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Unleasing The Snakes
On the first Anaconda, animatronics were the name of the game. But with the major strides in computer-generated creatures since then, the new movie could make great use of CGI to bring these massive reptiles to pulsating life. Says producer Harrah, "In terms of advancement of CGI capabilities, it's a different world today than it was when we made the first film seven years ago. The action with these snakes is just so much better than anything they could have done back then. It's quite spectacular what our visual effects people have been able to do.”

Director Little says that the snake development process was very complicated. It started with some concepts sketched out by an artist. "We looked at anacondas, but we also looked at pythons and rattle snakes and all kinds of other snakes to see which eyes, which teeth, which palate, which scale, which tones interested us. We certainly didn't want it to look like some sea monster – I wanted it to look as real as possible – but I wanted it to look a little bit smarter than an actual anaconda head appears, and a little bit more awake and alive. So we took a few subtle licenses that make it seem more like a thinking creature.”

But audiences won't only be seeing the work of effects when it comes to the movie's title predator. Says Little, "At the same time I also shot a massive amount of film of real anacondas, and all that material will also be in the movie. I don't believe you will be able to tell the difference between the real snakes and the CGI snake.”

Little was very clear with visual effects supervisor Dale Duguid about what he wanted – a creature that was nature-based, not surreal. Says Duguid, "Certainly the perfect CGI snake is one that you can't differentiate from reality. And that's quite a challenge! A forty-foot snake has hundred of ribs and muscles and organs that you can see moving through its zillions of individually sized scales. Those scales move differently, depending on which way the body is flexing and into what shape. Everything is very dynamic on a snake. So it was a very complex animal to emulate. We used a combination of technologies – certainly there's a heavy reliance on CGI but we also do have a prosthetic component. Although, CGI is the only way you could depict the speed and violence of such a massive animal.”

Little and Duguid discussed whether the snake would have a personality, but Little was adamant that it should not. "It's a machine, with a tiny brain that says, basically, ‘What's for lunch?'” explains Duguid. "Because it doesn't have any human traits like malice, jealousy or rage, it's even more scary. It simply appears on the scene and decides who to eat first. I've never stumbled across a forty foot anaconda in the dark, but I'm sure if I did, I'd be terrified out of my wits. All we then had to do was to introduce the animal into the context of the actors' performances and immediately, it's scary just by association.”

With all the work that went into the creation of a terrifying snake, director Dwight Little knew it was important to tease the audience with anticipation of the snake. To that end, moviegoers won't get a good look at it until well into the film: "By which time”, says Little, "we've built a pretty good foundation on which to scare the wits out of the audience!”

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