Recreating the Amazon and More for “Jungle Cruise”

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Rising Sun Pictures (RSP) has recreated huge swaths of the Amazon rainforest with photorealistic precision for Disney’s adventure film Jungle cruise.

The breathtaking jungle environments are used in several scenes in the film, which follows wily skipper Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson) and intrepid researcher Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) as they pilot a rickety riverboat upstream at the search for an ancient tree with miraculous healing powers. . In all, the studio delivered 300 final VFX shots.

Loosely inspired by the famous Disney theme park carousel, Jungle Cruise is a non-stop thriller as Frank and Lily encounter countless dangers and supernatural forces with the fate of humanity at stake. The film is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and the all-star cast includes Edgar Ramirez, Jack Whitehall , Jesse Plemons and Paul Giamatti.



RSP, which previously collaborated with Disney for its 2019 release Dumbohas proven expertise in creating realistic natural environments and complex effects.

Operating under VFX Production Supervisor Jim Berney and VFX Producer Marla Henshaw, RSP spent nearly a year on the project, with much of its effort centered around the complex environments of the rainforest.

“The Amazon is different from other rainforests around the world and has very specific and iconic species. It was important to get all the details right,” says RSP Visual Effects Supervisor Malte Sarnes. “The color of the Amazon River is very The water needed to appear brown, but not dirty, to reflect its organic nature. We also produced over 200 varieties of trees and procedurally distributed them across the landscape in a manner consistent with how they happen in real life.Our largest map includes more than 10 million trees, shrubs and other species.




Matching the density and natural variety of the rainforest through wide and close shots was extremely difficult. RSP studied the terrain, flora and fauna of the jungle, and designed individual plans to match real-world diversity.

“The production provided us with excellent reference footage and we then conducted further research,” recalls CG supervisor Jamie MacDougall. “It was essential to identify the native plant species and also those that are the most common. The rainforest is, of course, overgrown and so the trees are often covered by other things. In some shots, the camera is quite close to the forest, so we had to break away from instance-like repetition and do all the dressing in bespoke detail.

After the studio’s 3D team did the heavy lifting of building the environments, the compositors applied final touches that almost imperceptibly cement the aura of realism. “We added light reflecting off the water, flying insects and glistening dew on the leaves. You really feel like you’re in a warm, humid environment,” says Phil Prates, compositing supervisor “In the opening shot, where we fly through the jungle, beams of light cut through the dense foliage to let you know it’s a sunny day up there.”




RSP’s most demanding sequence follows the boat as it travels down a stretch of river to a dilapidated trading post. For this scene, the studio created the river and all the jungle backgrounds in CG, it also produced extensions for the practical set representing the port city. Additionally, he placed the boat, which was shot practically on a blue-screen stage, in the river and animated it as it passed through the location in the various sequences.

“We started by creating a layout of the river and the jungle in order to choreograph its course,” recalls Sarnes. “It had to fit the narrative of the story, but it also had to go down the river in a logical way, react to the current and leave foam and wake depending on how fast it was moving.”

As the riverboat approaches the port city, a submarine arrives on the scene and fires a torpedo in its direction. The boat narrowly escapes, but the torpedo continues to race through the water until it explodes in the town, destroying it.




Only a small part of the city was practical, most of it being a digital extension. “We added a rubber factory and a large wooden structure, which explodes when the torpedo hits,” notes MacDougall. “There’s also a floating hangar that gets hit by a boat and shattered, along with other structures and props. So the scene required heavy effects simulation. Everything had to explode realistically and interact naturally with the water with ripples and swirls.It’s beautiful material.




Similar to the city, the submarine was a digitally enhanced practical item. RSP extended the size of the gear that was shot on set and added detail. “The submarine was captured in a tank,” Prates explains. “It was shot with pumps to create water flow, but not as much as you would expect from a submarine operating in the Amazon, so we added stock and CG elements to build energy and drama.

RSP’s to-do list also included a macabre scene involving a reptilian figure connected to Frank’s past accepting a nefarious proposal. Although the scene has an obviously supernatural quality, they look and behave in an uncomfortably realistic way. “We collected a lot of reference material on snake movements and body types,” recalls CG supervisor Ryan Kirby. “We wanted to get a good idea of ​​how their muscles roll and articulate in this unnatural situation.”





Getting the snakes to react and understanding the actor’s dialogue while remaining like a snake required finesse. “We got to work early on to lock in the animation in the shots to match the dialogue, which was previously recorded,” Kirby explains. “We had to convey that the python understood and accepted the actor, but not in a cartoonish way. It was about getting the right flavor…injecting character while keeping it grounded in reality.

More than 100 artists participated in the RSP project. During the months of production, the studio remained in almost daily contact with Jim Berney and Marla Henshaw, particularly in the early stages of establishing appearances and narrative elements. “It was exciting working with the Disney production team from the concept phase, through production and delivery,” says VFX Producer Corinne Teng. “We were tasked with a large number of jobs that required considerable creative input. You don’t always get opportunities like this and our team worked together to deliver the filmmaker’s vision.

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