Today I want to share a bit about the real stars of the movie—the Whales!
In a time when most of the fantastic images that flicker across the movie screen are computer generated, Big Miracle Director Ken Kwapis pushed to have animatronic whales created.
“We needed the wales to look perfectly real,” said the director “and I wanted to give the actors something tangible to interact with. We studied archival footage of the trapped whales to understand how they moved.”
The New Zeland based Glasshammer Visual Effects meticulously created the trio of very valuable California gray whale puppets the screenwriters had christened Fred, Wilma, and Bamm-Bamm.
During my roundtable interviews with the Big Miracle cast, it because clear that those whale puppets made quite an impression.
What was it like to work with the animatronic whales?
Kristen Bell: They were more real than some actors I know. Not in this movie, but they were so well made from their scarring to their barnacles. From action to cut, you genuinely felt connected, as if they were animals. At least that’s how I felt.
So, it was comedic when they’d raise them up, and you’d realize there was some New Zealander with a joystick, but it was a really unique situation, because you were able to sort of disregard the fact that they weren’t real.
John Krasinski: It was kind of insane because you really did not believe that they were robots. It was very overwhelming to see one of these things pop out. And while you were acting, to have these things continuously coming out of the water was phenomenal.
And it adds a whole other element to the set. I mean, usually, it’s a tennis ball coming out and they say, “We’re going put the whales in later.” You’re like that doesn’t really help us when I’m saying goodbye to a tennis ball. Although I have had some great scenes with tennis balls.
Drew Barrymore: And they’ve put them on these sticks, and sometimes, I’ve even had someone put a smiley face on it, which makes you get out there and you’re like–?
I feel a little bit silly. I’m not a very good pretender. I like to really just get lost in it and believe in all of it. And I know that sounds like an insane person, but then I guess I’m a little insane.
Brush up on your whale facts by visiting this wonderful Big Miracle Infographic (kids will love it). Plus check out the very special Twitter Sweepstakes featured within where 100 randomly selected Twitterers who follow @UniversalPics and include the hashtag #everybodyloveswhales will win a Big Miracle T-shirt!
On Friday I’ll have one last post about my Big Miracle cast interviews and it will include all of the funny and sweet random tidbits that surfaced throughout our discussions. I may or may not have inquired about Ten Danson’s conjugal visits. I know. My parents are going to be so proud.
*Thanks to Universal for sending me to LA to screen Big Miracle and visit with the cast. They paid the bill, but my opinions are my own.