How 'The BFG' Uses CGI To Do Something Gigantic
The BFG is nothing if not a magical, so when it came to adapting Roald Dahl's children's book into a live action film, it makes sense that director Steven Spielberg needed a little CGI magic to bring the story to life. There's a reason The BFG hasn't been made into a live action movie — and that reason is named giants. Visual gags and distorted perceptions, like those used to make the hobbits look small in The Lord of the Rings series, can only work for so long. And something tells me the height ratio of giants to humans is much larger than that of humans to hobbits. But, just how much CGI is used in The BFG ? Is it one big CGI fest, like Avatar, or is it more of a real world CGI like in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? The answer, it seems, lies somewhere in between.
The use of CGI in The BFG is quite liberal out of necessity. When your two main characters are a Big Friendly Giant and an orphan girl named Sophie, you don't really have a choice. Consequently, it would be easy to think that Spielberg signed on to the film because he wanted a new CGI challenge, but the truth is he initially didn't want to use CGI at all. "At first, I thought we would do it with actors... with forced perspective, staging, actors with false eye lines," Spielberg said in an interview with The New York Times. "But then I realized... it wouldn't be magical. And I thought that the most important thing I could contribute was to try to create real cinematic magic."
Spielberg is known for his ability to seamlessly blend CGI (or similar effects) with live action to create iconic fantasy films — E.T., Jurassic Park, War of the Worlds — but The BFG takes CGI to a new level. There is a lot of CGI in The BFG — every frame with the BFG, played by Mark Rylance, required digital enhancements and effects — but Spielberg wanted to make sure that the CGI didn't overshadow Rylance's performance. (Rylance, it should be noted, just won an Oscar for his performance in the Spielberg-directed Bridge of Spies.) "The whole nature of my approach to The BFG was to be able to use technology to advance the heart and create a flawless transposition between the genius of Mark Rylance and the genius of WETA [Digital]," Spielberg told Collider.
It was crucial for Spielberg that the CGI not erase Rylance completely the way that other motion capture technology does (i.e. Avatar, where a human becomes something completely different). It was a challenge Spielberg called "the most ambitious motion capture of a character that any film has ever done" in an interview with Empire .
There might be a decent amount of CGI technology in The BFG, but don't be fooled into thinking that the film is another Daw of the Planet of the Apes or Tintin. The CGI might be a crucial part of how The BFG was made, but it's not crucial to the telling of the story, and that's the way it should be.
Images: Walt Disney Studios