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January 02
2020

ISSUE

Winter 2020

Chilling and Thrilling Winter VFX Films

By CHRISTOPHER McKITTRICK

After many hit franchises bowed with summer and holiday releases last year, this winter sees a diverse slate of VFX-driven films in theaters. From updated versions of classic concepts (Dolittle, Fantasy Island), to sequels (Bad Boys for Life, A Quiet Place 2), to even a group of animated mammal protagonists (Sonic the Hedgehog, Call of the Wild), VFX continues to play a significant part in creating movies that provide something for every audience.

Traditionally, the early months of the year see a number of horror film releases all hoping to become word-of-mouth box office hits. 2020 is no exception with Grudge, The Turning and The Invisible Man and others all vying to become the next horror classics. Unsurprisingly, comic book adaptations will hope to continue the genre’s big-screen success, with a newcomer (Bloodshot) and a spin-off (Birds of Prey), each with a different approach to superhero stories. On the potential blockbuster front, Pixar returns to original features with its modern fantasy Onward, and the first quarter of the year at theaters will close with Disney’s latest live-action remake of an animated classic, Mulan.

VFX producers, VFX and SFX supervisors and VFX houses are included when possible. This is not intended to be a complete listing. Release dates are subject to change.

Grudge (Image copyright © 2019 Sony Pictures)

Grudge (Sony Pictures)

Release date: U.K., January 3; U.S., January 3

Demonic spirits will continue to terrify audiences in this latest remake of the 2003 Japanese horror film Ju-On, which features Andrea Riseborough as a detective uncovering the mysteries of a haunted house. Conjuring up the fear are Visual Effects Producer Raoul Bolognini, Special Effects Supervisor J.R. Kenny and Visual Effects Supervisor Andrew Degryse, with Alchemy 24 (Visual Effects Producer Marie-Claude Lafontaine), Metaphyx (Visual Effects Producer Virginia Cefaly and Visual Effects Supervisor Luca Saviotti) and Skulley Effects (Visual Effects Supervisor Culley Bunker).

Underwater (Photo: Alan Markfield. Copyright 2017 © 20th Century Fox)

Underwater (20th Century Fox)

Release date: U.K., January 10; U.S., January 10

Kristen Stewart and Jessica Henwick star in this survival thriller featuring a group of scientists trapped miles underwater after their research station is severely damaged by an earthquake. Mark R. Byers is the Special Effects Supervisor, with Alan Scott as the Special Effects Supervisor for Legacy Effects. VFX is covered by Visual Effects Producers Tara Conley and Annemarie Griggs as well as Visual Effects Supervisors Axel Bonami and Blair Clark with Furious FX (Visual Effects Producer Scott Dougherty and Visual Effects Supervisor David Lingenfelser), Image Engine (Visual Effects Supervisor Keegan Douglas), MPC (Visual Effects Producer Pierre Escande) and Proof, Inc. collaborating on the deep sea terror.

Bad Boys for Life (Photo: Ben Rothstein. Copyright © 2019 CTMG./Sony Pictures)

Bad Boys for Life (Sony Pictures)

Release date: U.K., January 17; U.S., January 17

Seventeen years after Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) last appeared together on screen, the now-veteran Miami detectives return to tie up loose ends on an old case before retirement. Going along for the ride are Special Effects Supervisor Eric Frazier, Visual Effects Producer Kendrick Wallace, and Clear Angle Studios.

 

Dolittle (Universal Pictures)

Release date: U.K., January 31; U.S., January 17

Robert Downey Jr. is the latest big-screen version of the esteemed veterinarian who can communicate with animals, and his adventure includes a wild menagerie created by VFX and voiced by stars like Emma Thompson, Ralph Fiennes, Marion Cotillard, Rami Malek, Tom Holland and Octavia Spencer. Joining the voyage for the extensive creature work are Special Effects Supervisor Dominic Tuohy, Visual Effects Producers Tim Keene and Roma O’Connor, Gentle Giant Studios (Visual Effects Supervisor Yoshi DeHerrera), MPC (Visual Effects Supervisor Nicolas Aithadi), Framestore, Clear Angle Studios and Proof, Inc.

 

The Turning (Universal Pictures)

Release date: U.K., January 24; U.S., January 24

In the latest cinematic take on the classic ghost tale The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, Mackenzie Davis stars as a nanny who suspects something is horrific about the mysterious two orphans she has been appointed to raise. Scaring up the effects are Special Effects Supervisor Kevin Byrne, Visual Effects Producer Jasmine Scott, Visual Effects Supervisor Brendan Taylor, Mavericks VFX (Visual Effects Supervisor Matt Philip Whelan) and Gentle Giant Studios.

Gretel & Hansel (Photo: Pat Redmond. Copyright © 2019 Orion Pictures)

Gretel & Hansel (Orion Pictures)

Release date: U.K., TBD; U.S., January 31

Gretel (portrayed by It star Sophia Lillis) takes the lead role in director Osgood Perkins’ horror version of the familiar fairy tale. Paul Byrne is the Special Effects Supervisor, with Visual Effects Supervisor Kev Cahill and Sandbox FX (Visual Effects Supervisor John P. Nugent).

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (Image copyright © 2020 Warner Bros. Pictures)

Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Release date: U.K., February 7; U.S., February 7

Margot Robbie reprises her fan-favorite role as Harley Quinn from 2016’s Suicide Squad and switches from villain to hero to join superheroes Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) to face off against Gotham City crime lord Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). Creating the comic book adaptation’s visuals are Special Effects Supervisor Mark Hawker, Visual Effects Producer Annemarie Griggs, Visual Effects Supervisor Fernando Zorrilla, Luma Pictures (Visual Effects Producer Michael Perdew and Visual Effects Supervisor Kevin Souls), Weta Digital (Visual Effects Supervisor Thrain Shadbolt), Crafty Apes, Day for Nite and Method Studios.

Sonic the Hedgehog (Image copyright © 2019 Paramount Pictures and Sega of America, Inc.)

Sonic the Hedgehog (Paramount Pictures)

Release date: U.K., February 14; U.S., February 14

Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog character has starred in video games that have sold millions of copies since his 1991 debut, and after multiple animated series and comic books the blue-furred hedgehog is starring in his first feature film. Ben Schwartz voices Sonic opposite the villainous Dr. Robotnik, played by Jim Carrey. Special Effects Supervisor Alex Burdett, Visual Effects Producer Jennifer Thompson and Visual Effects Supervisor Ged Wright had their work cut out for them after fan reaction to Sonic’s look in the first trailer, but character redesign from Shade VFX (Visual Effects Producers Molly Pabian and Albert Testani), DMG (Visual Effects Supervisor Lisa Deaner), Blur Studio, Marza Animation Planet and Trixter should be the fix. Previs was provided by Digital Domain.

 

Fantasy Island (Sony Pictures)

Release date: U.K., February 14; U.S., February 14

While the classic Fantasy Island television series that aired from 1977 to 1984 starring Ricardo Montalbán’s Mr. Roarke had a mysterious nuance, the concept receives a supernatural horror makeover in director/co-writer Jeff Wadlow’s feature film starring Michael Peña as Roarke. Helping to reimagine Fantasy Island are Special Effects Supervisor Dean Clarke and Visual Effects Supervisor Simon Maddison.

 

Bloodshot (Sony Pictures)

Release date: U.K., February 21; U.S., February 21

Valiant Comics is the latest comic book company to bring its characters to cinemas with Bloodshot, starring Vin Diesel as a murder victim who is resurrected and reborn as the ultimate weapon with superhuman abilities. Introducing the world of Valiant Comics to the screen are Special Effects Supervisor Cordell McQueen and Visual Effects Supervisor Ruslan Borysov with Clear Angle Studios, Day for Nite, Method Studios and RodeoFX.

 

Call of the Wild (20th Century Fox)

Release date: U.K., February 21; U.S., February 21

Several film adaptations of Call of the Wild have been previously released, and director Chris Sanders makes his live-action directing debut with this latest version of Jack London’s adventure novel. The film features Terry Notary portraying the dog Buck via motion capture, with Special Effects Supervisor Jeremy Hays, Visual Effects Producer Ryan Stafford, Visual Effects Supervisors Erik Nash and Ryan Cook creating the visuals for Buck’s journey. VFX contributors include Gentle Giant Studios (Visual Effects Supervisor Yoshi DeHerrera), Halon Entertainment, MPC, Proof, Inc. and Trace VFX.

 

The Invisible Man (Universal Pictures)

Release date: U.K., February 28; U.S., February 28

Writer/director Leigh Whannel’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’ classic sci-fi novel also serves as an update to Universal’s timeless 1933 film starring Claude Rains. This modern retelling stars Elisabeth Moss opposite Oliver Jackson-Cohen, who portrays the titular character.

Onward (Image copyright © 2019 Disney/Pixar)

Onward (Pixar Animation Studios)

Release date: U.K., March 6; U.S., March 6

Pixar’s first original animated feature since the Academy and VES Award-winning Coco is Onward, a tale of a pair of elf brothers in a modern fantasy world from Monsters University director Dan Scanlon, who wrote and directed this film. Jesus Martinez serves as VFX Producer.

 

A Quiet Place 2 (Paramount Pictures)

Release date: U.K., March 20; U.S., March 20

2018’s A Quiet Place scared up $341 million at the worldwide box office, turning a film featuring vicious aliens that track their human prey by noise into an unexpected major hit. A Quiet Place director John Krasinski has written and directed this sequel, and also returning for the sequel is Visual Effects Supervisor Scott Farrar.

Mulan (Image copyright © Disney 2019 Enterprises, Inc.)

Mulan (Walt Disney Studios)

Release date: U.K., March 27; U.S., March 27

Disney aims to continue the box office success of its live-action remakes of its classic animated features with this new version of Mulan, adapted from the 1998 hit about a young woman who becomes a fearsome warrior in Ancient China. Liu Yifei stars as Mulan alongside actors Donnie Yen, Jet Li and Jason Scott Lee. Helping director Niki Caro bring the animated world of Mulan to life are Visual Effects Producer Diana Giorgiutti, Visual Effects Supervisor Sean Andrew Faden and Framestore (Visual Effects Producer Jeanne-Élise Prévost), Image Engine (Visual Effects Supervisor Christian Irles),  Sony Imageworks (Visual Effects Supervisor Seth Maury), Weta Digital (Visual Effects Producer Rene Sekula and Visual Effects Supervisor Anders Langlands), Day for Nite and One Of Us.


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