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VFX Supervisor of ‘The Little Mermaid’ Explains How ‘Really Amazing’ Halle Bailey Became a Mermaid


Visual effects supervisor Tim Burke describes the complex digital effects used to make Halle Bailey as Ariel and the rest of the cast members “really awesome” in Rob Marshall’s new musical adaptation of Disney’s The little Mermaidwho is expected to earn a whopping $120 million over the four-day vacation.

In a new episode of The Hollywood Reporter‘s Behind the screen podcast, Burke – an Academy Award winner for Ridley Scott’s Gladiatorwhich was also nominated for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban And Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and 2 — describes the VFX process for making the movie, which involved lensing the actors on rigs and creating hundreds of CG creatures under the sea.

To capture the performances of Bailey and other actors playing water characters, “it really seemed like the principle for this would be to put actors on rigs that could be moved spatially across the floor, using stunt people to actually move the rigs and also to introduce dance people who can help with the puppetry of the actors so they can actually move in a way that essentially gives us the movement of their head.

“When you’re restrained in a harness, you can’t move your body in any way. You have to be okay from a certain point,’ he explains. “We really used their faces, allowing them to provide lines of dialogue to emote, to give us the performance. … But then we would replace everything but the faces and the hands with digital bodies, which then translates the movement through their bodies, so that it looks like they are really moving through the water.”

He adds that not only did Bailey “deliver the most amazing performance and vocals, within these rigs, but she delivered a performance and a credibility.”

“It was really her performance that sold the fact that she was a mermaid. Replacing her body, setting up her tail of course, creating the animation that accompanied her physical movement was so much easier when we had a believable performance from her in the first place. She did an incredible amount of intense physical training to work on this, because she spent – ​​I don’t know how many hours a day, but several hours a day – almost supporting herself by her abs in different positions (in the oil rigs).”

Other subjects include the musical number “Under the Sea”, which he says was the most complex, as some individual shots featured as many as 400 or more hand-animated characters.

He also shares his thoughts on the state of the VFX business. You can listen to the full conversation here:

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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