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A Young Dreamer Meets A Classic Story

For a young New Zealand boy named Peter Jackson, the viewing of a 1930s black-and-white film one Friday night was more than just an evening's diversion—it quite literally became a life-changing event.

The filmmaker remembers, "I first saw King Kong when I was about eight- or nine-years-old on TV in New Zealand. And it made such an impact on me, such a huge impression, that it was the moment in time when I had decided I wanted to be a filmmaker. I thought, 'I want to make movies. I want to be able to make movies just like King Kong.' It had that profound an effect on me."

To have chosen King Kong as an entrée into the world of filmmaking shows just how discerning and imaginative Jackson was, even as a child. RKO's 1933 masterpiece was a cutting-edge film by the era's standards, utilizing a combination of groundbreaking visual effects (stop-motion animation, rear screen projection, multi-plane glass paintings, detailed tabletop miniatures) to realize the fantastic story of a giant ape captured in the wilds of a forgotten island and brought back to New York City, where he meets his tragic fate. During its initial release, the title smashed national attendance records and earned more than $1.75 million for the financially strapped RKO (pulling it back from bankruptcy), who periodically re-released King Kong up until the 1950s. In 1991, King Kong was selected to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress' National Film Preservation Board (which is dedicated to the film preservation efforts of American film archives and historical societies). The cultural significance of the mythic tale continues to fuel the imagination of film historians, artists and authors to this day, more than seven decades after its initial theatrical release.

That defining Friday-night viewing stayed with young Jackson, and barely three years later, he set out to live up to his career decision…and at age 12, he started work on his own version of the 1933 classic. His mother donated an old stole, which provided the gorilla's fur; the garment was cut apart and used to cover a padded wire-frame body, and voilà—a stop-motion Kong figurine. The top of the Empire State Building was a painted cardboard model (to conserve the budding filmmaker's efforts, he did not paint the back of the structure, since that side was never going to appear on camera). The New York City skyline was provided via a painted bedsheet (admittedly more appropriation than donation, as his mother was never informed of the bed linen's involvement in the project).

Sadly, the film was never completed, although the fur-covered figure of Kong, the Empire State model and the skyline backdrop still exist. But the idea continued to preoccupy Jackson.

Jackson's ongoing collaborator, screenwriter Philippa Boyens, comments, "I think for a lot of filmmakers—not just Peter—but for a lot of others, the original King Kong is one of those landmarks when you saw cinema reaching for the impossible and trying to do something extraordinary. In terms of the actual story—a giant gorilla, and then putting that giant gorilla in New York?—is about as brilliant as cinema gets in terms of its ability to tell a story differently than reading a book or hearing it orally. I think that relevance for today's audience is still there—and Kong is again reaching for that." Flash forward several years, when the director had already triumphed as a singular new voice in filmmaking with several projects, most notably the confident entry of 1994's inventive and acclaimed Heavenly Creatures (which received an Oscar® nomination for Best Screenplay).

In 1996, his thoughts once again returned to King Kong and this time, the obsession had advanced far enough that a full-length screenplay was drafted. Jackson remarks, "Our 1996 draft was written as a very Hollywood-y, sort of tongue-in-cheek adventure story, full of gags and one-liners."

Facing a marketplace that was also welcoming its own "big gorilla" movie in Mighty Joe Young and other projects like Godzilla, Universal put the project on hold—to the heartbreak of Jackson. Instead, the director was to begin an ambitious project that would occupy the next several years of his life: The Lord of the Rings.

To accomplish this, Jackson assembled an enormous team of film artisans and actors to his native New Zealand and shot all three of the entries simultaneously (over 16 months, with 274 days of filming), the first filmmaker in history to complete such a daunting task. The first installment, The Fellowship of the Ring, hit theaters in 2001; The Two Towers in 2002, and The Return of the King in 2003.

Even before attending the last of the awards ceremonies where Jackson and his team would be lauded for their three-part epic, the idea of remaking King Kong once again returned. Fresh from his experience of breathing life into one of the greatest fantasy adventures in literature, the filmmaker now approached the story of the great ape much differently than his previous attempt in 1996.

He explains, "One of the lessons that we learned with The Lord of the Rings movies was the more fantastical your story, the more you should try to ground it in the reality of the world. We set King Kong in the 1930s, but we're making it a very realistic 1930s. We wanted to make it feel very grounded, and the adventure on Skull Island is very gritty. It's a story of survival. It's a story of relationships and love and empathizing for this huge beast. But it's told in a very down-to-earth, realistic way. I think because something has fantasy elements in it doesn't mean that you have to approach it with a fantastical style as a filmmaker. I think it's much more interesting to approach fantasy through the door of reality and make it as real as you possibly can. That gives it the veneer of the real world, which makes the fantasy all the more extraordinary. We had definitely learned some lessons doing Lord of the Rings that we didn't know in 1996, and we applied those lessons to doing a complete revision of the screenplay."

With this maturity as a filmmaker, Jackson was now ready to tackle King Kong and weave reality with fantasy into his version of the film. He shares, "The original 1933 King Kong is my favorite movie of all time. And I guess for that reason, I wanted to remake it. I just thought a version of this wonderful story told with the technology that we have available to us today would be a really amazing thing. So I guess I'm remaking King Kong as a fan who wants to see a high-tech version of this wonderful story." It really comes down to one filmmaker's continued fascination with a movie creature whose presence has impacted popular culture for nearly 75 years.

Jackson continues, "It seems strange. I mean, King Kong has been part of my life for so long now. For 35 years, I've had this movie as my favorite film, and the fact that I'm remaking it now is an incredible dream come true—it's something I would of never thought would ever happen. It's just really cemented my affection for King Kong, having been the person that gets to remake it. I feel very obligated to him, because he really did start my career off—he kick-started me in the direction towards being a filmmaker. And in a way, if I can do him honor by telling his story well today, then I'm returning something of the favor that I owe him."

The Actress, The Director, The Playwright and The Crew

Jackson's decision to keep the tale in its original time and setting—the Depression Era of 1933—was a simple one, based on two deciding factors: "I just wanted to be able to have the climax of the film—which is obviously the iconic sequence of the biplanes attacking Kong on the top of the Empire State Building—and I couldn't figure out a way that you could ever justify having biplanes attacking him if it was set in the modern day. Also, I think it gives the film a little kick sideways into a slightly fantastical realm as well. I think that there's no real sense of mystery or discovery in the world anymore today. Yet in the 1930s, you could believe that there was one tiny, uncharted corner that hadn't been discovered by man yet…this one tiny, little speck of an island on the ocean that could have slipped through the net."

This world of 1933 New York is also of significance to the central female character of the story, Ann Darrow. As an actress in vaudeville, Ann earns a living by entertaining, by making people laugh—in songs, skits and with physical humor. Though her onstage persona is a happy one, her life away from the theater is hardly lighthearted. The inherent sadness in her character is palpable—in some ways, her outlook is mirrored by the Great Depression around her. (When she later meets Carl Denham, she offers a particularly character-defining line: "Good things never last, Mr. Denham.") And now, Ann finds that her particular theatrical dedication has become a dying art form. She turns up to work one day and finds the theater shuttered, her job ended. It is this desperate situation that sends her out into the streets where she meets Denham, who convinces her to board the Venture…she just has to take the first step down a path towards her destiny.

When trying to find an actress who could play the multilayered levels of Ann's character—the survival instinct, the grit, the underlying melancholy—the filmmakers had long wanted to work with Oscar® nominee Naomi Watts. Jackson had seen her revelatory performance in Mulholland Drive (and in other films) and had kept her in mind for the possibility of a future collaboration.

He says, "I thought, 'Wow, I'd love to work with her one day.' You know, she's such a great actress—she's so true, so honest. I mean every moment that she is playing she's playing it from a place of complete emotional honesty. You can see it in her eyes. And so we'd really admired her work; we were fans of hers. But I'd never met her. And when the notion of doing King Kong came up, we knew that we had to cast somebody in the role that had been immortalized by Fay Wray. And we thought, 'Well, this could be our opportunity to work with Naomi.'"

Jackson and his team were in London, completing post-production for The Return of the King, when Watts came to a meeting over dinner…and left agreeing to assay the role that had made Wray a star.

The draw for Watts was immediate. She explains, "When you choose a film, there are so many elements that you have to think of. But for me, generally speaking, the first thing is the director. Having seen most of Peter's work, I was hugely excited when I got the call to come and meet. There was no script at that point, but I did know the original film and it seemed like a great idea. And with Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, and the great scripts they've produced before, it seemed like a very full package. So I actually agreed to do the movie before having read it!"

Much further down the road, when the script was drafted, Watts' expectations were more than met. She continues, "When I finally got the script, I just thought, 'Wow, there's so much in it.' It was different than anything I'd done. Although it's an eventspectacle film, the characters have a huge amount of depth. The story is incredibly human."

Watts adds, "The other thing I look for in a project is the dynamics, usually in the relationships. And the ones here are rich—I love trying to work out the human behavior that goes into everything. On top of that, there is a wealth of great stuff—action, chases, humor, song and dance even—so much more than I ever thought would be in it."

It was later that Jackson arranged another meeting for Watts, Walsh, Boyens and himself—this time with the actress whose career became forever linked to the role of the beauty that bewitched the beast called Kong: Fay Wray. Not only were the filmmakers hoping that Wray would agree to complete a cameo in the film, they were also interested in simply spending time with the legendary screen beauty—the only surviving principle cast member from the original film.

The mid-winter meeting took place in the New York apartment of a friend of Wray's. During the evening, talk turned to what it was like to be an actress working in the film industry in the 1930s, which was of particular interest to Watts. Wray had completed around a dozen pictures the same year she made King Kong—there was not the luxury of a long rehearsal process or leisurely breaks between projects. Work was work, churning out entertainment to divert the nation's attention from the dire economic conditions during the Depression. The filmmakers and Watts peppered the conversation with dozens of questions, which Watts confesses she thought might overwhelm the elderly woman, but that Wray answered with clarity and vigor—"It felt like oldfashioned movie dialogue," supplies Watts.

When Jackson introduced Naomi as the woman playing Ann Darrow, Wray responded jokingly, "I'm Ann Darrow!"—Wray was still possessive of the role that brought her fame, despite the nearly 100 motion pictures she completed during her career. She later quizzed Watts about her weight, and remarked that she herself weighed "100, but 99 in the morning"—once an actress, always an actress.

Watts remembers, "One of the key things for me signing on was that Peter had lived with this film in his head since he was nine years old. I watched him that night, and how he was with Fay. She really moved him, I think. Can you imagine as a nine-yearold boy, falling in love with this actress? And then, being in her presence? I think he was so touched by her—it was really lovely."

At the close of the evening, when Wray whispered to Watts, "Ann Darrow is in good hands," the actress felt that she had been blessed and entrusted to honor both the character and the woman who originated the role.

Wray's failing health and passing in August 2004, ultimately prevented her from performing the cameo role in Jackson's film. When her death was announced, Jackson responded: "Fay's iconic beauty has been immortalized forever on film, but for those lucky enough to meet her, it was her wit, energy, style and charm that stayed with you." If Ann Darrow is best remembered as the beauty of the story, then it is Carl Denham who must be classified as the brains behind the scheme that drives the events of King Kong. Whereas filmmakers chose to flesh out Darrow more than reinvent her, they were committed to finding a different take on the character of the flamboyant showman and auteur.

Jackson explains, "We were thinking, initially, of an older Carl Denham, like the original film—I mean, Robert Armstrong is probably around 50 years old. And so, we were thinking of what actors around in that age group that would be an interesting Denham. Then we started to think, 'Well, maybe, he should be a little younger?' That coincided with The School of Rock coming out and our children being obsessed with it— we ended up watching it 10 or 12 times over the Christmas holiday, and we liked Jack a lot in that. Then we started to think of the idea of him being Denham."

Until the idea of Denham being a younger, showy creative force of nature took root, their initial thought seemed somewhat incongruous; the image of such a real-life filmmaker helped bring it all into focus. Jackson continues, "We imagined him being an entrepreneurial, young Orson Welles-type filmmaker, who in the 1930s was running the Mercury Theatre in New York. Denham has a sort of energy and vibrancy and an ability to sweep people along with his vision—he'll do whatever he needs to do to get the film that he wants made. He's ambitious and he's a little bit of a scoundrel…in the way that Orson Welles was. I mean, Orson would take money for a film and go and make a completely different film—that sort of devil-may-care kind of approach. We started to realize that if we took that approach, then Jack Black makes perfect sense."

Though sure of himself on the outside, Denham is driven by a desperation similar to that which compels Ann Darrow to agree to his questionable proposition of accepting a role in an arduous location-shot movie. Jackson elaborates, "Everybody in the movie, in one way or another, really is driven by a certain desperation—whether it's the desperation of the Depression or the desperation of being a filmmaker and not being completely honest with your investors, trying to be overly ambitious. It's a good pressure situation that pushes our characters together and propels the story forward."

With the clock ticking, Denham must replace his now absent leading lady and get his crew (and his stolen, incomplete film) onto the Venture and out of the docks before the police (who have been summoned by the angry studio executives) apprehend the filmmaker and seize his film. Carl's one hope of making history lies in reaching the mythic Skull Island—he's recently come into possession of a crude map detailing an approximate location of this fabled, ancient world. There, he hopes to prove his naysayers wrong and complete his film by adding spectacular footage of a never-beforeseen locale to his latest action-adventure opus.

Jackson elaborates on Denham: "Jack brings a wonderful sense of humor— obviously, it goes without saying—to the role, which is important for the character because in some respects he's flawed. We didn't want him to be a villain. He's simply somebody whose sense of excitement, his over-ambition and his enthusiasm sometimes mean that he makes decisions that he shouldn't really have made. And what Jack brings to the character is this wonderful sense of humor and this 'rascalness,' if you like, which means that we never judge him as being villainous…we just judge him as being flawed. In the context of the film, we wanted Denham to be somebody who's not a bad person, but somebody who makes bad decisions."

Black met with the filmmakers in Los Angeles and readily agreed to play the role. Jackson remembers, "There's another situation where our first choice for the role agreed to do the film. It's a wonderful thing if you're a filmmaker and the actors that are number one on your wish list jump onboard the movie. It just feels like you've got to such a good start, like sailing away with the movie that you have imagined with the people that you've imagined in the roles."

Once he had accepted, Black theorized on how he could create the character of Denham and felt like he had a workable concept…at first. Black explains, "Well, when I first got the part, I thought a lot about it. I was wondering if maybe Peter cast me because I kind of look like him—we're both about the same height, the same build. 'Hey, he's a director, and he's casting me as the director of this movie within the movie. Maybe he wants me because I remind him of him.' Then I thought, 'I know what I'll do. I'm just going to base my whole character on Peter Jackson, and I'm just going to follow him around all the time, and that'll be my secret.' But I realized, 'No, it's not right. Peter's not insecure like Carl is. He's not exploding with anger and obsession. And he's not anywhere nearly as desperate as I wanted Carl to be.'"

When Black offered that he felt his character was part P.T. Barnum, the filmmakers responded with their already well-conceived take on Denham ("a much less successful Welles"). "He's very much the struggling artist, or so he thinks," Black continues. "He has a huge ego and thinks he deserves great recognition. But underneath it all, he's on thin ice. He's afraid he's not going to accomplish anything at all, and that's what drives him."

Jackson, Walsh and Boyens went even further afield with their take on the character of Jack Driscoll (who in the 1933 version is the rough-and-tumble first mate to the captain of the Venture). Jackson shares, "I do want to remake the original film—I don't want to create a new vision of King Kong. I want to honor the original story. But we do have very different characters in our film. We couldn't quite figure out how we could have a macho, sort of he-man hunk in the Jack Driscoll character, which is the role that Bruce Cabot played. We couldn't quite figure out how you end up with two macho guys on the same film…because you've got Driscoll and you've got Kong. We didn't really want to go down that road. And we thought it would be more interesting to play against that."

Once again, Jackson and the writers turned to other artistic figures of the time for inspiration, transforming Driscoll from an adventurous seaman to an intellectual, New York playwright, one who pens stage works of social consciousness and relevance…someone along the lines of Eugene O'Neill, Clifford Odets or Arthur Miller. (One of O'Neill's works includes a character by the name of Jack Driscoll, and it is rumored that O'Neill was a friend to one of the filmmakers involved in the original film version.) But as socially relevant works don't sell as well as escapist entertainment in 1933, Driscoll has agreed to moonlight as the screenwriter of the latest exciting action yarn from his friend, Carl Denham.

"We thought of that approach first, without really thinking of an actor," Jackson continues. "We just thought about changing the character. When we started to think about casting that particular character, Adrien Brody was right at the top of the list. We were in London, there for the BAFTA awards. Adrien was shooting up in Scotland, and he flew down and met with us in the hotel; he agreed to do it."

But the sensitive playwright doesn't stay the armchair adventurer once he sets foot on Skull Island. "When the circumstances arise, Driscoll becomes a man of action. It's a fairly tough role to play. We'd obviously seen a lot of films that Adrien had done, and The Pianist had come out a couple years before we started our film. And we thought that he would be just absolutely wonderful for the role. So again, for the third time, it was a case of our first choice agreeing to do the part. That's a fantastic thing when you've got your dream cast in these roles," Jackson comments.

Brody remembers his London filmmaker meeting: "I'm a fan of the original film. I remember it from when I was younger, but I also revisited it before I met with Peter and actually had notes and was ready to discuss what I thought could be improved upon the original, even if they weren't going to hire me. I heard that Peter wanted to meet me, and I was shooting a film in Scotland. We ended up meeting in London, and apparently they were very interested. Normally, when there's a meeting, there are a number of other people being considered for the role, but they basically said, 'We're trying to work this all out, but you are who we'd like to play this role.' That was pretty amazing."

"What I had been looking for," Brody continues, "was a leading role that wasn't stereotypically the leading man 'action hero' guy, but is capable of that. And I've always wanted to get involved with something that is a kind of timeless fable, in a sense." Much like Watts, Brody was drawn to the expansiveness of the project, but his commitment was cemented by the filmmaker's belief in the reality underlying the fantasy of the tale. He provides, "One of the many things that impresses me about Peter, Fran and Philippa is that they are really focused on the reality of the circumstances within this unrealistic world, down to the connection between the characters. I never lacked faith in any way, because Peter's proven himself. He has this vision, and you have to expand your thought process to exist within that and forget all of your surroundings and imagine yourself in another world."

As the captain of the Venture—which takes the leading lady, the director, the playwright and the crew to the lost world of Skull Island—the filmmakers chose accomplished German actor Thomas Kretschmann, who had also starred with Brody in The Pianist. Captain Englehorn has made a living piloting the rusting vessel around the globe, capturing exotic wildlife and peddling the caged animals to zoos and other notquite-above-board business enterprises.

Kretschmann was fascinated by his new work environment. "When I saw The Lord of the Rings, I imagined that it came from this big studio down in New Zealand, it was so beautifully made and an amazing accomplishment. Then when I got here, I was surprised to find that it's more of a big playground, with some scenes being shot in a parking lot, of all places. But what matters is what is done with those shots—clearly magic is being created, to transform a scene shot in a parking lot into something as amazing as King Kong," he comments.

Cast in the role of Preston, Denham's tireless assistant and quasi-conscience, was Colin Hanks (interestingly, Black's co-star in the film Orange County). Preston begins the film as a hardworking, but long-suffering, right-hand man to his boss. As the journey becomes more arduous (and the cost of the film begins to be measured in lives lost), the young idealist is slowly transformed into a realist with his own conscience—a man who can no longer keep step with Denham as he begins his slide down a slippery moral slope. Hanks, like Kretschmann, was awed by the arsenal of film wizardry being aimed at the story of Kong—but perhaps even more by the amount of feedback the filmmakers solicited from the cast about their characters and then folded into the evolving screenplay.

He relates, "It is a huge movie and yet, at the same time, it feels like the most personal story that I've ever been involved in telling. It's been really interesting for me, because never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that one of the biggest movies that I'll probably ever be in would have allowed me so much input about my character. One of the most interesting aspects of working on this film was that Peter's very much like a kid playing with toys, except the toys are very big and expensive. But even in the midst of all of the fantastic elements, you still understand the human story at the center. You understand it, and that's because Peter likes telling personal, dramatic stories…but he likes telling them on a really big canvas."

The character input that helped to define Preston was also very much at work in the character of Jimmy, the youngest member of the Venture crew, played by 19-year-old Jamie Bell. The street-smart orphan sees his chance for adventure and becomes a stowaway on the Venture. While maritime law dictates that he be left at the next port of call, his toughness and willingness to learn impresses the World War I veteran and first mate Hayes, who allows him to remain onboard. He encourages Jimmy to further his education, to become more than just a sailor on a tramp steamer. Jimmy takes this encouragement one step too far when he steals a copy of Joseph Conrad's 1902 classic, Heart of Darkness, from the New York Public Library, believing it to be a light-hearted adventure story.

Bell sees direct parallels between Marlow, the narrator of Conrad's novel, and the character of Carl Denham. He relates, "Carl Denham is taking all of these people on a dangerous journey into the unknown for no real reason. He knows something's out there, but he's not quite sure what it is. Why doesn't he just turn back? Hayes wraps it up very well in the film when he says, 'There's a part of him (Marlow) that wants to, Jimmy… but there's another part, that needs to know, that needs to defeat the thing that makes him afraid.'"

Evan Parke's character, Hayes, is a seasoned veteran of the 369th division of the 24th infantry in the American army—one of the first all-black, American units to serve in World War I. While the character's history prepared him for the unexpected, Parke notes that the journey the entire crew and passengers of the S.S. Venture take will be unlike anything they've known…from the beginning of the trip. He offers, "The sea represents adventure, an opportunity to learn. It's funny, even now, people say we've discovered everything that we need on earth." Just as his character soon discovers, Parke quips, "Of course…we know now that's not fully true."

Not all on the vessel had the training to weather the storm. Kyle Chandler's "B"-movie-level leading man Bruce Baxter is a character who was created in homage to actor Bruce Cabot, the actor who played Jack Driscoll in the original 1933 film. Arrogant and brash, Baxter presents another wild card on the ship.

For Chandler, the idea of a Kong remake is a compelling proposition. He remarks, "Tell me a kid down the street that doesn't want to see a 25-foot gorilla fight with some dinosaurs and then get taken back on a boat to New York City, only to escape and start ripping through the city to find his girlfriend…and he climbs up on top of the highest peak, where airplanes are coming to shoot him down. It's a great story. That's why, I think, Peter made it—it captured him like it's going to capture people all over again."

Building a Shrewder Ape

Getting to the particular Kong at the center of Jackson's remake was of paramount concern to filmmakers, and all involved had very strong ideas about how this Kong would be brought to the screen.

Philippa Boyens explains, "Very early on, right from the word 'go,' Peter wanted to make sure that the character of Kong was not a monster and was, in fact, a large silverback gorilla who happens to be 25 feet tall and 8,000 pounds. This Kong was not a monster and was not to be anthropomorphized."

Jackson describes his central character: "We assumed that Kong is the last surviving member of his species. He had a mother and a father and maybe brothers and sisters, but they're dead. He's the last of the huge gorillas that live on Skull Island, and the last one when he goes…there will be no more. He's a very lonely creature— absolutely solitary. It must be one of the loneliest existences you could ever possibly imagine. Every day, he has to battle for his survival against very formidable dinosaurs on the island, and it's not easy for him. He's carrying the scars of many former encounters with dinosaurs. I'm imagining he's probably 100 to 120 years old by the time our story begins. And he has never felt a single bit of empathy for another living creature in his long life; it has been a brutal life that he's lived."

The screenwriters began to fashion a mythology for Kong that dovetailed with the original 1933 concept, but also gave them a wider playing field for their special silverback gorilla. The Skull Islanders have long deified the giant gorilla species, though none can even remember how this came to be. It is simply accepted that at regular intervals throughout the year, a woman is lashed to the sacrificial altar and offered up to the last remaining ape-god; the gorilla is summoned, and he snatches the girl and leaves. Once Kong returns to his killing ground, he quickly tires of the terrified girl and kills her. When the presence of the strangers from the Venture—most notably, Ann—triggers the islanders to offer this intriguing, blond creature during a special ceremony, Kong's Pavlovian response kicks in; he is summoned and rushes away with the offering. But Ann is different than the other girls and is far from accepting of her lot. She fights, she flees, she challenges her captor—and at the point where it seems that he will soon kill her, she launches into a demonstration of her skill set obtained from her career in vaudeville (a tough crowd is a tough crowd, whether in New York or the jungles of a no-longer-lost island). She fascinates Kong long enough that he starts to view her as something more than prey; his curiosity is piqued. The solitary warrior's existence is, momentarily, no longer as painful.

Even with this more detailed story of the beginnings of the relationship between Kong and Ann, the filmmakers were adamant that Kong always remain a gorilla—an imposing, frightening, brutal beast governed by the laws of nature and animal behavior and one whose, once he allows another living creature to soften his predatory nature and introduce vulnerability, eventual downfall is assured.

There was never any question what process would lead to the creation of Kong— he was always meant to be a wholly computer-generated creation. Yet after the groundbreaking, combined use of computer generation and motion capture (mo-cap) that led to The Lord of the Rings character Gollum, Jackson and his team began to explore a more advanced method of fashioning the Eighth Wonder of the World…and it would all begin with the involvement of the same actor who rendered Gollum such a mercurial, compelling and even (at times) sympathetic character: Andy Serkis.

"Certainly Kong himself was beyond anything we'd ever done before—just the huge complexity of what Kong is and what he has to be has been the most complicated thing we've ever done," reflects Jackson. "Just giving him an ability to 'act' like an actor…but it's not human, it's a gorilla. And he has to do things the way gorillas do them. So, ultimately, you have to render it out as an artificial digital character. We've had to build a huge amount of emotion into his face and into his eyes. We'd literally been working on the digital model of Kong for nearly two years before we put him into shots."

Casting Serkis as Kong gave Jackson and his team not only an actor who could take direction and make the creative process of filming a two-way street (digital creations hardly ever offer thoughts on their motivations or suggestions for a bit of blocking), but also someone physically there for his fellow cast members. Jackson continues, "We cast Andy Serkis as Kong—which in itself may seem strange—but I really wanted a human actor to be making the decisions that a performer would normally make if they were playing the role. I wanted somebody who I could talk to on-set who was Kong. I wanted somebody to be on-set for Naomi to perform with. I didn't want to get into a situation where, because Kong was a digital character, he was basically invisible—I wanted to make him visible. I wanted to make him tangible. I wanted to be able to discuss the role with an actor. And I ultimately wanted an actor to perform the part of Kong. And so all those things were possible by casting Andy."

Serkis remembers being invited over to Jackson and Walsh's house for lunch in April of 2003, during the period when pick-up shots were being executed for The Return of the King. During the visit, the hosts brought out pictures of Snowflake, an albino gorilla from the Barcelona Zoo, and explained to Serkis their intention to build on the advances achieved with the creation of Gollum in creating Kong in a remake of the classic movie. Jackson and Walsh wanted to utilize an actor to make decisions for the character, to provide on-set reference for the other actors and to serve as a motion capture reference for the final CGI creation…and they wanted that actor to be Serkis.

In the following months, work on the final film of Jackson's Rings trilogy was completed and the film was released. During that time, Serkis considered the meeting that had taken place. He explains, "It sort of dawned on me at that point that Gollum had been well received, and by then we were aware that he had set a benchmark as a CG character that was believable and that had an emotional content. And I knew that because Pete was so passionate about King Kong, it was never going to be a monster movie. The fact that he showed me pictures of Snowflake—who is a very idiosyncratic gorilla—I knew that Kong was going to have character and an emotional arc."

During the nascent stages of the project, the literary character of Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame (particularly as performed by Charles Laughton in the classic film version), provided some character references to which the filmmakers and Serkis could relate. Serkis also began his own research, constructing a mental model of whom Kong would be. He relates, "For this 2005 audience, I felt it was very important that we made him quadrupedal and rooted in gorilla behavior—we wanted to include, as much as possible, accepted animal behavior research and the psychological research that had been conducted on gorillas by such people as Dian Fossey. People know a lot more about the gorilla than they did in Cooper's time. So we made decisions such as he wouldn't eat the flesh of the dinosaur, because gorillas are vegetarian—people know that."

Even though the digital and effects masters at Weta had fashioned a breakthrough creation with Gollum, filmmakers accepted that the same techniques would not serve Kong as successfully. Certain limitations had to be overcome. Jackson explains, "The Weta animators were going to have to do a huge amount of work, because in many respects, the animation on Kong is more important than Gollum—a lot of that character was motion captured. But there is a significant number of things that Kong is doing that Andy can't do: a lot of climbing, running and dinosaur fighting. And there is very little of Andy's motion capture in there—a lot of that is just traditional key frame animation. So Andy and the animators had to work very closely to create the character."

And while Gollum's facial expressions were modeled on human emotional responses (Serkis' in particular), Kong would be expressing his emotions through the facial structure of a gorilla. So a straightforward motion capture of Serkis' face during the eventual mo-cap stage of filming would not produce realistic gorilla expressions by simple transference to the CGI Kong.

This was an undertaking that perplexed the animators, but it was vital to Kong appearing lifelike. To resolve the situation, Weta craftsmen built Kong with the correct musculature and skeletal structure of a gorilla and developed software that would translate human expressions into corresponding (though not always similarly appearing) gorilla expressions. With this solution, the mo-cap markers on Serkis' face could communicate most emotions that Kong would feel. For example, when Jackson wanted the ape to express rage, Serkis' angry expressions would be transmitted and transferred into the gorilla facial expression that indicates rage.

Weta Digital's senior visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri explains, "The motion capture we did with Kong was a new way of using technology. It's a combination of things that have been done in the past, but we've brought them together in a unique way. We have created a system that's based on emotional states. It depends on us figuring out all the muscles of the face and understanding the correspondence between a human facial system and a gorilla facial system. What that allows us to do is to look at how muscles work together to create believable expressions. We then extract this muscle-by-muscle technique into something that's much more emotional. The facial animation system for Kong is the next generation of the facial system we built for Gollum."

This care and concern was key to the development of Kong, especially in light of all of the behavioral data currently available on gorillas…and all the research Serkis himself conducted into the species. Prior to the start of principal photography, the actor immersed himself in books and videos on gorillas; during that time he became convinced that he needed to study them both in captivity and in the wild to get at the heart of portraying Kong. He first ventured down to Howletts Wild Animal Park in Kent (two hours outside of London), where the band of gorillas numbers around 70—making it one of the largest groups (or "shrewdness" of apes) in captivity. He then became a regular at the London Zoo in Regents Park, where he befriended one of the keepers who allowed him to get close to the four gorillas housed in the zoo. That closeness came at a price. Serkis explains, "There are three females and one poor male named Bob, who was brought up in a circus and therefore had no experience being the alpha male…so the females were constantly giving him a hard time. Over the course of a few months, I'd go in every two or thee days and spend time with them and feed them. And I formed a relationship with one of the females, named Zaire. When my wife came to visit with me, Zaire didn't like it one bit—she grabbed a water bottle and threw it at my wife." Whenever the actor was in a holding pen between the cages, observing Bob and Zaire, Bob would hurl himself at the cage, punching the bars nearest to Serkis. Another time, when the actor was videoing the apes, Bob pitched a handful of stones at the camera, scratching the lens and startling Serkis.

Just prior to filming, Serkis traveled with a leading primatologist to observe the mountain gorillas in Rwanda, visiting the same group that Fossey herself had studied. It was during this visit that he gained invaluable, firsthand insight into the animal's vocalizations, behavioral patterns and hierarchy, and methods of non-verbal communication.

Serkis sums up, "I suppose the most important thing that I learned from observing at the London Zoo and in Rwanda was that when you talk about studying gorillas, it's like saying 'studying human beings,' because there are individual, idiosyncratic differences. You will have a very moody gorilla, a very loving gorilla, a very uptight gorilla, a very relaxed gorilla. And so, apart from learning stock gorilla behavior in terms of physicality and things like that, I was able to begin to make individual character choices. In a way, I guess it was frightening—so who is Kong after it all? It wasn't like it narrowed it down…it opened it up. And I think that was the thing that was we realized when we eventually started to shoot Kong during the performance capture stage."

But before shooting any of the sequences where the gigantic ape was involved, Serkis would be utilized in a much more human way, manning the galley of the Venture as Lumpy the Cook. Jackson quips, "This is the first time we actually got to shoot extended drama sequences together, in the full knowledge that Andy would not be 'painted out' after the fact, as he was with Gollum."

Filming Kong: An Island Off the Charts

For Jackson and the majority of his New Zealand-based team, shifting into "Kong mode" was a continuation of the intensive work to which they had long been accustomed—the finished King Kong would feature more total effects work than the entire Rings trilogy combined.

He elaborates, "In some regards—in terms of our production infrastructure and the logistics—Kong was like a fourth Lord of the Rings film. And so we were able to keep everybody and all of the pipeline intact, which has been wonderful for the movie. During the year that we did the post-production on Return of the King, we were doing animatics [broad-stroke, animated storyboards] for King Kong, like the Tyrannosaurus fight, where that sequence was being created. And then we were immediately able to finish off Return of the King and start shooting the jungle shots for the T. rex sequences with the miniature team. And so it seemed that it was much more sensible, really, to just keep production rolling."

So, long before cameras rolled (principal photography began in September of 2004), a group of more than 450 visual effects artists were busy at work, developing and creating the range of practical and digital art and effects necessary to ultimately render King Kong as a seamless, fantasy-filled whole. Early digital conceptual renderings (long gone are the days of executing in acrylics, oils, pastels and graphite) were completed by Gus Hunter and Jeremy Bennett, who worked closely with Jackson to realize his vision. By the time the film reached post, both men had completed an estimated 2,500 renderings apiece. Some of the high-resolution elements from the concept artists (a stormy sky, for example) were used directly by matte painters and compositors, making the end result much closer to the original concept illustrations.

One of the biggest differences between filming The Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong was the use (or lack of use) of practical location as setting. Jackson says, "When we were starting Kong, I think everybody was assuming that New Zealand was a great location. We've got sort of rain forests here, but at the end of the day, when you go into these forests, they just look like Hawaii or anything else you've seen a million times on film. We had some wonderful conceptual art done—beautiful renderings—with these huge, over-scale, twisted, deformed trees and rock bridges and endless chasms that plummet down. It's like a jungle from hell—the most twisted, tortured terrain you can imagine. And I just knew looking at the pictures that we were never going to find a location like that. So we decided, very early on, that if we were really going to make Skull Island look like the conceptual art, that creating it artificially was the only way to do it."

The resulting look of Skull Island is an exaggerated design, where realism has been supplanted by painterly extreme—a land where evolution has been left unchecked for millions of years. The heavy reliance on a digital environment also allowed Jackson the opportunity to utilize some of the same effects components (i.e., miniatures) that contributed to the look of the original feature.

"It gives you a connection to the 1933 movie—the tabletop model with the multiplane paintings and the depth that sort of hazes off into a milky, low-contrast, deep background jungle. It gave us an ability to actually match and to re-create that. So I've been able to make our style and feel quite reminiscent of the original tabletop, miniature Skull Island, which is fine by me. It's realistic enough for the movie, but it still has a slightly stylized feel," offers Jackson.

Senior visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri adds, "The main thing about Skull Island as a location is something that Peter really wanted for this film, which was to create the feeling that this is the same Skull Island that we saw in the 1933 version. We want to feel like we're on the same island, but now we can see so much more of it because the cameras are better. We have to perceive of it as a real place. It has to look real, but it has to have all the fantastical qualities that the original one had."

Utilizing more than just a single "tabletop," Weta craftsmen eventually created a total of 53 miniature sets/models. The impressive, detailed work focusing on the 'kit-set' miniature jungle was a painstaking process that gave rise to 104,000 pieces of artificial foliage; 3,100 latex vines; 1,500 fabric vines; 25,000 live miniature-scale plants; 120 miniature-scale articulated trees; 100 miniature-scale non-articulated trees; plus a plethora of root systems, bark texture panels, mosses and other flora that all combine to make up the intricacies of this primordial jungle.

To construct each of those miniatures, Richard Taylor—in charge of special makeup, creatures and miniatures—and his team of Weta artists started with a piece of conceptual artwork (and where available, a previs—short for "pre-visualization"— model); from there, a small tabletop-size maquette (small structure or statue) was designed and presented to Jackson for review. Once approved, the basic shape was carved out of blocks of polystyrene. From this base, rock and/or architectural textures were applied and foamed together for painting—which took multiple layers, usually four or more, to create the depth of color required. All of this work was done by hand at Weta Workshop. To give a sense of scale, the largest miniature used by production was constructed in two pieces, each measuring 19m long, 2.6m wide and 5.5m high for a total size of 38m long by 5.2m wide by 5.5m high.

The crew of Weta Digital then worked to embellish the miniatures with additional CG and 2-D elements, supplementing with layers of incredible detail. To accomplish this, special programmatic tools were written that enable artists to dress the Island in a unique way—for example, a vine tool can place and "grow" vines anywhere realistic plants are required. On the finished shots of Skull Island, there are hundreds of species of fully digital plants and dozens of different types of trees…all of which are interactive and photo real.

The same philosophy of stylization and evolution-run-amok was applied to the fauna that inhabit Skull Island. Jackson was specific in his vision that included "just kind of cool-looking" dinosaurs…ones that differ from the currently accepted paleontological research of how these creatures probably looked.

Jackson comments, "We deliberately wanted to throw back a bit to the oldfashioned movie dinosaurs, where they have big scales on their backs and spiky bits, and that sort of crocodile kind of skin texture that they didn't have. And so we threw all that out and just went down the movie dinosaur road—we created a bunch of fictitious dinosaurs, really."

While there are examples of recognizable ones (particularly the sequences involving a Brontosaurus stampede and a battle between Kong and three Tyrannosaurus rex), even these have Skull Island peculiarities. And some of the beasts—flying lizardlike creatures, for example—never existed at all, except in the 65-million-year-old evolutionary hothouse of Skull Island. Building on historically accurate dinosaur skeletal structures, Weta took creative Darwinian license with the shapes, textures and colors, even going so far as to create one entirely new species, aptly named the Wetasaur. "They're actually original designs; they're not Tyranodons or things like that. They're just creatures that we designed ourselves that we thought would look good in Skull Island," adds Jackson.

A design process similar to the one utilized to develop and create the miniature sets was employed to give birth to the Skull Island dinosaurs. Final conceptual art was transformed into hand-sculpted creature design maquettes, of which there were more than 150. Ten large "high-level," detailed creature maquettes were completed for digital scanning, each one taking approximately 1,500 hours to complete. Dinosaurs' dead ancestors—in the form of full-size T. rex, Brontosaurus and Ceratops skeletons—were built for set specificity.

Amazingly, more creatures were created for Kong than for the entire The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

To create the frightening, primitive tribe on the Island, 100 actors were transformed into Skull Islanders by donning Weta-designed costumes (constructed from sea shells, feathers, fish and animal bones and human hair), wigs (a portion of which were hand-knotted), makeup, body paint, prosthetic teeth and weapons. While of the same tribe, different looks were created by varying the weapons, wigs and contact lenses. For a handful of actors given featured parts (the feral child, the shaman and the drummers), their longer time on camera meant more work to produce their looks—the actress playing the shaman spent five hours in the chair with three prosthetic and makeup technicians working to transform her into the terrifying crone. Additionally, as the Islanders are first seen during a rainstorm, Weta workers developed a waterproof process for coloring their skin.

Initial designs for the most famous Islander—Kong himself—were completed by Gus Hunter in May of 2003. The biggest challenge in his design: to create a realistic gorilla, yet one with features that make him unique and instantly recognizable from other silverbacks. Once a firm design direction was established by Jackson, sculptors developed a three-dimensional study of Kong, which was reviewed and tweaked regularly until the look was finally locked. From there, Weta molded and produced a maquette that was sent for digital scanning; these scans produced data as the first step in Weta Digital's process to create what would become the onscreen Kong.

For Richard Taylor, the intensive work involved during the production was a reward unto itself. He says, "The most enjoyable aspect of working on King Kong for me is that Weta Workshop has been involved in the film at many levels, from the conception and design of the creatures—including the development of one of the cinema's greatest icons, King Kong—to the exploration of the unique cultures of the island, both present and past. It has been a creative challenge that we have reveled in: the chance to reinvigorate and redefine a unique look for a world so powerfully brought to life on the screen over 70 years ago."

The creation of that icon posed special challenges to Weta Digital. As a leading actor in the story, the great ape's believability would be paramount—a tough call for any performer, let alone an entirely digital invention. Key to that was the creation of a Kong that could nail the performance, non-verbally communicating a full range of emotions and thoughts. Joe Letteri explains, "The hardest thing about creating Kong's performance was that it had to be recognizable in a human way. We have to be able to read his emotions and understand what he's thinking—especially because he can't speak. Gorillas are so close to humans that it's really easy to imbue them with human characteristics. We had to convey a sense of what Kong was thinking, but not make him human. What we tried to do is find a performance based on a human performance, so we could produce it and understand it, but also have it equally grounded in the gorilla world. We wanted Kong to be a wild creature experiencing everything he experiences in the story."

Weta Digital went about building the musculature of the body and the face, and then covering the 25-foot creature with fur—new tools were specifically developed to accomplish these crucial tasks. The digital effects team began by scanning the completed maquette of Kong's hand, foot, head and body into the computer. By shifting the development of their leading ape from the real world to the digital one, they were able to continue to modify the creature in response to direction from Jackson well into the production cycle. The team then tackled the challenge of digitally covering Kong with fur (rendering photorealistic digital hair and fur is one of the most problematic tasks in the art, even with the cutting-edge software developed by Weta).

As it turns out, Kong was not the only character fashioned by Weta Digital. Advances in the film software technology responsible for digital doubling meant that the cast of King Kong (or any possible stunt doubles) would not be called upon to perform a myriad of super-human feats called for in Walsh, Boyens and Jackson's screenplay. Eventual scenes of characters fighting, falling, leaping, being carried (or eaten) and a litany of other tasks would be completed by fully digitized facsimiles of the actors (who, like the maquettes, were scanned digitally and then photo realistically constructed by Weta team members).

Once principal photography began, Andy Serkis was called to be Kong for his fellow actors, providing on-set reference and functioning as an emotionally present participant in the scenes. During these instances, the actor performed in a custom-made Kong suit—fitted with musculature, arm extensions and a hood that extended the shoulders and created a no-neck look—that allowed Serkis to mimic the physicality of a gorilla, such as walking on all fours. To supply Kong's roaring, the sound department developed a "Kongalizer," a system that took Serkis' wordless vocal responses (picked up by a headset mic), ran them through a computer (which dropped the range and increased the size), and then broadcast them through a wall of speakers in real time. For key, intimate moments with Watts, the suited and Kongalized Serkis not only partnered in the scene, but also provided sight lines for the actress, often from the correct vantage point of 25 feet off the ground—accomplished by raising the actor in a cherry picker.

Peter Jackson elaborates, "Andy was able to be on-set every day, and he was able to stand in for Kong. He's obviously not 25 feet tall, but we were able to put him on ladders, up in cherry pickers, do whatever we needed to do to make him the right height. Most critically he was there for Naomi, who would be delivering this incredible performance as Ann relating to Kong…and she had Andy to look at and talk to. She had Andy's eyes to look into when she wanted to make these moments as real as possible. I think it would be virtually impossible for an actor to get that level of performance if they were just acting to a yellow tennis ball on a stick. It just would never happen that way. So it was critical to have somebody there."

Serkis adds, "You know, these were absolutely significant moment-to-moment emotions that were traded between us. And so really, I could have been wearing anything. It was very much through the eyes, but once we locked into each other…that was it. You have to give as truthful a performance as in any other kind of film. I mean, Pete makes fantasy films, but he does it through a dramatic keyhole so that there is a sense of total reality."

Watts comments, "I had no idea what to expect. I had been told that a good twothirds of the movie was opposite Kong, so how would that translate into the performance? I thought, 'Okay, I'm going to be looking at a mark on a stick and pretending there's a connection…ooh, this is going to be hard.' But with Andy doing it, I had a pair of eyes to look into, a soul to connect with—what a relief! And what a privilege. I could not have done anything without him. I don't know that there's another actor out there who could have done what he did with the amount of preparation and work he put into it. It was mind-blowing on a daily basis."

In addition to enacting Kong during principal photography, Serkis was called upon to re-create all of his scenes on a motion-capture stage, covered in sensors, during the lengthy post-production phase—in essence, filming his entire performance twice. Letteri summarizes, "Kong's facial animation has been created by keyframe animation from the Weta Digital animation team and by facial motion capture performed by Andy Serkis. Our animation team have studied gorilla behavior and Andy's gorilla performance and have blended the two to create the unique character of Kong." Serkis' valuable motion-capture reference helped to drive the character of Kong and ultimately resulted in the ferocious, physical and amazing creature that rules both the jungles of his home and the manmade ones in New York City (at least, for a time).

A City That No Longer Exists

Much as in the creation of Skull Island, it would need a team of accomplished artists to produce the other major setting (and one no less legendary) of King Kong: the New York City of 1933. Taking the advanced computer technology developed for The Lord of the Rings to the next level, digital artists were able to turn back the clock and literally rebuild a city that no longer exists. As it has changed so radically in the last 72 years, it was impossible to transform modern New York, so the entire place had to be built from the ground up. And unlike the totally invented environment of Skull Island, this city has a real-world counterpart and, therefore, had to be constructed within certain confines (What buildings still exist? What is known of the city at that time?).

Existing aerial and ground-view photographs from the period provided key reference for artists. These shots were then cross-referenced with a low-resolution digital dataset of present-day New York. Any buildings constructed post 1933 were stripped out, leaving a huge amount of structures to be replaced with data correct for 1933. Since the period photos were black and white, an initial color palette had to be determined by cross-referencing the hues of buildings that still exist from the time. From this starting place, proprietary computer programs began to rebuild the city, adding intricate detail to the low-resolution dataset. These programs were governed by a strict set of guidelines (period appropriate building styles on everything from doorframes to materials and trim color).

Visual effects producer Eileen Moran comments, "Watching 1930s New York being built was truly amazing. We were able to build the entire city in 3-D. CG supervisor Chris White created what he called 'CityBot,' which created whole city blocks with correct architecture for each area. We had great aerial reference photographs taken in the 1930s, and we matched our 3-D city exactly to the photographs." The results, which took over one year to complete, show just how advanced the process was:

57,468 unique Manhattan buildings were created, which were constructed using 22,011,949 components/cells. Add to that another 32,839 buildings for Queens, Brooklyn and New Jersey, plus 51 "hero" (or starring) buildings, which makes for a total of 90,358 buildings. These structures cover an area stretching more than 26 miles.

All of these are 3-D constructions, and newly created software allows an artist (or a film director) to take a camera and fly practically anywhere in the virtual city.

Of particular import were the rooftops, as they have changed considerably since the '30s—so even existing period structures could not appear "as is." The roofs are all visible during the film's climactic moments when Kong scales the Empire State Building.

Weta Digital also developed a unique weathering software designed to digitally cover the whole of Manhattan in snow and rain.

The city was designed to function in the daytime or at night. When lights are turned on inside one of the buildings, full virtual interiors are visible.

When superimposed on top of one another, the virtual skyline and the 1933 photographs align almost identically.

According to CG supervisor White, "We built over 90,000 buildings, nearly 60,000 of which are unique down to the finest level of detail. Each building is constructed of windows, doors and ledges, doorknobs, steps, anything that you would expect to see on a building—there are also thousands of smoking chimneys, water towers, fire escapes. All of these details have been created to match the style of the time, and they're all things that make the city feel alive. This is a view of New York that we haven't seen in any other films."

Jackson adds, "It's like bringing New York to life in a way that's historically very accurate, but it could never be photographed for real. It simply doesn't exist anymore."

Shooting in a Non-Digital World

Even with all of the digital wizardry of Skull Island and 1933 New York, practical sets still had to be constructed to provide real-world filming spaces for the actors, filmmakers and crew.

A majority of photography took place on the back lot of Stone Street Studios in Miramar, New Zealand. Formerly a paint factory, the site now boasts several stages, one of which—Kong Stage—was expressly built for King Kong. Kong Stage is purported to be one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, measuring 2,276 square meters, and was completed just after the commencement of principal photography. Additional shooting was completed on exterior sets constructed on a repurposed parking lot—most of these sets (which included the Venture) were backed by a blue or green screen to allow the insertion of digital backgrounds during post-production.

Scenes of Kong's New York stage debut were filmed at the recently restored Civic Theatre in Auckland, built in 1929 with an auditorium that seats 2,350 patrons. The sequence where Kong is first displayed and then breaks free required a crew of 250 and nearly 500 local extras; these extras were shot in plates, section by section, which (when later stitched together by Weta Digital) rendered the theater with a sold-out audience.

As with the miniatures and digital environments and creations, set designs began with meetings between Jackson, production designer Grant Major and their teams. Those designs that received the go-ahead to become practical sets were then depicted in conceptual artwork (created by Major, Hunter or Bennett). Once approved, renderings became to-scale models, from which were drafted Major's technical drawings—the blueprints for actual construction. Major cites Victorian illustrator Gustave Doré as influential to his production design of Kong, particularly the artist's use of light and depth.

Of special concern was the eventual seamless combination with the miniature and digital elements. Major explains, "The whole nature of designing in film is changing as digital technology is evolving. Art departments are still building large sets, but they are now more likely to be pieces of sets, rather than whole environments that can be shot from any angle. With the extensive use of blue screen, the camera can now point in any direction and digital extensions will take care of background. So, as the art form becomes more advanced, the art department is becoming increasingly more involved in creating digital environments."

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