I recently had the opportunity to interview one of the visionaries for the upcoming reimagining of the classic “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by Frank L. Baum. Directed by Sam Raimi (Evil Dead series, Spiderman Trilogy) “Oz the Great and Powerful” features impressive visuals galore and a talented cast including James Franco, Mila Kunis, Zach Braff, and Rachel Weisz.
The talent is also behind the scenes, with the reinterpreted world of Oz made possible from digital artists like Francisco De Jesus. A Digital Effects Supervisor on the film, he, along with 300 other effects artists, worked on the film for 2 and a half years before its finalized form. His team was the “lead house”, meaning his company was contracted to handle the bulk of the films visual effects.
His experience comes from studying computer engineering in college. As he describes it that time there weren’t classes or curriculums dedicated to the then scarcely used concept of computer graphics. He’s self-taught in that aspect because of his own interest in the art form. After the transition of Hollywood, from miniatures and models to digital effects in the 90’s ,he created content to shop around the studios, which led to his first job.
Asking Francisco De Jesus about the industries shift to digital effects he says, “The methods of creating these visual worlds now is a double-edged sword. Once anything is possible, it can change.” He referenced how it can go bad or good because of the infinite methods of creation. When it’s something created from a mental image, it can change from the original vision in the creators’ minds. As opposed to physical Mise en scène (Anything in front of the camera; Set Design, lighting, composition), the advent of digital creation can take longer to fit that mental vision.
Francisco mentioned that the biggest challenges included “The world of the Land of Oz is something many of us have in our minds already, so we had to pay special respect to that.” There are large, beautiful sets even though the majority of the film is set outdoors. Interaction between CG characters, such as the flying monkey (Voiced by Zach Braff) and the 18-inch China Doll, is important as well. To be able to give the feeling that the digital characters are genuinely interacting with the live actors is a feat in itself.
“Another challenge was looking at scripts and helping to figure out how to shoot it in such a way that will make the different aspects of the work as efficient as possible. The end result will be the best it can possibly be.” All in all the challenge is meshing the different forms of visual content into one seamless world. Francisco De Jesus is proud of the result in “Oz the Great and Powerful.”
In this movie there was a push for using practical special effects. In some scenes outside there is actual grass as a way for the actors to “anchor in reality” as he puts it. He says he hopes that viewers enjoy the visual effects and have an emotional connection to the digital characters he helped bring to life, “I hope with the audience watching, that they’ll have an emotional connection with the characters. Then I’ll feel like we did our job right.”
“Oz the Powerful and Great” is out in theaters March 8th nationwide.