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REIGN OF FIRE

About The Dragons
"The first reaction I had when I finished reading the screenplay was, ‘Wow, what do the dragons look like?'" says director Rob Bowman. "And the answer was, we wanted to make them as vicious, as organic, and as scary as we could."

The job of turning Bowman's vision into a living, breathing beast fell to visual effects supervisor Richard Hoover and co-supervisor Dan DeLeeuw. Both are veterans of effects-heavy films; Hoover is an Academy Award® nominee for his work on the effects of the summer blockbuster "Armageddon," and has also supervised the visual effects on "Unbreakable," "Inspector Gadget," and "Jungle2Jungle." DeLeeuw has lent his considerable skills to such films as "102 Dalmatians," "Bicentennial Man," "The Rock," "Mighty Joe Young," and "Crimson Tide."

"The thing that Rob told us at the very beginning was that he wanted to make a dragon that was stone-cold real," says DeLeeuw. "It wasn't enough to portray something evil and malevolent," Hoover notes. "If the environment and the beast don't jibe – if they don't seem like they can be part of the same world – well, the audience is so sophisticated that they're immediately taken out of the picture. Rob presents our real world in the movie, so we worked hard to create a dragon that could fit into our world."

To do that, Bowman, Hoover, and DeLeeuw borrow elements from nature. "We spent a lot of time trying to figure out how we wanted the audience to respond to the dragon," Bowman says. "We designed it to move on the ground like a leopard, with the sound of a cobra about to strike; the skin of an alligator, but the spine of a serpent. The idea was that the audience would then bring pre-set reactions to the dragon – that they would have the subconscious reaction, ‘Jeez, I've seen that in National Geographic' – and be naturally, innately, afraid."

The dragon has a compact, lithe body, with enormous, folding wings, allowing it a graceful flight through the air. "There was a whole process where we figured out how we wanted it to fly," Bowman notes. "Did we want it to flap, or fall out of the sky, or glide through the air? Okay, we want it to glide. Well, then, you can't have a large torso and small wings – the wings have to catch enough air to support the body. And that's when the serpent design of the torso came in."

The dragon's body is covered in thousands of scales that use state-of-the-art computer animation to achieve a new level of reality. "What's great about the scales is that they ride on the surface of the dragon's skin," DeLeeuw notes. "As the skin moves, the scales pull apart, the gaps separate, and the scales don't deform or stretch."

"If we had just painted them, it would have looked like a rubber suit," Hoover adds. "Instead, they can tilt up, overlay each other, slide apart, and reflect light, just like a real reptile's scales."

"I didn't want the dragon to breathe fire," Bowman points out. "I mean, if fire came out if its mouth, it would burn its mouth. So how were we going to do it? Well, it turns out there's an African beetle that blows two opposite chemicals out of its rear end, and when the two touch, there's a flame. Tha

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