CGI is a hell of a drug. Throughout the past two decades, there has been incredible technological achievements when it comes to utilizing computer-generated effects to create the illusion of an actual figure. Composing a member of the animal kingdom is a common tactic seen in films and #TV and there are certain moments when the composition is nearly flawless. Because tigers are beautifully majestic creatures, the use of CGI can either bring a seemingly impossible scene to life, or turn your movie into a green screen mockery.
Thankfully, we now have the technology available to portray these lovable powerhouses on the big screen, and while there are certain instances when an actual tiger is utilized, there are others where it is created entirely with #CGI. With that in mind, here's a look at five times Hollywood movies earned their stripes.
5. Mike Tyson's Tiger
- Film The Tiger Appears In: The Hangover (2009)
The 2009 comedic hit The Hangover earned an impressive $44 million on its opening weekend and went on to gross over $467 million at the worldwide box office - an unprecedented amount for an original comedy. In one of the film's greatest moments, a full-grown tiger is seen in one of the most sacred human locations: the bathroom. A dazed and unsuspecting Alan (Zach Galifianakis) finds said tiger in the penthouse bathroom, and the hungover crew is left wondering what they could possibly do with their new companion. To everyone's surprise, the tiger (which they then realize belongs to Mike Tyson) also turns up in the back seat of the group's car later in the movie.
In an interview around the time of its release, Ed Helms provided some insight into the hilarious sequence that sees his character, Stu, attempt to subdue the tiger with a sleeping pill inserted into a steak. He stated that the tiger was a combination of both a real tiger on set and CG effects. As you can imagine, the actor also stated that he was terrified.
"I did a ton of takes before I walked in and threw the steak to the actual tiger. I think that what you see in the final cut is a combination of one of those takes with a composited thing of me coming in, getting scared, and running out. ... The tiger actually lunging and pawing, that was done with a trainer. So those two pieces were composited together. But it looks incredible. That said, and I don’t want to undersell the extreme valor and bravery I exhibited in shooting those scenes because - actually, none of it was brave or valorous. I was terrified the entire time."
4. The Gladiatorial Tiger
- Film The Tiger Appears In: Gladiator (2000)
2000's Academy Award winning Gladiator brought audiences to ancient Rome and the violently brutal gladiatorial games that occurred in the Colosseum. During a heart-pumping sequence, Maximus comes face to face with an angry tiger as he fights for his life against Tigris of Gaul.
Actual tigers were used during the marveling sequence and post-production house, The Mill, was tasked with composing the tigers originally filmed on blue screen into the fight sequences.
Ask any historical buff and they will tell you all about the horrifying gladiatorial games that occurred during the ancient Roman era, which have in turn been realized on the big screen by Ridley Scott. The celebrated director initially wanted a rhinoceros to enter the arena, but settled for a tiger when he was given a resounding "no" on that prospect.
3. Richard Parker
- Film The Tiger Appears In: Life Of Pi (2012)
Based on the 2001 novel of the same name, the majority of Life Of Pi is spent at sea with a young man and his ferocious companion, a terrifying Bengal tiger. Director Ang Lee has stated that the most important component of the story is the relationship between Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) and the tiger, so Richard Parker and the Oscar-winning film certainly did well to capture that importance with every scene.
Due to the nature of the story and dangers that arise when handling a tiger on a ship with a teenager, visual effects supervisor Bill Westenhofer realized heavy digital effects were needed as they "didn't want [the] actor to get eaten."
To achieve the daunting task of portraying a realistic tiger interacting with Pi, real tigers were utilized in production for reference, motion capture and brief inclusions in actual scenes. The VFX crew were then tasked with including the intricacies of a tiger that many general audiences wouldn't even notice. Westenhofer reveals that the task "set [the] bar high for CGI" and explains the importance of getting the job done right:
"We couldn't cheat at all. It pushed the artists to go and deliver something that's never been done before, something as photo-real as anyone has ever done with an animal."
Check out the 'Creating Richard Parker' featurette below:
- Series The Tiger Appears In: The Walking Dead
During the seventh season of the popular AMC series #TheWalkingDead, fans were treated to the introduction of King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and his pet tiger, Shiva.
In a universe where walkers roam free and Lori is presumably on the road, it never hurts to have the protection of a loyal feline. With Ezekiel's throne and Shiva's intimidating presence, this duo entered the hearts of fans immediately and caused a twitter storm of adoration when the episode entitled "The Well" aired in October 2016.
When brainstorming how to bring the tiger to life, The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman revealed that he and showrunner Scott Gimple decided on utilizing both animatronics and CGI, as opposed to having an actual tiger roaming around the set.
Greg Nicotero directed the episode and explained how a majority of Shiva was done through animatronics while CGI was used to create facial expressions and specific detailed movement.
Nicotero appeared on The Talking Dead following the episode and revealed building something "so beautiful and so elegant" was a welcome change from the seven years of "dead, horrible things" the crew became accustomed to creating.
1. Shere Khan
- Film The Tiger Appears In: The Jungle Book (2016)
Last year's live action adaptation of The Jungle Book featured an all-star voice cast and was a monstrous hit, grossing over $966 million at the worldwide box office. The truly mind-blowing aspect of this visually stunning film is that it was mostly shot in a Los Angeles warehouse with star Neel Sethi having to interact with blue screen and a sharp imagination.
The aesthetic of the film was not the only reason for why critics and audiences alike flocked to the theater. The development of its characters appealed to many, with virtually everyone lauding Idris Elba's phenomenal performance as the villainous Shere Khan.
Although the animals of the kingdom seemingly coexisted in peace, as soon as the presence of Shere Khan was felt, teeth began to chatter and a sense of unease plagued both the fictional characters and theatrical audience.
Ben Jones, who served as the character supervisor on the film, reveals that the construction of each animal was done entirely from the ground up. The dedication went so far as to create an anatomically accurate portrayal of the animals by tirelessly developing them to mimic their real-world counterparts.
The combination of the seamless CG and Elba's commanding voice performance ultimately translated to a terrifying antagonist on screen that possessed all the subtle details an actual tiger would have.
There are a ton of impressive CG characters and visual effects executed in film and TV nowadays. With mo-cap artists such as Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell illustrating their performances in the rebooted Planet Of The Apes franchise, more actors may begin focusing on the art of CG. No one knows where the technological advancements will be five years from now, but if the above are any indication, there's no limit to the possibilities.
Which tiger would you most want to spend a day with? Let me know in the comments below!