If you ever wondered how far visual effects has come since those pioneering days at ILM in the late ‘70s, take a closer look at Jon Favreau's smash-hit take on The Jungle Book. Alongside Favreau, Bill Murray, Neel Sethi and the rest of its starry line-up of actors, a small army of VFX supervisors, compositors and animators should take a bow too. They beavered away to forge jungle environments so realistic they’d have Rudyard Kipling himself rubbing his eyes. While Weta Digital put together its King Louie sequences, London-based effects house MPC backdropped Mowgli’s adventure with astonishing vine-strewn vistas, languorous rivers and dazzling panoramas. Here, in a series of before-and-after shots, is a glimpse at how they went about it.
Neel Sethi interacts with Raksha (later voiced by Lupita Nyong’o) on The Jungle Book’s motion-capture stage, with MPC’s animated and fully composited versions running below. Animal heads were provided by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop to help keep eye-lines aligned.
The lazy river
‘The lazy river' sequence was one of the fiddliest in the film. MPC had to blend CG environments, water FX, fur, character animation and Sethi's Mowgli together seamlessly, all while the VFX and live-animation elements remained in a constant state of flux. An outdoor pool at LA’s Center Studios doubled up as the river; frogman doubled up as bear.
Like Pandora’s forests in Avatar, the jungle was built in micro-detail: each plant designed, each leaf accounted for. “It's the single biggest creation in the film,” says MPC’s VFX supervisor Adam Valdez. “It contributed to 80 percent of the frame 100 percent of the time."
Head here to see more of MPC's work on The Jungle Book.