Within the first 15 minutes of this week's #TheWalkingDead, #KingEzekiel and his fearsome feline, #Shiva, finally took center stage. Whether you trusted Ezekiel on the spot or remain as skeptical as Carol, one thing is for sure: Shiva is one cool cat.
Comic book readers had long been awaiting the appearance of these fan favorites, but converting a cartoon tiger into a live action one is no easy feat. The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman even admitted to Entertainment Weekly that Ezekiel and his pet tiger were way out there, and stretched the limits of what they could create on screen:
"You know, a guy who has a pet tiger [and] who speaks like some kind of weird medieval king is pretty strange, and I have to be honest, when I was writing the comic, I was like, 'Hell yeah, let’s see how we handle this tiger in the show! This is going to be difficult!'"
And now that we've seen Shiva in the flesh (so to speak), she's already a big success.
So just how did TWD creator Robert Kirkman manage to create such an impressive four-legged figure? Rather than investing in the risky business of theatrical tigers, Kirkman and showrunner Scott Gimple opted to use a combination of animatronics and CGI. Kirkman described their decision making process at San Diego Comic-Con:
"I was asking Scott [Gimple], 'How do we plan on doing this thing?' He pointed out that it's not particularly humane to have like a live tiger on set and it's also very dangerous for the actors... But yeah, so I was like, 'Great! No real tiger. I can still come to set. That sounds awesome because I would not have gone to set if there had been a real tiger anywhere near set. So there's no real tiger at all. It's all magic."
In an interview with EW, #GregNicotero, who directed "The Well" explained that Shiva was mostly animatronic, with CGI being used to create facial expressions and specific detailed movements, and even the right colors:
"We started building at the end of February, and I have a tremendous advantage, which is experience with animatronic animals starting way back with Dances with Wolves. So we created the character and the forms digitally, and then output those into full-size standing and sitting animatronic tigers... The majority of it, will be animatronic. And then we will digitally augment with either moving eyes or moving tail, or we will have a few shots if the creature has to walk, take several steps forward, or turn around, or roar, going from a neutral expression to a roaring expression, we’ll do those shots digitally. But it’s been a very collaborative effort between myself and digital effects and [showrunner Scott M. Gimple] to dial in just the right patternings, the right saturation of color, the right movements."
In The Talking Dead, Nicotero added that after so many years of the grotesque graphics of the undead, creating a majestic tiger was a welcome change of pace:
"For seven years, we've been doing all these dead, horrible things, so to build something that's so beautiful and so elegant [is something] I've been excited about since day one."
What did you think of Shiva on 'The Walking Dead'?
Check out the video below to see how Shiva stacks up to other CGI tigers in cinema: