|Jack Black as Lemuel Gulliver in Gulliver's Travels|
Jack Black steps in on Jonathan Swift’s fantastical story of the seafaring adventurer Gulliver in “Gulliver’s Travels.” The story takes Gulliver to the elusive Bermuda spot who discovers the land of Lilliput where the inhabitants are tiny. The book was since heralded as a brilliant satire on human behavior when it was first published in 1726. Since then, the story of Gulliver’s Travels has captured the public’s imagination for almost three hundred years.
In the latest spin of today’s movie wonders, Jack Black who stars and serves as executive producer in “Gulliver’s Travels” brings the story with humongous fun laden with superb 3D visual effects.
Noted visual effects house hy*drau”lx (“2012”) worked closely with Rob Letterman on the CG ‘bot design and execution. Also making critical contributions to the world of Lilliput was premier visual effects house WETA Digital, which won Oscars for its groundbreaking work on “Avatar,” “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “King Kong”. Here, too, the robot design married the modern with the less-so. “Part of the original concept of the robot was to have its contemporary design accompany a Victorian-era technology,” says hy*drau”lx’s Erik Liles. “This gave rise to the more mechanical aspects of the robot’s locomotion – its gears and pulleys system.”
The visual effects wizards at hy*drau”lx didn’t make things easy for themselves. Since the filmmakers continued to sort through these challenges and put the final CG touches on their creation well into the post-production process, during production Jack Black found himself battling a junior-sized version – a robot suit worn by a stuntman. This allowed Black to interact with the robot during filming, helping both the actor and visual effects team map out the no-holds-barred contest we see onscreen.
The entire cast – robot included – appreciated not only the talents of Jack Black the Actor, but the work ethic and dedication to the project from Jack Black, the Executive Producer. The latter was a stern taskmaster for actor Black during some of the film’s action set pieces. For a scene where Gulliver singlehandedly battles the Blefuscian armada, high-speed cameras captured Black, who stripped to the waist and jiggled his bare torso to simulate the effects of hundreds of miniature cannonballs slamming into Gulliver’s stomach, making waves in his flesh.
Even when things were relatively calm in Lilliput, and Black wasn’t before the cameras, he was on set everyday to feed his lines to his cast mates who were acting to Gulliver’s eye line. With over half the film set against enormous green screens situated on massive soundstages, Black’s line readings were invaluable to the other actors.
Also essential in assisting the actors, as well as creating a cohesive and relatable world, was a groundbreaking camera known as the DualMoCo (the “MoCo” is for motion control), which was used extensively for the first time on “Gulliver’s Travels.” The DualMoCo utilized complex computer technology and synchronized camera cranes to capture, in real time, the bigger-than-life Gulliver and the tiny Lilliputians in the same scene, despite the characters’ enormous height differential. While Black was in one area of the soundstage, performing against a green screen, the actors portraying the Lilliputians would be on another part of the stage, acting “opposite” Black. Adds producer Gregory Goodman: “On screen, you’ll see Jack speaking with a character who’s a tiny fraction of Gulliver’s size. The aim in using the DualMoCo was to make the effect look real and yet like nothing you’ve seen before.”
“Gulliver’s Travels” opens January 8 (Saturday) in theaters in 3D and 35mm formats in all theaters from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.