'The Little Mermaid' Visual Effects Supervisor Details How 'Truly Amazing' Halle Bailey Became A Mermaid

‘The Little Mermaid’ Visual Effects Supervisor Details How ‘Truly Amazing’ Halle Bailey Became A Mermaid

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Visual effects supervisor Tim Burke describes the complex digital effects used to put “truly stunning” Halle Bailey as Ariel and the rest of the cast members under the sea in Rob Marshall’s new musical adaptation of the Disney film The little Mermaidwhich is expected to earn up to $120 million over the four-day vacation.

In a new episode of The Hollywood Reporter‘S Behind the screen podcast, Burke – Oscar winner for Ridley Scott Gladiatorwhich was additionally nominated for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban AND Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and 2 – details the VFX process for making the film, which involved shooting the actors on rigs and creating hundreds of CG creatures under the sea.

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To capture the performances of Bailey and other actors playing aquatic characters, “it really felt like the principle for this would be to put the actors on platforms that could be spatially moved across the floor, using the stunt people to actually push the platforms and also to introduce dance people who could help the puppeteers of the actors so they can actually move in a way that essentially gave us the movement of their head.

“If you are held in a platform, there is no way to move your body. You have to be sheltered from a certain point,” she explains. “We used their faces for real, which allowed them to emote lines of dialogue, to give us the performance. … But then we’d replace everything but the faces and hands with digital bodies, which would allow us to translate motion through their bodies to make it look like they were actually pushing themselves through the water.

He adds that not only was Bailey “delivering the most amazing performance and singing, within these rigs, but she was also giving a performance and believability.”

“It was really her performance that sold that she was a mermaid. Replacing her body, putting her tail, of course, creating the animation that accompanied her physical movement, it was so much easier when we actually had a believable performance from her. She did an unbelievable amount of intense physical training to be able to work on this because she spent – I don’t know how many hours a day, but several hours a day – almost supporting herself through her stomach muscles in different positions (in the drilling).

Other topics include the musical number “Under the Sea,” which he narrates, was the most complex as some individual shots contained up to 400 or more hand-animated characters.

He also shares his thoughts on the state of the VFX business. You can listen to the full conversation here: