From morphing to creating water and fire, the special f/x sector has seen many breakthroughs over the past decade. Here’s a compilation of the films that caught Oscar’s eye and why:


The Matrix

Who: John Gaeta, Janek Sirrs, Steve Courtley, Jon Thum

Why: Image-based rendering using photographs to create a 3-D space; frozen moment technology used in a narrative project

Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace

Why: Sheer magnitude of project — about 1,950 shots with some sort of effect; computer generation of flowing cloth and realistic terrain

Stuart Little

Why: Believable computer-generated lead character, with realistic fur and clothing, integrated with live-action footage


What Dreams May Come

Who: Joel Hynek, Nicholas Brooks, Stuart Robertson and Kevin Mack

Why: Combination of advanced visual effects techniques with unusual, surreal art direction; live-action footage warped and al-tered to create the effect of an impressionist painting in motion


Why: Heavy use of traditional techniques, especially miniatures, in combination with computer-generated f/x

Mighty Joe Young

Why: Combination of techniques to create giant gorilla, including large-scale robots and forced-perspective shots of an actor in suit; shots of CG ape show fine control of hair via combination of simulation and hand animation



Who: Rob Legato, Michael Kanfer, Mark Lasoff, Thomas L. Fisher. (Digital Domain, Industrial Light & Magic)

Why: Many ground-breaking techniques, including simulation of crowds using digital actors, the matching of different versions of the Titanic (real and computer-generated models) and lots of CG water

The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Why: Similar challenges as in “Jurassic Park,” but on much grander scale; CG dinosaurs integrated into live-action plates shot from moving cameras

Starship Troopers

Why: Computer-generated bug warriors, animated and composited with live action, and matched to animatronic bugs


Independence Day

Who: Doug Smith, Volker Engel, Clay Pinney, Joseph Viskocil

Why: With over 500 shots, set new standard in terms of scale; wide range of different technologies — including CG images, digital compositing, digital matte paintings and traditional miniature model effects — put together to form cohesive whole


Why: Extensive use of simulations and particle effects to create tornadoes and other weather effects


Why: CG modeling and animation used to create believable, photorealistic dragon who delivers lip-synced dialogue



Who: Charles Gibson, Scott E. Anderson, John Cox, Neal Scanlan (Rhythm &Hues)

Why: Seamless match of three different techniques: live-action animals, Henson full-body puppets and real animals with CG face replacements

Apollo 13

Why: Over 500 hyper-realistic shots recreating the look of old NASA footage

Special achievement

Who: “Toy Story” director John Lasseter

Why: Though not strictly visual f/x movie, “Toy Story” was first full-length 3-D CG animation movie; pioneered tools and tech-niques applicable in live-action effects pics


Forrest Gump

Who: Ken Ralston, Allen Hall, George Murphy, Stephen Rosenbaum (ILM)

Why: Flashy demonstration of what digital effects could do –most notably, Lt. Dan’s missing legs and alteration of archival foot-age

The Mask

Why: Photorealistic rendering of cartoon-inspired animation

True Lies

Why: Digital Domain’s debut feature. New software used to create smoke contrails and heat signatures for digital and miniature Harrier jump jets


Jurassic Park

Who: Stan Winston, Dennis Muren, Michael Lantieri, Phil Tippett

Why: Photorealistic digital dinosaurs; the breakthrough movie in terms of making CG acceptable — made computer-graphic revolution take off


Why: Front projection, models and miniatures; bluescreen shots and live-action plates combined using digital compositing

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Why: Stop motion on tremendous scale, hearkening back to old Ray Harryhausen and George Pal days


Death Becomes Her

Who: Doug Smythe, Tom Woodruff Jr., Ken Ralston, Doug Chiang

Why: Computer-generated skin and digital body-part replacement

Alien 3

Why: Combination of puppet, optical and digital techniques

Batman Returns

Why: Work done by eight effects houses ranges from computer-generated bats to animatronic penguins to traditional matte paint-ings used to establish Gotham City


Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Who: Gene Warren Jr., Robert Skotak, Dennis Muren, Stan Winston

Why: T-1000 (liquid-metal man) turning point for CG; advanced morphing techniques that originally had appeared in “Willow” in 1988; also was animation breakthrough in terms of imitating walking human


Why: Classic visual effects: huge stage show with lots of compositing done optically


Why: Early use of 3-D matte paintings, gave fly-overs more sense of perspective than a 2-D glass painting would have; also, early use of digital compositin