**UPDATE** (7.18.12): The secret is out! Read the inside story of how the aurochs were created at National Geographic, and watch them in action in the making-of featurette at iTunes Trailers. Nutria pelts (clearly visible in photo below) were used to create the beasts’ manes.
Set in The Bathtub, the (fictional) southernmost outpost of Louisiana’s fast-disappearing wetlands, Beasts of the Southern Wild emerged from the bayous where it was shot. It went on to win top awards at the Sundance and Cannes film festivals before opening across the US today. (It opens in New Orleans on July 4.)
Righteous Fur played a small, but pivotal, role in the film’s development. We supplied the nutria pelts that helped director Benh Zeitlin realize his vision of the titular Beasts: prehistoric creatures known as aurochs. Released from captivity when the polar icecaps melt, they charge back to The Bathtub in the vivid imagination of six-year-old protagonist Hushpuppy as she makes a last stand with her dying father at the edge of the world.
Earlier this week, I had the privilege of interviewing Benh about the auroch-nutria connection. He requested I keep some details under wraps until the aurochs work their magic in the multiplex. All will be revealed soon, when the making-of doc is released.
**UPDATE** (7.18.12): The secret is out! Watch the aurochs in action in the making-of featurette at iTunes Trailers.
Meanwhile, Benh was delighted to be gifted with a Righteous Fur nutria pelt, which helped bring the aurochs to life.
Beasts of the Southern Wild was based on a play by Lucy Alibar, who also collaborated on the screenplay. Were there aurochs in the stage version?
They did play a role in the play. And they did have a similar quality. Whenever Hushpuppy was feeling the end of the world present, was feeling her father dying – or him, it was a little boy in the play – the aurochs would get closer. They were always something that kind of resonated with the extreme fears of the character. But the way they were realized couldn’t have been more different. In the play, three people in red tutus would come out and do a little dance. [laughs]
And, like everything in the play, there was a whole process of kind of translating the elements of that show to a Louisiana story. They were supposed to be Horsemen of the Apocalypse in a way. And we tried to figure that out: how does this emerge from Hushpuppy’s world? Out of things that she knows and understands.
We were very set on using live animals, as opposed to computer graphics.
Or tutus or anything like that. [laughs] That was basically what I told [special effects coordinator] Matt [Thompson] and [second-unit director] Ray [Tintori]. I didn’t know how they were gonna make them, but I said we have to use live animals, so they went after that and did it.
Potbellied pigs were the basis, is that correct?
Yeah. But we’ve tried to keep it sort of a secret, what the actual animal was. We want to let people see it and not know that they’re looking at potbellied pigs. We don’t mind talking about it sort of roundaboutly. And at a certain point we’re gonna let everybody know. Once we feel like the world has seen it, sort of a month into the release. At some point, we’re gonna release a video that explains the making of.
**UPDATE**: The secret is out! Read the inside story of how the aurochs were created at National Geographic.
I totally understand, because they are truly magical creatures. When I first saw the trailer, that little glimpse was tantalizing. But I could tell it was nutria fur. Matt loved the idea of nutria being of the wetlands. Did he come up with that idea?
He did. They spent a long time testing so many different ways of creating the aurochs. They had to solve so many different problems, like getting the horns. There was so much stuff they needed to attach and they needed some kind of base to do that. We loved the idea that the costume would essentially emerge from Louisiana. Once we realized nutria fur could be used and seamed together with the live animal, it made perfect sense.
I thought it was really cool that the potbellied pigs were part of Hushpuppy’s whole milieu in the first part of the movie.
Yeah, we wanted it to have kind of a Wizard of Oz type quality. Not so much Wizard of Oz as going into the imagination, the movie is just Hushpuppy’s reality. But we did want to draw connections to things that she lives with and is around, and what she experiences, in heightened states.