A wealth of visual effects were used to take viewers into the Imperial City and create epic fight sequences for Disney’s live-action “Mulan.”
VFX houses around the world including Crafty Apes, Framestore, Image Engine, Sony Pictures Imageworks and Weta Digital all joined forces in bringing the film to life.
The key to the film’s visual effects was to have audiences immersed in the vibrant world of “Mulan” and make them feel a part of the landscape and action. Director Niki Caro wanted to shoot as much as possible on locations and soundstages, while VFX would expand, replicate and create where needed.
More than 485 shots were provided by the team at Weta Digital. Extensive research was conducted to design an authentic layout of the Imperial City, which was given its vast scale using CG, equating it to almost the size of Manhattan.
“Mulan” is the largest LiDAR scan the company had ever done, VFX supervisor Anders Langlands says. (LiDAR scanners measure distances and depth for use in 3D imagery.) “We went to a backlot in the Hubei province in China, shooting there with the second unit. We knew we needed to be getting a lot of material for that which would then be used for the main shoot in Auckland.”
The film’s rooftop chase sequences called for paint and roto work to remove stunt rigs, unpractical scenery and any glimpses of modern China in the background where live-action plates weren’t used.
Hubert Maston, VFX supervisor for Framestore, says: “While Disney’s live-action features often allow us to explore pure fantasy, ‘Mulan’ required a different approach, using VFX to augment and enhance both the sweeping grandeur of Niki Caro’s epic yet naturalistic vision and the graceful cinematography of Mandy Walker. Realism was key, so our work had to be utterly seamless when it came to extending sets, crafting volcanic environments or amping up that edge-of-the-seat fight sequence.
This being a Disney film there was, of course, also more than a sprinkling of magic — as much as we enjoyed helping build ‘Mulan’s’ world, it was also a joy to work on the majestic phoenix and Xianniang, the eerily graceful shapeshifter.”