Taylor felt strongly that the sword defines the Telmarine culture. For Miraz and his fierce army of soldiers, he chose rapiers and falchions. “The rapier is a sophisticated weapon with a very long blade and a basketed hilt. It is used in a much more refined and subtle motion than the hack-and-slash motion of some of the weapons in the first film,” he says. “There’s a lot of ceremony in these various pieces, as well as an ornamentation that illustrates the pomp and ceremony of Miraz and his people.”
Taylor’s team manufactured 200 polearms in two different styles, 200 rapiers of varying design, over 100 falchions, 250 shields and 55 crossbows, including the handsome and deadly weapon wielded by Miraz’s queen, Pruniprismia. The Telmarine cavalry was equipped with soft shields and stunt gear, which included stunt-safe horse faceplates for the warhorses and unusual sculpted faceplate helmets for the soldiers.
“The Telmarines were a very exciting race of people to design,” Taylor concludes. “They are almost feudal. Their armor is resplendent and rich and beautiful, complemented by some very fine weaponry. They are a very fierce fighting force, so quite an adversary for the Narnian creatures.”
The world of Narnia was magically enriched through the collective talents and efforts of the production’s visual effects artists, once again headed by Oscar® nominee Dean Wright. Wright and longtime Adamson ally Wendy Rogers collaborated with a whole new group of computer wizards for PRINCE CASPIAN.
Wright and Rogers drafted three of the industry’s top VFX designers to bring the world of Narnia to the screen in this new chapter. Two London firms, The Moving Picture Company and the Oscar®-winning Framestore/CFC, joined the Oscar® winners from Weta Digital in New Zealand to digitally enhance the world of Narnia and envision CGI creatures the River God, Jadis the White Witch, Trufflehunter the faithful badger, Aslan the Lion and the valiant, swashbuckling rodent, Reepicheep.
As in the first film, virtually every moment and scene in the film has been touched by a VFX shot of some sort. “This is one of the biggest visual effects films ever made,” claims Wright. “Andrew was bound and determined to up the ante this time. We started off with at least twice the number of VFX shots as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”
For the castle raid sequence, the movie’s epic action set piece, Wright partnered with two colleagues—The Moving Picture Company’s Greg Butler, whose team oversaw the action and character effects created for this sequence, and Weta Digital in New Zealand’s Guy Williams, who created the environments for the scene.
A virtual glossary of VFX practices were used to bring together all the elements to complete the film’s first big action scene. Wright estimates at least 300 VFX shots have been incorporated into this single scene.
Adamson also wanted to break the CGI barrier by merging real people realistically with the CG characters. Lucy hugging Aslan, Susan riding on the back of Glenstorm the centaur during their escape from the castle raid and the Pevensies and Caspian being carried into the castle by Gryphons all are prime examples of the intricacy of the film’s VFX work.
The decision to have Gryphons carry the children, Caspian and Trumpkin into the castle meant months of technical design, research and development with the assistance of motion control expert Ian Menzies. The VFX teams all over the world had to work in perfect synchronicity in order to pull off this eye-popping effect perfectly.
Animators at MPC in London plotted the path the children would fly and supervised the intricate moves on-set in Prague. The digital files for the shots were sent to Weta Digital in New Zealand, where “matchmakers” converted them for Alex Funke’s miniature crew to use in a camera test on the 1/24th scale castle model. Any changes required were then passed onto the on-set animators, who incorporated the new camera moves into their animation before finally sharing it with Menzies’ team. He took the information and fed it into the computer control “Gryphon rigs” connected to the motion control cameras to shoot the blue screen photography of the actors.
Months after the actual castle raid sequence was completed on location in Prague, Wright returned to New Zealand where he and Funke, one of the industry’s best miniature effects directors, shot footage on various miniature versions of the castle built at different scales.
“Andrew is a big fan of trying to put whatever is real in the frame,” Wright says. “Miniature sets make it seem more organic within the frame and the story. When you have a well-lit miniature, you again fall into this world of believing everything you’re seeing, and that’s what we wanted to do.”
“Having Andrew in the director’s chair is a godsend for us,” Dean Wright says. “As visual effects professionals, we want to be pushed. I think all the innovation that comes from visual effects comes from a director pushing you farther than you ever thought you could go.
“Andrew wanted to make this film bigger than the last, which meant throwing more complicated stuff at VFX,” the effects supervisor continues. “When kudos go out for visual effects, there should be an honorary place for the director. He’s the one that comes up with 95 percent of the vision of what you’re going to create. We’re there to help it and enhance it.”
Adamson says his goal was to give the audience something they hadn’t seen before. “And I think we’ve done that. There are a lot of things technique-wise that we developed and experimented with that we can take advantage of in the future. How do you do a centaur? How do you do a minotaur? We’ve got a forest of trees that join the battles this time, and we’ve generated trees that can move and wade through the earth. Now that we know how to do it, we don’t have to spend that money again.”
The biggest challenge for the film, according to Johnson, is living up to the standards created by The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. “People have seen the first movie and enjoyed it throughout the world,” he points put. “Their expectations are even higher. So we cannot be as good as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. We have to be even better.”
Adamson says directing THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA films has been one of the most satisfying projects of his career. “I have been given the opportunity to take a hugely important childhood memory and show people something that had previously only existed in our collective imaginings. I’ve approached these films by setting out to make movies inspired by my memory of the books as an eight-year-old. You’re very lucky if that happens once in your lifetime… but for me, it has happened again.”