MIGHTY JOE YOUNG
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
"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
"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
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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