February 27, 2017

Disney's ‘The Jungle Book' won the Oscar today for the best animation and we celebrate the film's Indian origin and more so, it's connect with Bengaluru.

The idea came about creating an adventure film in the jungles of Asia without going there and could the filmmakers make Mowgli and the animal characters believable?

Well, they did, and the way they did it is a story in itself.

Almost everybody around the world has grown up with the story of Mowgli, the little jungle boy in Rudyard Kipling's story ‘The Jungle Book'. Reared by wolves, the man cub's companions in the jungle include unforgettable characters such as Baloo the bear, Bagheera the panther and his sworn enemy Shere Khan the tiger.

The film's only live character was Mowgli, played by 13-year-old actor Neel Sethi. All the rest, including the classic animal characters, were primarily shot in a Los Angeles studio along with the insects buzzing around them, the mist in the jungle and sunlight falling between trees. All this work was created digitally by visual effects houses MPC and WETA DIGITAL.

It was carried forward by Technicolor's Visual Effects (VFX) studio Moving Picture Company (MPC). The MPC branch of Bengaluru was intricately associated with this project from its inception. More than 100 artists and photographers worked together in Los Angeles and Bengaluru to bring about a global integration of this magnum opus.

The team used over 100,000 photographs of the Indian jungles, which were taken during the course of the project. These were primarily used to build the entire sets of the movie, which were so realistic that they almost blurred the lines between fact and fiction for the audience.

According to visual effects supervisor, Robert Legato, each shot was its own science project. “The precision of computer technology brought its own set of problems; how do you achieve something truly life-like and resist the urge to rely on digital perfection predictability?" (LATimes.com)

The crew behind the production wanted to attempt taking audiences to a place they would never encounter in their day-to-day life, and yet try to make it look and feel as believable as possible.

To achieve realistic behaviour and animal anatomy, teams of technicians and artists scrutinised animal movement for reference; the observations were then coupled with a specially designed MPC system that creates fur, skin, music and their relationship to each other.

The Oscar award is an acknowledgement of India's potential in the animation industry.

Text by Aditya Mendonca & Ankita Sarkar
Video courtesy: Technicolor MPC