the jungle book vfx

When you’re actually sitting in a theater and watching The Jungle Book, you don’t realize that there were no exteriors shot for the entire film and that every frame was filmed on a soundstage in Los Angeles. Even though the supporting cast of talking animals were obviously created in a computer, the world on display in Jon Favreau‘s film feels so real and so detailed that it’s often hard to believe that almost every element on the screen was generated by a large team of geniuses after the fact. No matter your opinion the film as a whole (I agree with our own Angie Han that it is very good), the visual effects are truly next generation stuff. This is the new high bar everyone is going to chase for a few years.

And now, a new featurette has arrived to offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse at what it was like to shoot a movie this technologically complex.

This video premiered over at Mashable and I only wish it was longer. In fact, if the eventual Blu-ray release doesn’t feature a lengthy making-of documentary that explores every facet of the production, I’ll have to do something truly drastic, like grumble on Twitter or make an annoyed Facebook post. If there is any film that demands a thorough look at the production and post-production process, it’s this one.

What tickles me the most about this featurette is how low-key the actual filming of The Jungle Book looks. Because literally every location and non-Mowgli character was crafted in post, the film’s production finds young Neel Sethi running on treadmills to simulate his sprinting through the jungle, hugging hilariously fake looking animals in front of blue screens, and interacting with people covered head-to-toe in blue as they use colorful sock puppets to simulate animal characters who will be added later. The actual in-camera footage looks so bizarre that a version of the film without any completed visual effects just became the number one special feature I’d like to see.

And while the featurette should give you renewed respect for director Jon Favreau and the VFX wizards with whom he collaborated, it should also help you appreciate Sethi’s performance a little more. As the sole element of the film that wasn’t created out of pixels, he had to craft a performance while literally interacting with nothing. That his work in the finished film is good at all is a testament to his imagination (and to whatever direction Favreau gave him).

The Jungle Book is in theaters now and if the box office is any indication, you’ve probably seen it by now.

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