JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
About The Production
"The spirit of Jumanji flows through this continuation of the story," says
Dwayne Johnson. For the actor/executive producer and so many of his generation,
the original Jumanji film captured a spirit of imagination that became the spine
of the new film. "We wanted to bring that spirit of wonderment, of overcoming
fears and discovering who you are - it's all woven through Jumanji: Welcome to
the Jungle. Every once in a while, a movie comes down the road that you just
know in your gut, has a special quality to it."
For Johnson, one of the keys to achieving that was to approach the new film as a
continuation - another Jumanji adventure in the same universe as the first film.
"We all have tremendous love and reverence for the original movie - I've always
been a huge fan of Robin Williams and his performance and that movie meant a lot
to me and my family at that time," he says. "So, while the jungle came into our
world in the original Jumanji, we go into Jumanji in this film. We could also
have fun with the idea that the game has evolved into a videogame - what would
it mean to have multiple lives? What happens if a character dies and comes back?
In a videogame, you have powers - what would those powers be?"
Producer Matt Tolmach is also a longtime fan of the original film and of Chris
Van Allsburg's children's fantasy book that inspired the franchise. Upon looking
at the 1995 feature with fresh eyes, he says, "I immediately felt there were
more Jumanji stories to be told. My first thought was, 'What's the next chapter
in that story? What's the next Jumanji adventure?' It was a natural step to
continue what began over 20 years ago."
Tolmach and writer Chris McKenna saw a new direction for Jumanji: they would
turn the concept on its head. Rather than bringing the jungle into our world,
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle would bring the players into the jungle - and not
just that. "The game evolves, from a board game to a video game - the game will
do what it has to do to be played," Tolmach explains. "And video games are a
perfect fit for the world of Jumanji: you get to leave your world behind as you
become someone else - an adventurer, a doctor, a hero. This would be a great way
to explore classic timeless themes - being yourself and embracing who you are
while also challenging yourself to do things you never thought were possible.
They have to go and be somebody that seems completely different from who they
think they are - except maybe they're not so different after all. It's not a
coincidence that you became this character who is seemingly so different than
you are - you just need to go on this journey to figure out what you are capable
of. You always had it inside you."
"Our lead characters are actually teenagers who are played by adult actors,"
says Jake Kasdan. Tolmach had previously worked with Kasdan on several films and
thought he'd be the perfect choice to direct. "This is a time of self-discovery
for them, but it plays out in this fantastical context. So, as they are figuring
out who they are in real life, they suddenly find themselves occupying other
people's bodies in this game - people who, on the surface, are nothing like
them. I thought that was a really funny idea, but also really interesting. What
would you discover about yourself, if you could spend a day in somebody else's
Still, the movie is a comedy with plenty of kickass action. "I love movies like
this - I've always wanted to make a big adventure movie," says Kasdan. "So, it's
a coming-of-age comedy that we shot on location in Hawaii with big action
sequences and a lot of visual effects."
"We wanted to build a classic action adventure movie with really high stakes,"
says Tolmach. "The stakes are very real; you can die in Jumanji. We knew there
would be tons of comedy in the movie, but we wanted it layered within action
that was visceral and exciting."
ABOUT THE CHARACTERS
In the film, four teenagers - Spencer, Bethany, Fridge and Martha - who
seemingly could not be more different are thrown together in detention, where
they are mysteriously pulled into the world of the game. Very quickly, they
realize that they will need to figure out how to work together in order to
survive. In their new personas, they are each uniquely qualified to do specific
tasks - but all of them (well, most of them) are also uniquely hindered by
weaknesses that will slow their progress.
An archeologist and international explorer, Dr. Smolder Bravestone is the
consummate action hero: fearless, faster than a speeding bullet, able to climb
anything, exceptional skill with weapons - and he does it all with his trademark
"smoldering intensity." His weaknesses? None. Who does that sound like? None
other than Dwayne Johnson, who plays the role.
But inside Dr. Bravestone is Spencer, a neurotic gamer with a fragile
constitution, portrayed by Alex Wolff. Allergic and very nervous, Spencer is
everything Dr. Bravestone is not... or so it seems.
Johnson relished the chance to play against type, a character completely unlike
his persona as The Rock or any of the many action hero roles he has brought to
life. "Spencer is the most wonderful, insecure, lovable, allergic to everything,
fun character I've ever played," says Johnson. "I've never had the opportunity
to play a teenage boy. He's not a big physical guy, he's just little Spencer who
morphs into me. I'm channeling this scared, little 16-year-old boy and it was a
A challenge, because the whole movie hinges on audiences believing that Johnson
is actually an anxious teenager. But Johnson says that even though today he is a
confident, grown man, that wasn't always the case. "Even when I was 16, I looked
46. I was six-foot-four and 245 pounds, and had a thick mustache - but whatever
I looked like on the outside, on the inside I was still a teenager, trying to
figure out who I was. So, I held onto that spirit of being a teenager - I wanted
to make sure that everyone watching this movie was thinking 'That's Spencer' and
not 'That's the Rock.'"
"There's truly not another actor in the world that would make this idea as much
fun as it is with DJ," says Kasdan. "And he committed himself to the role,
fully. He totally embraced the chance to play with - and against - his persona.
He absolutely captured this kid.
When Bethany (Madison Iseman), the school's self-obsessed queen bee, is drawn
into the game, she chooses to play a "curvy genius," Dr. Shelly Oberon, who will
help navigate Jumanji as an expert in cartography, archeology and paleontology.
Just one thing: Shelly is a nickname for Sheldon. The image-conscious Bethany is
suddenly, in her words, "an overweight middle-aged man" - that is, Jack Black.
(And Bethany is not surprised when Shelly's weakness turns out to be endurance.)
For Black, the appeal of the role was twofold. First, he would enjoy channeling
his inner teenage girl - and to do it right, he made sure that he and the young
woman with whom he shared the role were on the same page. "In my mind, I know
how to be a hot babe. It's in my toolbox," says the comedian. "But the teenage
girl I know is circa 1980s, so before we started filming I asked Madison Iseman
a ton of questions. I had to do my research. 'What are you listening to now?
What's your favorite music and what TV shows are you watching?' I watched and
listened and got into that headspace. Madison was very helpful."
But not only would he enjoy the role - he'd get to play the role under the
direction of Jake Kasdan, one of his favorite collaborators; the director and
actor first worked together in 2001 on the comedy Orange County. "Jake Kasdan is
one of my favorite directors to work with. Orange County was the funniest film
and the best on-set environment. He's super smart and super funny and we had
such a good repartee. So, immediately, I was intrigued and wanted to jump in and
party with him again. He knows how to tweak my brain to make the best acting
happen. He's a good acting scientist."
"Jack is one of my all-time favorite people to work with. I have a thousand
percent confidence in his brilliance, always," says Kasdan. "So, when we asked
him to play this teenage girl, I wasn't sure exactly what it would look like,
but I knew he would be amazing. He is Bethany, every second he's on screen."
Literally the big man on campus is the confident jock Fridge, played by
Ser'darius Blain. When he's drawn into Jumanji, his status only grows - sort of.
He's now Franklin "Moose" Finbar - an expert in zoology and a weapons valet... but
a vertically challenged one - the size of Kevin Hart. And as if that's not bad
enough, his weaknesses add to his humiliation: strength, speed... and cake.
"When Fridge is picking his character, of course he picks 'Moose' Finbar. Moose
sounds strong, big, tall, just like Fridge is," says Hart. "And he isn't. He
ends up being myself, which is a very small, petite man. Everything that he
thought he was, suddenly, he's not. He was big and tough in real life, but in
the game, he's small. He's not that tough, he can't do all the things that he
used to do. And suddenly he's in compromising positions as the complete opposite
of himself, which really doesn't sit well with him at all. And it really doesn't
sit well that Spencer is now bigger than he is. But he has to take a step back
and let Spencer be the leader."
"Kevin is just a ball of fire energy," says Jack Black. "It's kind of awesome to
be in a movie with him, although I did feel some pressure to be funnier a little
more often. It was like, 'Damn, I've got to pump my game up.'"
"I think Kevin's one of the funniest people currently residing on Earth and it's
incredible to have people like that in your movie," says Kasdan. "As soon as we
started, it was instantly clear to me that I was working with somebody with
comedy superpowers. He can be funny with a full speech or just a look."
The outspoken but socially awkward Martha, portrayed by Morgan Turner knows that
high school years can be bumpy - and life will get better in college and beyond
- but that doesn't make her daily existence any easier to bear. Until now, she's
coped by blending into the background... but as the powerhouse Ruby Roundhouse,
the martial arts master and killer of men, Martha finds herself as a skilled
badass who commands everyone's attention. It's unfamiliar territory, to say the
least, but she has no choice but to step up and fight for survival.
The Scottish actress Karen Gillan, known for her roles in the BBC series "Doctor
Who" and her role of Nebula in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, embodies
Martha's warrior persona. Jumanji becomes her proving ground to discover what
she is really made of.
"For me, Martha's learning curve is where the fun is," says Gillan. "She is an
introverted, socially awkward teenage girl who is forced to inhabit the body and
eventually the mindset of someone so utterly different. I'm a little awkward at
times, but I've been able to play these strong, badass characters, and I usually
have to overcome my own weird awkwardness; with Martha/Ruby, I got to embrace
that side and really have some fun."
"I had been a fan of Karen's for a long time," says Kasdan. "And the way she
plays Martha - as this very intelligent, but slightly awkward introvert who is
discovering her own power before our eyes - is one of my favorite things about
the movie. She plays all the levels of the character so well."
Alex, portrayed by Nick Jonas, is another player in the game who will either
help them in their quest - or be a sign of the danger that awaits them.
"Alex's avatar is a pilot - Jefferson 'Seaplane' McDonough," says Jonas. "He's
been in the game for a while and has had a bit of a tough time getting through
it. As the movie goes on, we find out that the story's a bit more complicated..."
Dr. Bravestone's rival explorer and adventurer, Van Pelt, sets in motion a plan
that could keep our heroes in Jumanji forever. The role is played by Bobby
"Van Pelt is obsessed with pursuing something elusive and mythic for the sake of
pure discovery," says Cannavale. "It's kind of an old-school idea, being an
explorer. We live in an age when most people think we've discovered everything
there is to discover, so very few people actually go on these expeditions.
There's something really exciting about the idea of stepping into the unknown
that we don't see anymore."
One of the ways that Kasdan was able to keep the actors in balance and the
comedy flowing was by giving his actors the room to find the funny. As Black
recalls, "Karen and I have a great scene where I teach her how to flirt. That
day reminded me of the fun Jake and I had back in the old days on Orange County,
just riffing it and working it. Our scene was like a living organism - it was
just happening in real time. It was exciting."
"It's a dream cast," says Kasdan. "They're all so funny and so completely game-
and they worked so well together. And they're all very physical actors, as well-
which was important, because there's a ton of action in the movie. And they all
embraced that aspect of it fully."
ABOUT THE DESIGN
To bring the exotic location of Jumanji to the screen, the cast and crew made
the sacrifice of transporting themselves to the dangerous jungle interior of...
Oahu, Hawaii. (It's a tough job, but somebody had to do it.)
Both Kasdan and Tolmach felt that securing authentic jungle locales for filming
was essential. Besides providing a wealth of production value to the film's
overall look, it would inform practically executed stunt sequences and more
importantly, cast performances.
"For the audience to believe that our heroes really had been pulled into the
jungle, we really had to go to the jungle," says producer Matt Tolmach.
"Fortunately, Hawaii had a variety of lush jungle environments that gave us
everything we needed. It's a dramatic setting that heightens the tension and
provides an incredible contrast with the everyday life of the real world in the
The island offered a variety of jungle environments, including Waimea Valley,
the North Shore and Kualoa Ranch on the island's lush windward side with
sweeping ocean and valley views for miles.
While the jungle locations made for a natural tableau, the creative eye of
production designer Owen Paterson would elevate it to a unique landscape
befitting the fantastical video game world of Jumanji.
A veteran production designer whose feature films credits include Captain
America: Civil War and The Matrix franchise, among numerous others, Paterson and
his team of set designers, construction workers and set decorators would build
multiple sets on the island, including an enormous transportation warehouse
housing an enormous fleet of cars, boats, planes, and a helicopter.
Another impressive set built from the ground up is Alex's tree house, a refuge
that was no movie magic - it was an actual treehouse built around a sprawling
Banyan tree and hidden in the jungle foliage. The challenge for this set was
ensuring the design, construction and dÃ©cor for the set was comprised of
salvaged or repurposed items from around the island.
"The treehouse was really cool. I would spend some vacation time there if I
could," says Jonas. "Not only was it a great place to really introduce my
character and give the backstory of where he'd been all this time - it also
became a way for us to respect the original film."
In addition to the jungles of Jumanji, Paterson would also need to create the
real-world setting for the film's bookend scenes, establishing two very distinct
visual backdrops. "The exotic fanciful world of Jumanji is such a contrast to
the small-town America setting of Brantford," says Paterson. "It was a welcome
challenge to be able to experiment and play to develop the world of Jumanji. It
was especially satisfying to see our ancient temples, Alex's tree house and
other sets layered so seamlessly within the beautiful lush green jungles and
waterfalls of Hawaii."
In Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the animals run the gamut from oversized
mosquitoes, rhinos, hippos, snakes, jaguars, all cursed by the Jewel of Jumanji,
so there's a menacing quality to even the most benign animal. But in real life,
the cast would have their own encounters with Mother Nature. While Hawaii is
well-known for not having snakes on any of its islands, filming within the rain
forests, particularly at night, came with its fair share of critters. There were
sightings of feral pigs but it was the creepy crawlies that kept cast and crew
on edge - including the stinging pinch of centipedes.
The last six weeks of filming would bring the cast and crew back to the
mainland, where the city of Atlanta, Georgia would provide the suburban
locations for the Brantford scenes as well as sets for various jungle locations:
the bazaar scene, the Jaguar statue, and the maze of booby-trapped tunnels.
The exotic but wildly dangerous bazaar operates as a crossroads for the denizens
of Jumanji. It's here where the teens face a host of new challenges that they
hope take them to the next level. "From a design standpoint, there are multiple
beats that we really had to follow to drive the storytelling - from the
characters' entrance, to the placement of a tent for a central sequence, to a
spot in the bazaar where we find out what Fridge's cake weakness is all about,
and finally to an encounter with Van Pelt's dragoons," says Paterson. "From
there we layered in some great textures and elements of a rough-and-tumble
marketplace where anything goes. It looked like a real bazaar - Ronald Reiss,
the set decorator, layered in food, spices, brass and carpets, just like you'd
find in the Middle East, but it's also supposed to be a videogame, where a
character would go to find weapons, so we layered those in as well. My intent
was to create a real bustling space with an exotic feel that provides a nice
visual contrast from the jungle."
Paterson's design for the revered Jaguar statue would end up being a hybrid
comprised a practical build of a 120-foot-high section, with Jerome Chen's
visual effects team laying in the midsection to the base, which was a massive
rock formation at the Hawaii locations where the bulk of the film action was
shot. The 40-foot high Jaguar head was made from a combination of sculpted foam
and concrete adorned with plaster paint to age the stone look.
To further link the Jumanji board game to the video game version, the filmmaker
wanted to mimic some of the iconic imagery in subtle ways to surprise and
enchant audiences with some nostalgia. Paterson translated the animal game
tokens - an elephant, crocodile, and rhinoceros from the board game and
integrate them into the ancient temple designs as large vine-covered statues
that lead Bravestone and the others toward the Jaguar statue.
Costume designer Laura Jean Shannon says she had an enormous amount of creative
license when conceptualizing her designs for the characters. Armed with a wealth
of research and imagery based on everything from contemporary and classic video
games to historical events and even classic films, she created entirely new
costumes that drew on all of these influences.
With a diverse cast of characters both in and out of the world of Jumanji,
Shannon's aim was to give each their own defining look. Shannon and her team
came up with their own videogame lexicon that touched upon every type of hero,
from the classic adventurer with an enviable video game arsenal of powers and
weapons to the archetypal warrior princess, all while weaving in subtle comedic
"My goal for Ruby Roundhouse was to create a stunning poster woman for that
iconic female videogame character," says Shannon. "She's got a tactical harness,
weapons belt, and some Kevlar elements. We layered it over a highly stylized top
with jungle shorts and boots. Karen Gillan creates the comedy by contrasting
that costume with her character, a smart young lady who all but hides herself at
school yet has been thrown into this badass videogame heroine."
"Ruby's look was a lot of fun," says Gillan. "It was interesting to highlight
the familiar trope, particularly from 90s video games, of the way women were
portrayed in those games. And then to put a twist on it and inhabit the costume
with a girl who would never in a million years dress that way. It allowed for a
lot of comedic moments."
Shannon is equally enthusiastic about her designs for Van Pelt and his Dragoons.
In the film, Van Pelt's greed to possess the Jaguar of Jumanji's emerald eye
places a curse on all of Jumanji, as the jungle animals fall under his evil
spell and do his bidding. That premise jumpstarted Shannon's design plan for Van
Pelt and his army of mercenaries. Van Pelt's look was that of the quintessential
handsome explorer wearing a dashing full-length duster coat, but as he comes
under the spell of the Jewel of Jumanji, he becomes increasingly darker and
menacing. Meanwhile, his minions would begin to morph with the animals of the
jungle - a bulletproof vest would be made from a rhino head; an armadillo shell
would be leg armor. (All pieces were crafted from synthetic material.)
"Van Pelt actually has a physical transformation as he becomes cursed," says
Shannon. "I wanted there to be an element to the dragoons where they have an
affinity, a respect, for the animals around them. We went with everything -
gators, snakes, armadillos, bats, ravens, bears, rhinos, and scorpions, to name
a few. We couldn't have done any of it without some really amazing craftspeople
who created these animal inspired pieces, but all done with synthetics. They all
did a fantastic job."
Shannon's design story was so detailed she gave each squad of dragoons -
explorers, military and bikers - their own spirit animals, so to speak. As the
evil sinks deeper and deeper in Jumanji, each group embodies the essence of
their animal more and more. The explorers are identified by jungle animals,
while the military are noted by larger game, and the bikers by flying animals.
This attention to detail ultimately gave a logical and creative cohesiveness to
her overall designs that harmonized nicely with Paterson's production design to
fully realize Jumanji.
ABOUT THE STUNTS
When it came to executing the full-throttle action to complement the comedic
aspects and propel the adventure of the storytelling, Kasdan and Tolmach turned
to veteran stunt coordinators Gary M. Hymes and Oakley Lehman as well as second
unit director Jack Gill to oversee the film's action.
Key to their approach was to keep the stunts character-driven stunts,
highlighting the characters' videogame powers and weaknesses.
For example, in the Albino Rhino sequence, gigantic albino rhinos stampede
towards our heroes. Johnson, Black, Hart, Gillan and Jonas would spend days
harnessed into a full-size, customized helicopter mounted on a special-effects
gimbal rig elevated twenty feet in the air. That rig was able to simulate
various flying maneuvers, tilting, spinning, ascending and descending at high
Taking advantage of the stunning Hawaiian vistas, many of the stunt sequences
would be built around the island topography, most notably when dozens of
dragoons on motorcycles barrel through the jungle and jump over steep bluffs in
pursuit of our heroes.
When it came to filming multiple fight scenes, Hymes and Lehman would use a
complex system of customized wirework set up in the often unpredictable jungle
environment to capture the highly stylized gaming style fights. Weeks of design,
rigging with heavy equipment, and rehearsal would follow to visualize the
practically executed beats in each sequence.
Johnson and Hart are known for their intense workout regimens, but it was Gillan
- whose character is an expert in various martial arts techniques and "dance
fighting" - did the most extensive work with the stunt team to learn the
extensive fight choreography for her scenes. The stunt team says that the
Brazilian fighting style Capoeira is probably the most comparable to Ruby's
special powers, but the stunt team combined several martial arts techniques to
create their own moves - part dancing, part lethal fighting.
ABOUT THE VISUAL EFFECTS
Visual Effects Supervisor Jerome Chen, whose film credits include Suicide Squad
and The Amazing Spider-Man, would be tasked with visualizing the menagerie of
animals in the film as well as the spectacle of eye-popping action sequences.
The Oscar-nominated VFX artist says that he had two very personal reasons for
signing on to the project. "Jumanji has a huge nostalgic place for me," says
Chen. "I saw it in the theaters when it came out, and the effects were very
unique for its time - the animals and the whole notion of a game that could come
alive. So I was excited to be involved for that reason. But it also happens that
the visual effects supervisor on that movie was a man named Ken Ralston, who
would become one of my mentors. From a professional standpoint, I couldn't
resist the opportunity to work on a franchise that one of my mentors
For Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Chen faced a challenge that he has not yet
faced in his career. "I've never done photo-real animals before," he says. "I
was really intrigued by that, partially because recent movies have done
photo-real animals at a very high level."
It was important for the animals to be photo-real, Chen says, because Kasdan
wanted the film's visual effects to have some aspects that were very grounded in
order to sell other aspects that would be inspired by the film's videogame
setting. "Jake really wanted to ground the effects - the movement, texture, and
feeling of them all had to be real. Because of that, we could push their size -
the elephants and rhinos are one-and-a-half times the size that they are in real
life; the jaguars that guard the peak at the end of the film are twice the size
of normal jaguars. They are larger than life, more ferocious."
Also, because the animals are cursed and controlled by the villain in the story,
Chen could enhance the animals with unique attributes to make them even more
exciting. "That was the really intriguing part: how we would execute the
animals, deal with the human interaction, and make the animals fun while at the
same time dangerous and believable," he says.
Chen also worked with Second Unit Director Jack Gill and the stunt team to
enhance the actors' fighting abilities into a videogame reality. "When Dwayne
Johnson punches someone, he can fly 30 feet. Karen Gillan can leap 30 feet with
a combination of practical wires assisted by visual effects," he says. "To get
Jack's illusion across, I supplemented it by removing wires or adding debris to
make sure the stunt is successful."
Finally, visual effects were a key component in selling the idea of Van Pelt as
a scary villain who controls the animals around him. "He's actually made up of
all the vermin and rodents, the grossest animals you can imagine - they inhabit
his body. He even uses animals specifically to punish people who fail him.
There's one scene where one of the dragoons lets our heroes escape and Van Pelt
punishes him by having a scorpion come out of his mouth!"
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