the famous PeopleMover.
ILM worked on the pavilions, set pieces and set extensions of the World’s Fair, which was comprised of full CG environments.
“Brad had a real affinity for the World’s Fair, that stylized 1964 look,” says Eddie Pasquarello ( The Avengers), visual-effects co-supervisor with Craig Hammack ( Star Trek) on Tomorrowland. “He was very articulate about matching the World’s Fair and we knew where we had to go.”
The movie is about a scientifically curious and optimistic teen played by Britt Richardson who learns Tomorrowland is real and tracks down Clooney’s Frank Walker to reach it. The movie also features Hugh Laurie as the brilliant villain David Nix, and required three different visions of Tomorrowland: a 1964 version, a 1984 version and a dystopian future version, each of which required its own flavor.
Seeing Triple “For Tomorrowland, he really wanted to convey a mood in each of the three experiences,” says Pasquarello. “While it’s under construction in 1964, it needed to have a certain optimism to it. Years went into the planning with architects and ILM, and it truly was a city planning adventure. Brad had a hand in the layout and where buildings were placed.”
The idealized Tomorrowland has large fountain, sprawling grassy areas and curvaceous architecture that is shiny and eco-friendly. The main area is Bridgeway Plaza, which contains a tower that’s the centerpiece of Tomorrowland.
randomness of the real world to play out,” says Andrew Jackson ( 300), the production visual-effects supervisor, based in Sydney. “That’s exactly what I like to do, because my background is in special effects and model-making. And my first thought is always, ‘How much of it can we shoot in live action?’ So it was wonderful working with George “Because of the style of this film, a lot of the shots are less
than one second long, so it’s really good to know what they are. You don’t want to be adding 12-frame handles to a
of all the visual effects,” Jackson says. “This team did basic tracking and roto, and my brief to that team was that they should essentially be bolted onto editorial and do whatever they need to help define the edit. And it’s a way of giving a director complete freedom to try out different ideas and turn out things quickly and cheaply. You have a watchable version of the film early on and can help it be much tighter before you turn it over to visual effects.”
A tighter film can save time and effort, Jackson says. “Because of the style of this film, a lot of the shots are less than one second long, so it’s really good to know what they are. You don’t want to be adding 12-frame handles to a 10-frame shot.”
Riding the Storm
The most prominent use of CG was the Toxic Storm, done by Iloura of Australia. It was a particle simulation done in Houdini. “It took a lot of work to make that look convincing and we referenced the biggest tornadoes that we could find that split up into multiple twisters. But it’s unlike any storm you’ve ever seen. We never did specify what the gasses were but whatever it was made of, this was not a good place to be.”
The Citadel is a group of three towers that’s the main location where the people of this world live. This provided Iloura with another VFX task: “We shot all of the action on the ground near the base of the towers in Sydney, but the rock walls themselves were a CG environment,” Jackson says. “We built them from a ridge just west of Sydney called The Blue Mountain. And there are huge cliffs there about 600 feet tall. We went out in a helicopter and flew very close and photographed high-resolution textures, and then, using photogrammetry software, we built 3D sections from those cliffs and then wrapped them into the shapes of the towers. It turned out to be very effective.”
Meanwhile, the post-vis team swapped over to finishing final shots as well and did a major section in a canyon where the War Rig pulls off. “A lot of the extension work in that part of the film was done by the post-vis team, which we called Fury Effects in the end,” Jackson says. “Although we went to an amazing canyon location, we still had to do a lot of work and there are a couple of shots where they blow up the side of the wall and dropped a lot of rocks to block the passage.”
Here again, Mad Max: Fury Road’s in the style of the original Mad Max — only the post-apocalypse is perhaps scarier in the 21st century. Bill Desowitz is owner of Immersed in Movies (www.billdesowitz.com), author of James Bond Unmasked (www.jamesbondunmasked.com) and a regular contributor to Thompson on Hollywood and Animation Scoop at Indiewire.