While in LA for the Pete’s Dragon Event, we also met with Producer Brigham Taylor and Visual Effect Supervisor Rob Legato to discuss The Jungle Book.
One of the reasons that I fell in love with the new The Jungle Book is that it is seamless. The way that Mowgli and the animals interact in the setting of the jungle, one would be lead to believe that it all actually happened. The reality of what happens behind the scenes is monumental. Learning about what it took to bring it all together was extremely interesting.
The two men that we interviewed, Robert Legato and Brigham Taylor have been a part of many movies that I love.
ROBERT LEGATO is the Visual Effects Supervisor for The Jungle Book and has worked on movies such as Apollo 13 and Titanic.
BRIGHAM TAYLOR is the Producer of The Jungle Book has been associated with Walt Disney Studios since 1994 where he began as a production assistant and rose through the ranks to executive vice president of production. During his time as an executive, Taylor helped oversee a wide range of films, including the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, “Tron Legacy,” “Chronicles of Narnia” and “Oz: The Great and Powerful.” Other titles include “The Rookie,” “Flightplan,” “O Brother Where Art Thou,” “Miracle,” “The Game Plan,” “John Carter,” “Secretariat” and “Million Dollar Arm.” In addition to producing “The Jungle Book,” directed by Jon Favreau, Taylor executive produced “Tomorrowland,” directed by Brad Bird and produced by Bird and Damon Lindelof.
The Process of Creating The Jungle Book
The process of creating a movie can be an extremely long one especially for a movie like The Jungle Book. Did you know that between all the different teams, there were about 800 people working on the movie? But if you include all including musicians and people who were on the set, it would be closer to 2000.
BRIGHAM TAYLOR: Tell me if you agree with this Rob, you know, something in there was sketchy, but there’s a period of time where you’re just working on story before you’re really engaging and for that, not any movie can take any amount of time. This movie is probably about six months, you know, 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, um, you know, mechanisms to do this movie, 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.
BRIGHAM TAYLOR: Yeah. Just story development that was, like I said, about six to eight months.
On Using Puppetry
I have to say that while watching The Jungle Book in the theater for the first time, I had no idea the amazing amount of effort going on behind the scenes. One of the areas that I found extremely interesting was that they used puppeteers to enhance the movie. It may be because right before the movie came out, I found out that one of my childhood friends, Artie Esposito, played an integral role in the behind-the-scenes work.
ROB LEGATO: Yeah, well, part of the decision, too, was the fact that it was Neel, this is 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, you just take, put little knuckles, eyeballs on them, and they did that and they would, you know, adlib a couple of things that were not in the movie but his reaction would be of that is in the movie.
….And so he needs to experience it to make you believe that he’s seeing the animals speaking to him and, and it’s a sort of an unrehearsed speech. He reacts to what they say and organically, so I think that 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.
ROB LEGATO: And they became family, too, because it’s like a family of troop players so he became the big kid’s lead stand-in. He became, you know, all the rest of the characters and so they were used to, were very comfortable I think for Neel to suspend his disbelief. I mean, and he saw everything we were doing. One of the great things about him, motion-captured him, put him in a sort of cartoony version of the film and so we have at least the sense of what the scene was going to be about, who he was looking at, why they were saying what they’re saying and then so when he got into it, he at least knew. He could see through it, like a real actor does, can see through to, you know, see him looking at the crew while he’s talking, um.
When I let them know that I knew one of the puppeteers, Artie Esposito and how I remembered that he always loved Jim Henson puppets, Brigham Taylor said, “His passion has not diminished and he was a very important player for us.”
On Choosing Bonus Content
In putting together the bonus content for the home release, which behind the scene tidbits were you most excited to share with the audiences?
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 like, 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.
ROB LEGATO: 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.
Today is the day! 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
I was invited to attend an all expense paid trip to LA to attend the premiere of Pete’s Dragon and be a part of the #PetesDragonEvent. All thoughts and opinions are my own.