How good has CGI gotten? “Cruella” has a mix of real dogs and digital pups, and at times you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart. It’s so seamless, even director Craig Gillespie isn’t exactly sure.
“We had all the dogs on set all the time, and I would always try to shoot real dogs first, and sometimes it would work and we’d be done, but more often than not, within every scene, half of it is real dogs and half of it is CG. And they’re so good with the CG, I can’t even tell the difference anymore,” Gillespie said in an interview with TheWrap.
The visual effects on “Cruella” were done by MPC, the same VFX house used on Jon Favreau’s remake of “The Lion King.” And in one scene, Gillespie described a young Cruella sitting in a car with a puppy on her lap, and he still can’t tell the difference when he watches the film today.
“It’s a close up with this puppy right here, and half of them are CG dogs, and I don’t know which ones are which now,” he laughed.
That said, real dogs or virtual ones are no easier or harder to work with than the other, and Gillespie joked that he had an especially hard time with the dalmatians specifically. Thankfully there weren’t 101 of them.
“Dalmatians are not fun…to wrangle that is. They’re very skittish in their personalities, and then you put three of them in a scene together and it’s almost impossible to have them sit still and listen and pay attention,” Gillespie said. “You’ve got six trainers yelling things in between lines. So usually they would be the first to go. We would do one and a half takes and I’d be like, ‘You gotta get rid of the dalmatians.'”
Gillespie did praise the dog that played the puppy Wink, a dog named Bluebell that during the film dons a rat outfit and helps Cruella and company break into a ball for a big heist, easily being able to roll around and play dead on command. He adds that the dogs all got homes afterwards and that one was even a rescue that was later claimed by a trainer.
And though working with the real dogs could be hairy, the VFX process on “Cruella” was just as taxing.
“The CGI part of this is kind of exhausting. That was a year of meticulously going through shots, reviewing shots over and over and over, the fur, the eyes and the lighting,” Gillespie said. “I maybe would’ve persevered with the real dogs, knowing what I was in for.”
Watch the clip with Gillespie above.
“Cruella” is playing in movie theaters nationwide and streaming on Disney+ with Premier Access.