The Lone Ranger

'Rango' helmer moves to live action with Disney’s bigscreen adaptation

It wasn’t much of a stretch for visual effects supervisor Tim Alexander to move from an animated film (Paramount’s Oscar-winning “Rango”) to Disney’s bigscreen adaptation of “The Lone Ranger.”

In directing live action films, Gore Verbinski, who helmed both, has a 50-50 rule: get half of the frame in camera while the rest is generated in a computer, Alexander’s forte.

“It became very apparent early on that he’s very much into building the stuff,” says Alexander, with Verbinski erecting a four-mile train track around an Old West town built in New Mexico. “He’s about getting as much as he can on camera, as much reality as he could. Trains are really difficult to shoot on as it turns out.”

The rest of Alexander’s job was to mesh virtual 3D environments with live action smoke, real trains and environments in New Mexico and Utah, working closely with practical effects supervisor John Frasier to bring Verbinski’s Western with a twist to life.

“It’s very much a Gore show,” Alexander says. Other trains and the Lone Ranger’s white horse, Silver, were also digitally created for some scenes, the latter of which Alexander is used to after working on digital characters in “Rango,” three Harry Potter films and The Spiderwick Chronicles.

He began his career at Industrial Light & Magic as a compositor on 1996’s Star Trek: First Contact, and three years at Walt Disney Studios before that, where he worked on James and the Giant Peach. “I’ve always been a creature show kind of guy,” he says. “The Lone Ranger” “is more about art surfaces and train environments.” But it’s also “very much a Gore show. He’s always doing something different.”

After saddling up twice with Verbinski, Alexander’s now looking to get out of the desert. “I’m hopefully working on some travel reservations.”

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