I never knew how much work went into making a move such as The Jungle Book until I sat down and talk with Producer Brigham Taylor and Visual Effect Supervisor Rob Legato a few weeks ago. From everything to story development, setting, puppets, computer generation, details, to the screen is a process indeed. I was fascinated in learning every detail of the production and have a whole new outlook when it coming to making a movie.
During this process of filming they took bits and pieces of it and added to the bonus content on The Jungle Book Blu-ray/DVD release available on 8/30 in stores and online. This is a must-see when picking up the movie as it will reveal the innovative filmmaking technology used to create the richly immersive jungle world and characters; Follow the journey of the film’s only on-screen actor, charismatic newcomer Neel Sethi (Mowgli); Delve into a candid and humorous scene-by-scene audio commentary with director Jon Favreau and meet the all-star voice cast who help bring the film’s colorful characters to life, as well as the musicians who accent the adventure with a majestic music score.
How long did the whole process take from start to finish?
BRIGHAM TAYLOR: The story development took about six months – eight months, something like that, so from the time you’re really starting to prep the film to about the time we first met and started talking, you’re talking about a year of, you know, of sort of pre-production and another year to finish it.
ROB LEGATO: Yeah it was very short to actually produce the film from the moment we started shooting until the moment we released it, you know, up till now it was impossible to do a film that has this many shots in it, in 3-D, all computer generated. It was a miracle. And so it was about 2-1/2 years when I originally came on to start talking about it. We had built up and make sort of in-house mechanisms to do this movie and the art department and the virtual art department and all the various things. But, 2-1/2 years I think is a full-on production but I don’t know what happened prior to that.
How many people did you have on your production team?
BRIGHAM TAYLOR: Well, different amounts at different times but when we were fully staffed, when everyone was in full swing we had other people around because you are talking about the massive teams and visual effects. The crew when we were actually shooting on set was modest in that, a couple hundred, but you know, you’re talking over 800 people.
ROB LEGATO: There were probably 1,000, maybe 2,000 people, all in all, if we could count all the musicians and all the musicians in New Orleans and if you count everybody that was actually on the film at one point or another, it’s probably close to 2,000 people, a lot, precisely it’s a lot of people.
Can you talk about the puppetry used in the film?
ROB LEGATO: Yeah, well, part of the decision, too, was the fact that it was Neel and the very first film he has ever been in and how do you elicit a response from somebody and keep it fresh take after take after take? So, that’s why I thought, I even mentioned in there, I thought it was a brilliant idea that you have somebody that will capture his imagination with small little things, like little knuckles with eyeballs on them, and they did that and they would adlib a couple of things that were not in the movie but his reaction would be of that is in the movie.
ROB LEGATO: So that part, for experienced actors, they are used to, and this happens all the time, people ask about well, you know, if you’re in a blue screen stage how many actors know what you’re doing? It’s like well they never see that. They are seeing this. They are seeing everybody on their I-phones, the crew kind of bored and they are talking to an ex on C-SPAN and so they are really used to the artifice of movie making. They are not even looking at the other actor, even if they are doing it off-screen, they are looking just slightly off so the camera looks, makes it look like they are looking at it but they are not.
ROB LEGATO: We needed to experience it to make you believe that he’s seeing the animals speaking to him and it’s a sort of an unrehearsed speech. He reacts to what they say and organically, so I think that decision was, you know, one of the best ones for this kid.
BRIGHAM TAYLOR: Yeah that was one of the most discussed things cause the puppeteers also brought a human element performance onstage and so when we needed to build some, not every shot required a scale puppet, but sometimes we did, whether it was to cast a shadow or to get the right byline and also to get a performer in there and so we turned to the Henson company to build those. They didn’t have much time because we figured this out, we need that and they turned it around quickly and they also turned us onto some of these fun performers with Artie and Allen and Shaun. These guys were very used to working that way but also were just great at feeding these lines and giving the performances so that was vital, something that Jon paid a lot of attention to because he knew how important Neel’s performance was.
What was the most daunting scene and did you have any difficulties with any scene that was hard to work through?
BRIGHAM TAYLOR: I don’t know if I’ll have the same answer here but one was much discussed in this piece which was saying goodbye to the mother because of the interactivity and also because of the level of performance, again, we had Neel in his first film, having done no acting prior, and it was a heavy emotional scene. It was also one of the most demanding technical scenes. And so, that was one that a lot of, you know, discussion we had early on. I think, I feel like we could talk about that scene for a year, both in terms of how we’re going to accomplish it.
BRIGHAM TAYLOR: But then also to have performers from the day and there were shots of Sara Arrington, another one of our off-screen sort of performers who was really key to just being there in the moment for Neel and giving the emotion of the mother in that moment and then I also look at the stampede in terms of you saw that little muddy trench that we built, which was all we had for that scene you know? Neel didn’t particularly love — he’ll be the first to admit he didn’t love being muddy.
In putting together the bonus content for the home release, which behind the scene tidbits were you most excited to share?
BRIGHAM TAYLOR: For me, just as a movie fan, I like hearing about little inspirations and tidbits that you wouldn’t have necessarily understood and this isn’t just one piece. It’s sprinkled throughout the pieces, like when Jon mentions how we were looking at the piece for Bambi and in terms of the inspiration for the first move and then there are six or seven of those moments. I find it interesting. I find it all engrossing and I worked on it. I like having digested in 30 minutes what took 2-2-1/2 years and looking at it that way, but I love hearing about the sort of behind the scenes creation inspirations in terms of why stuff wound up on the screen the way it did.
ROB LEGATO: And I think for me, I need something in the back of my head to produce something, is the idea of the the homage to Disney, the very opening piece which was there is a very slick animated CGI opening to all Disney movies now and they take advantage of everything, and there is something very charming about the brilliant idea that they had with the multiplane camera and all that, so how do we subtly create a homage that makes you feel comfortable, like you’re watching an old Disney film.
How do you go about the process of picking what is going to go on the bonus feature?
BRIGHAM TAYLOR: The trick is you try to capture everything and seasoned filmmakers, like we had on this film as Jon included. He brought in a crew very early on just because we felt this was going to be an interesting process and project so we were capturing stuff at every key point throughout so that we would have options and you kind of get it all. We have a great team at Disney that produces this stuff and so they come back and start to say — because they have fresh perspective in saying this was really fascinating.
BRIGHAM TAYLOR: This was fascinating and luckily we have material to support all of that so it’s a dialogue about we’ll give you everything and I think we’re a very user-friendly production and then Disney says wouldn’t it be great if we looked at this and that. I think there was enough to talk about that they were able to produce a nice piece like this which was kind of going above and beyond because it’s a really fun visual narrative to making this movie. It’s hard to decide at the beginning of the process what is going to be interesting but you do know when you go to New Orleans and you have Chris and you have Bill and you have Jon, you know you’re going to cover that. But in this case, we tried to kind of cover everything from behind the scenes perspective.
ROB LEGATO: Yeah and the behind the scenes team at Disney actually was the ones that just really knew, getting all this material and they were coming up just like an audience member saying I didn’t know you did it that way and they were being enthusiastic about it. There’s always a regret when we do this stuff because you wish to document it after it worked but while you’re doing it you’re under tight pressure, you know, to get it done. You don’t know if it’s going to work or not. You don’t want to look like an idiot and so you don’t give it the, kind of the due where you really, let’s stage this almost for a camera so people kind of do it.
ROB LEGATO: We never do that. We’re just like oh my God, we’re going to lose it in 10 minutes, let’s get this shot and you’re done. It’s like oh that would have been cool to record.
Photo Credit: Jana @ MerlotMommy.com
Be the first to bring home The Jungle Book on Blu-ray August 30 and venture deep into the jungle with in-depth bonus features!
Disclosure: Disney provided me with an all expense paid trip to LA to the #PetesDragonEvent #Moana #QueenofKatwe #JungleBookBluray event. All opinions are 100% my own.