The ILM Art Department got involved in Kong: Skull Island early on to develop and design key moments of the reimagined version of the classic King Kong narrative in collaboration with director Jordan Vogt-Roberts. ILM’s visual effects and animation team in San Francisco, Singapore, and Vancouver, created the models for the film’s title character, Kong, the Skullcrawlers, stick spiders, a massive water buffalo, and a variety of the film’s other prehistoric looking creatures. Collectively the team created 1,048 shots for Skull Island representing approximately 50-minutes of screen time.
Animation supervisor Scott Benza was responsible for all of the animation on the film. Balancing the immense scale of Kong while keeping the shots dynamic and full of action was a constant challenge. While motion capture helped provide reference, Kong was entirely key frame animated. The subtlety and nuance of the facial performances that makes Kong such a compelling character are on full display in numerous scenes throughout the film. At 110-foot tall, the scale of Kong required an eye towards keeping the physics grounded in reality even while pushing the bounds of what could actually occur in reality.
In computer graphics accurately simulating things such as destruction, water, hair, and fire are a challenge. Kong had all of those to contend with, often in the same shot. Accurate hair simulation is difficult but add to it the fact that patches of the hair have been burnt, singed, bloodied, and are constantly being submerged in water, and the fact that we’re going to see it from above and below the water’s surface, and the task gets that exponentially more difficult. ILM’s digital groomers leveraged the company’s Academy Award-winning hair simulation system, HairCraft, to create the vast array of related effects having to do with Kong’s 19-million hairs.
ILM’s environments team also had their hands full as they augmented plates shot in Vietnam and elsewhere, performed set extensions, and created full digital environments for numerous sequences such as the fight between Kong and Skull Crawler in the lake and the end battle.