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About The Visual Effects
Secure with their ensemble of human acting talent, the filmmakers' biggest challenge was the "casting" of the title character, Mighty Joe

Secure with their ensemble of human acting talent, the filmmakers' biggest challenge was the "casting" of the title character, Mighty Joe. Breathing life into the emotional 15-foot-tall gorilla of the film demanded the expertise of some of the film industry's most skillful effects wizards.

"There's such a magnetic quality watching animals on-screen," says director Ron Underwood. "So to have the film's title character be an animal was quite appealing, although, also quite challenging. The concern then became, how do we portray Mighty Joe?

"There was some thought about finding a real gorilla, as well as discussions of our options as to the various special and visual-effects options open to us," continues Underwood. "We needed Joe to feel like a real gorilla while having him perform all of the physically demanding activities dictated by the script-retaining the heart and great emotion of the character."

Ultimately, Mighty Joe became a multi-faceted gorilla: an amazing creation crafted by a team of talented and experienced Animatronic designers, technicians, computer graphic artists, puppeteers and performers, using an innovative blend of cutting-edge technology and time-honored-effects techniques. Animatronics, computer graphics, as well as forced perspective and blue-screen camera work with John Alexander in a 40% scale "Joe" suit all contributed to the character of Joe.

"It was really challenging in terms of mixing 40% perspective work with full-scale live action," explains Ron Underwood. "After shooting on our full-scale set, we would put John Alexander in the suit-40% the size of Big Joe. We needed to shoot him in slower motion in order to feel his mass so that he appears the size he should be. When you're dollying along, you are trying to replicate the exact movements, but when you're switching from 24 frames per second to 32 frames per second, everything scales down. It's been incredibly complex, with an enormous amount of mathematics and technology going into each shot."

With Joe, Academy Award®-winning Rick Baker designed his most ambitious creature yet. "I had never built a big, hydraulic character before and I thought it would be fun-and scary," laughs Baker. "Until working on this film, I thought 'Gorillas in the Mist' was our best work to date, but with Joe, I think this represents the best gorilla built to date."

"Rick Baker is the greatest prosthetic make-up artist in the world and is an expert on gorilla behavior," notes producer Tom Jacobson, who is obviously thrilled to have Baker on the team. "He's a gorilla god!"

Supervising producer Ralph Winter agrees, noting "Joe is fantastic! It's astonishing how lifelike he is-he is amazing to watch, because he is so real."

Baker has continued to perfect his work with each of the projects he has worked on over the years and "Mighty Joe" features new innovations.

"We made the eyes more realistic by giving them a corneal bulge, as opposed to complete spheres, as on the eyes of 'Digit' in "Gorillas in the Mist," explains Baker. "This made it easier to expand the range of emotions which Joe is required to portray."

After formulating the creature's dimensions, materials to be used and the mechanics for operating Joe, Baker and his Cinovation Studios designers spent about a year creating the animal. Th


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