I recently visited the cinema to watch The Jungle Book directed by John Favreau, a VFX heavy recreation on Disney’s animated classic by Wolfgang Reitherman in 1967. Both films were based on the book written by Rudyard Kipling in 1894.
John Favreau has great history with film full of Visual Effects over numerous roles, whilst also directing the Marvel Iron Man Movies (1 &2) produced by Paramount Pictures.
Moving Picture Company (MPC) with VFX Supervisor Adam Valdez and Weta Digital with Dan Lemmon, are the two visual effects houses tasked with the majority of the work on the film. Robert Legato was the production visual effects supervisor overseeing the film, a man with a wealth of experience including films such as Avatar, Titanic, The Aviator and Armageddon.
Adam Valdez (MPC) has also worked in a variety of roles throughout his career, beginning with a lot of animator roles working on films such as Jurassic Park, Starship Troopers and Lord of the Rings. He has since then worked as a VFX supervisor on films including John Carter, World War Z and Maleficent all under MPC.
Dan Lemmon (Weta Digital), formally of Digital Domain, worked on numerous films as a digital / effects artist including Titanic, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and King Kong. Lemmon further went on to be a VFX Supervisor with Weta Digital working on films such as I,Robot, Planet of the Apes, Jumper and Man of Steel.
I was shocked to learn after watching the film, that pretty much the actor playing Mowgli is the only “real” element with the rest being completely computer generated. The film has really opened my eyes towards how special visual effects can be and what a great industry it would be to be a part of. To produce any work to that quality would be a dream come true. It is truly something to aspire to.
MPC were responsible for a larger portion of the film, with the bulk of the environment work and creating 54 unique species of animal, with 224 unique animals in total.
“It took an average of 19 hours to render a single frame, with about 30 million render hours altogether”
They also completely created the Indian jungle from scratch from a vast amount of reference images.
“MPC’s artists took more than 100,000 photographs of real locations in the Indian jungle, and built a massive library of reference material that was then used to build all the storied locations to the finest of real-world detail. The results are trees, plants, moss, bark, rock and water that the audience feels they can reach out and touch. Each scene is handcrafted plant by plant, detailed down to thousands of scattered broken leaves, and vines that grow across the landscape.”
My favourite sequence from the film shows Mowgli sitting upon Baloo’s stomach whilst drifting down river through the jungle. Mowgli and Baloo continue by splashing water towards each other, singing the famous “Bear Necessity’s” song whilst being watched by numerous animals as the flow further down river.
“The lazy river sequence was one of the most complicated in the movie, with CG environments, water FX, fur, character animation and the live action Mowgli all needing to blend together with complex interaction between CG and live action elements.
Neel’s performance was shot in an outdoor pool, MPC’s artists then painstakingly replaced the entire environment to sit him into the lazy river scene atop the hand-animated Baloo. Contributing to 80% of the frame 100% of the time, the jungle itself is the single biggest creation in the movie.”
Weta Digital were solely responsible for the creation of King Louie (voiced by Christopher Walken), and his sequence within the film. King Louie is based on a gigantopithecus, a large species of ape similar to an orangutan, which is now extinct.
“It was important for Jon to see Christopher Walken in the creature. So we took some of the distinctive Walken facial features— iconic lines, wrinkles and folds— and integrated them into the animated character.”
(Keith Miller, VFX Supervisor Weta Digital)
I have gathered a number of VFX breakdown videos showing the processes used to create the sequences seen within the Jungle Book.