Glimpse some VFX brilliance in this behind-the-scenes look at The Jungle Book, which was almost entirely computer-generated from an L.A. studio.
Reimagining a classic story collection set in a massive, very-hard-to-film-in, teeming jungle was always going to be a wild ride – especially when the much-loved book has already received buckets of attention from the film industry, most notably in the 1967 animation, but also in a dismal sequel that’s better forgetting about, as well as adaptations in 1942 and 1994.
And yet director Jon Favreau’s 2016 adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s magical creation has snaked its way to critical acclaim, both for its humour, fun and emotional substance, and the stunning visuals that transport each frame from Los Angeles to the dark depths of a wild jungle. It sets a new standard for CGI, creating a characterful and believable community of animals around Mowgli.
With the task of making an entire jungle out of nothing, as well as a supporting cast of talking animals (that could looked truly awful), it’s hard to believe is that the production never left a non-descript warehouse, instead relying only on visual effects wizardry and movie-newcomer Neel Sethi as Mowgli (who has now received rave reviews) to create a film that looks like it was entirely shot in live action.
The behind-the-scenes footage shows that Mowgli was usually in front of the camera alone – apart from oceans of blue screen, the occasional prop and puppet animal (my favourite being googly eyes attached to a blue-gloved hand). Particularly exciting is peaking sy the on-set screens, which apply previsualisation in the moment, so we can see a rough, low-res version of what the footage was eventually transformed into.
We see Sethi clambering over a log on a blue screen that mutates into a deep, dark forest complete with a cat stalking Mowgli, which looks a touch more threatening than your typical tabby. We watch a blue screen lake transform into a real-looking, misty, grey lake. And, in a hilariously cute moment, we can catch Favreau monkeying around with Mowgli among computer-generated tall grass.
Created is a realistic-looking jungle that still retains the magic, almost otherworldly feel of the 1967 version – where bears can sing and little boys can chat to snakes – all thanks to intricately executed, photorealistic CGI. Check out what visual effects studio MPC have to say on their part in making the film.