Entertainment Weekly

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Article

The pachyderm hero of ''George of the Jungle''

The elephant from ”Rupyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book” and ”Operation Dumbo Drop” gets some 3-D visual effect’s help to play Shep

Posted on

The Screen Actors Guild could be facing a new threat to its membership: Thanks to computer-generated tricks, four-legged actors — from the chatty barnyard crew in Babe to the dyspeptic pug in Men in Black — are routinely upstaging their two-legged competition. One of the biggest scene-stealers is Tai, a 27-year-old, female Indian elephant, whose credits include Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, Operation Dumbo Drop, and Larger Than Life. In the current George of the Jungle, the live-action comedy based on the old Jay Ward cartoon, Tai gives her most challenging performance yet — as Shep, George’s pet pachyderm, who bounds like a dog, scratches fleas, and even munches on a giant Milk-Bone.

”Tai is an incredible animal, unbelievably calm and responsive,” says director Sam Weisman. ”She could literally hit a mark.” But she couldn’t impersonate a canine without the help of the digital artists at Dream Quest Images. According to Paul Jordan, who headed the movie’s 3-D visual-effects team: ”We had to figure out how to combine the physical limitations of an elephant with the spirit of a dog. Tai could get down into an amazing range of poses, but she does it slowly.”

To help pull off the script’s stupid pet tricks, the F/X team studied elephants and real dogs (Labradors proved the most expressive). For some shots, a houndish panting tongue, perky ears, and large expressive eyes were digitally grafted onto Tai’s mug. For more extensive physical stunts, such as when Shep skids to a stop, the tech whizzes created a completely computer-generated 3-D elephant. Now, if only there were a way to make some human actors seem more than one-dimensional…

Comments