The Jungle Book Q&A with Producer Brigham Taylor and Visual Effect Supervisor Rob Legato

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I am so excited to share with you an amazing Q&A with “The Jungle Book’s” producer, Brigham Taylor and visual effect supervisor, Rob Legato.  Can I just describe “The Jungle Book” to you in one word…WOW.  I got the chance to see the behind the scenes effects and wow, wow, wow…the effects that go on behind the scenes are seriously incredible.

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After watching the behind the senses we got the chance to interview producer, Brigham Taylor and visual effect supervisor, Rob Legato.  Check out their Q&A below.

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What would you say was your favorite part about creating this and then 50 years from now, what do you want people to remember most about this version of the film?

Rob Legato: Boy there’s a lot of favorite parts. That’s a hard question. There were a lot of favorite parts. Let me answer the second question. For me, doing this for a long time, having worked on these various films, what I always wanted to be0 able to do is to say ‘okay now that we have all this ability to do anything we want to do, let’s do something very specific in the tradition of why I was interested in the movie making in the first place’.

Rob Legato: I think, in everyone’s mind, you have a backlog of every movie starting from “Casablanca” on that impressed you in some way or saw a thing, a sensation and all that stuff, and so you want to make a movie that uses all this technology that doesn’t remind you of CG oriented movies, or superhero movies. It reminds you of films that you loved when you were growing up and so you almost do so much technology to make it disappear into the background and what I would like for the audience to respond to and then the future audience to respond to is that this is starting to make a demarcation where the digital portion is no longer a dirty word, CGI they did it and CGI is a dirty word.

It’s the same artifice of movie making from the beginning. There were fake walls. There were fake sets, people wearing costumes, people wearing makeup. They are not saying their own words. They are saying words that are written for them but we divorced ourselves from all that when we get into the movie and so CGI should be the same thing and so what I’d like for people to remember is that that’s what really occurred. That is the first time you forgot you were watching something that could have been done on a computer and it hearkens back because it continually reminds you of live action shots you’ve seen so you must be watching a live action movie.

For me, we were making a live action movie. We were not making an animated film, we didn’t want to look like an animated film like that. I guess the first time I think I got a big thrill from it was for some reason of all the characters, and they are all great, is something about Idris Elba playing that character and the melding of his voice, his performance, the character he was playing, the way it was animated, that represented his emotion and then the way it was photographed and the sole total of the composite of that went ‘wow, that’s a real character’. That’s not a guy voicing a cartoon. That’s a real specific thing. And everybody else is great but for some reason he just like clicked in one notch. He went to a level and made that.

Was there anything you weren’t able to do or had to compromise on that you wanted to include in the final film?

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Rob Legato:: Well, for me, I mean it’s all based on individual’s personality what they like, what they don’t like. I’m not a big superhero movie fan, you know, so knocking down a zillion buildings and all that stuff, it doesn’t really do anything for me and any kind of emotional audience would respect, so for me the, enjoying the cinema of it, and there are some shots I would like to have been or have more sort of cinematic quality, like if you were really there and you had Titan Crane and you would do this kind of sweeping move and all that.

We kind of tamed that down quite a bit because at some point when you have something that nothing is real, you add this other bit of flourish to it that you really would do on a big set like a David Lean movie, you kind of shy away from because you are adding as Nora Ephron said, you are putting a hat on a hat. You already have something and now you’re trying to top it and it kind of gives itself away. Now that we are able to achieve what we are able to achieve, then you can stretch the art form a little more to be really what you would do if you had 1,000 extras at your disposal for a shot.

And also then, you know, part and parcel to that is the restraint that even if you see a David Lean movie, if you have the scene where there are 1,000 or 2,000 people, they don’t really have that for that long a time and cinematically they set it up so that’s the payoff shot and then you move off, just like music there is a melody to it.

Brigham Taylor: The cool thing is there isn’t anything that we wanted to do that we couldn’t do technically. There was discussion about well I’d rather not do something if we can’t do it well, and it turns out that everything, the only restrictions were self-imposed. We didn’t want the film to be too long. We were trying to be very strict about the duration, in terms of the overall experience but there was nothing to my recollection that we set out to do that we didn’t accomplish and that was really neat.

Rob Legato: One of the harder things to do was the very end of the movie, which was the book. Jon came up with the concept in January, and before April we were finished with it, but that was really challenging to produce that kind of caliber of work in that short a time without all this…

Brigham Taylor: All the animation that came out of the book.

Rob Legato: Well again, the concept of it, because it’s all loose until it all kind of comes together and then when it comes together we are releasing the movie.

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Which behind-the-scenes moments were you most excited to share with the audience? 

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 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, again, 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.

And then we magically transfer you from that into our modern technology of being able to play it without hitting you over the head with it so it was to come up something we found, a Disney animator to do all the fireworks and all the stuff, and I had my son shoot it in the technicolor way, just the way they did it back in the day and we recreated it on the computer enough with the multiplane camera which was actually in one of the buildings here, the science and industry of it, the idea of it, that’s the kind of the paramount thing is the creative idea.

And then in the process of doing it, even as a filmmaker you’re subtly reminded that you didn’t really come up with anything original. When you look at Snow White and you start doing research—essentially motion capture is roam scoping. It’s just an automatic way, roam scoping. Well, they did that back then to give Snow White the feeling of her dress moving and her moving around and everybody was, ‘How do they get such life like quality to it?’ It was top secret at the time. They filmed it and then the animators used that as a reference.

And it’s no different than what we do. We have different tools. We have more modern equipment. We can see it instantly. They would have to wait a day to do it. So, there’s something about that that we are standing on the shoulders of Walt Disney and his group of people who were trying to push the envelope creatively to give a more emotional experience to the audience and so the fact that we sprinkled that in. I always like, when I hear stuff like that, that I feel it but I don’t exactly know what it is, that there was an idea behind it.

It wasn’t just, ‘Oh, that would be cool,’ cause that’s not good enough. ‘That would be cool,’ cause that kind of diminishes over time, just like it’s a flavor of the month and you forget about it. But it’s something that resonates. It’s something that lives for a long time and you kind of have some deep-rooted psychology to it. That to me was fascinating. I love the history of movies. I love all that. It’s the reason why I got into it in the first place.

How did you decide what makes it to the bonus footage on blue-ray?

Brigham Taylor: The trick is you try to capture everything and seasoned filmmakers, like we had on this film, Jon included, 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.

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, that, and in this case, 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. So, luckily we had just sort of grabbed everything. 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, I didn’t know you did it that way and they were being enthusiastic about it and any time, I mean 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 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.

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.’

Brigham Taylor: But it contains cameras regionally around.

Rob Legato: Yeah everything we do has reference cameras so no matter what, somebody’s got it somewhere. There are probably 1,000s of minutes of material out there at least.

Make sure to check out the official trailer below. 🙂

We had so much fun interviewing and watching  The Jungle Book.

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 Good news for all of you, The Jungle Book is available on Digital HD today, August 23 and on Blu-ray™ August 30.  Stay tuned and follow along with the hashtag #JungleBookBluray!

Disclosure: I attended this trip courtesy of Disney. However, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own! 

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