News for Dec. 23, 2005

King Kong Official Magazine Articles

12/23/05, 12:23 pm EST - Xoanon

King Kong Official Magazine Covers

The folks from the King Kong Official Magazine sent along these scans from the magazine, in stores now, and 3 articles. Here is one with an interview with Andy Serkis:

Digital Ape (plus) The King and I – Andy Serkis

How do you bring the largest and most famous gorilla in the world to life? Fresh from their groundbreaking work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the crew of the Weta Workshop and Weta Digital talk ape with KING KONG MAGAZINE…

In the original 1933 King Kong, the great ape is an 18-inch stop-motion puppet. In the 1976 version, he is a man in a gorilla suit, with some animatronics thrown in for good measure. In Peter Jackson’s 2005 film, Kong will be entirely digital.

“It’s a very complex design issue,” says Weta Workshop’s Richard Taylor. “Do it short of the mark and we’ll have a hollow and shallow creature that has no empathetic relationship with the audience; overdo it and you’ll have an overly theatrical creature that is potentially laughable. Fit it in the right spot, and hopefully we’ll create a memorable, beautiful, filmic creature, on a par with something like Gollum.”

Behind Gollum’s performance was actor Andy Serkis. Even before Serkis had completed his work on The Return of the King, Peter Jackson asked him to do a similar motion capture process for Kong. The digital ape’s character and behaviour would primarily be driven by an actor’s performance. For Gollum, only his body movements were motion-captured. For Kong, the mocap team is experimenting with facial motion capture. “I have a hundred and seventy dots all over my face,” says Serkis, “and they pick up every muscle movement. It’s very, very sensitive.”

Although a digital Kong was to be added later in post-production, Serkis turned up on set to represent the 25 foot gorilla. Serkis wears a black costume whenever he plays Kong on set. It is not a gorilla suit as such, but it bulks him out and sometimes includes heavy arm extensions to help him achieve the shape and moves of a gorilla. Often he performs on the raised platform of a scissor lift to put him up at Kong’s head height. He dances, he roars, he beats his chest.

Serkis’ dynamic performance as a rage-crazed Kong breaking through the gates took his colleagues by surprise. “I didn’t even know Andy was in that day,” recalls actor Colin Hanks. “We started hearing these grunts. And then there’s Andy. He’s really sticking his chest out and doing stuff. It’s amazing! I mean, he’s looking and acting like a gorilla.”

Serkis researched gorillas for months before filming began on King Kong. His first stop was London Zoo. “I spent a couple of months in the company of four gorillas – three females and a young male silverback – and formed a particular attachment to a female gorilla called Zaire,” recalls Serkis. “We kind of clicked as soon as we met. Whenever she saw me come in, she’d rush up and bang-bang the cage, and then we’d play games.”

Animation director Eric Leighton has had the animators moving towards hand-animation for Kong’s big action scenes. “Where there’s fighting with dinosaurs, we can’t really mocap that – we don’t have a dinosaur for Andy to interact with. But I think we’re going to get a great deal of value out of any intimate acting scenes, particularly between Kong and Ann, where it’s about performance.”

One action sequence that will be heavily defined by Sekis’ performance rather than key-frame animation takes place in Times Square. “We had already done some previz animation of Kong reacting to all the elements of Times Square that he’s unfamiliar with – the cars, the traffic lights, the snow, the sounds, the tall neon lights and the buildings that are taller than him,” says animation director Christian Rivers. “But we captured a day with Andy where we put sand on the floor, we had remote control cars buzzing around, and we got Andy to just go wild and act like a scared gorilla. Then we recreated the previz using Andy’s motion capture as Kong’s performance.”

Rivers is pleased with the way the giant ape has shaped up, in terms of performance and design. “I like the design that we’ve ended up with, because it does feel like a real gorilla, but not really a gorilla that we’ve seen before. It also evokes elements of the original King Kong – in a good way. It evokes a lonely character with a brutal history – something that audiences will fear and sympathize with, something they’ll be in awe of, and something that they’ll ultimately love. We’re not just offering the world a big gorilla. We’re offering them King Kong.”

Read the complete interview and much more in KING KONG THE OFFICIAL MOVIE MAGAZINE, in stores December 14th.