Animatronic Reindeer Ready and Other Set News

Animatronic reindeer replace living variety in Narnia film

5.00pm – By ALAN PERROTT
Steam vents from her flaring nostrils and she looks convincingly agitated, but any DNA replicating within this reindeer has more in common with a pop-up toaster than the real thing.

Holly is one of four animatronic reindeer working on Andrew Adamson’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe after the living variety struck problems with Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry regulations.

The movie’s producers withdrew an application to import 14 reindeer after MAF officers raised concerns over the possibility of introducing the potentially-deadly Q fever, which is present among American herds.

Their eerily realistic replacements were built in six months by Mark Rappaport and his Los Angeles-based Creature Effects team from fibreglass, servo motors and synthetic materials.

Each is controlled by up to five puppeteers who control all movements of their heads, neck, hips, nostrils, ears, eyes and tail as well as simulating breathing by expelling vapour from their nostrils. A movie spokesman declined to disclose how much they cost to manufacture.

The team will stand in for close up, stationary shots and will wear white synthetic pelts when pulling the evil White Witch’s sleigh and brown when with Father Christmas. Any scenes showing moving reindeer will be computer generated.

Mr Rappaport said his creations will go into storage once shooting is completed, but was hopeful they would be needed again if Disney decides to film further novels from CS Lewis’ Narnia series.

The scenes with Father Christmas, played by Braveheart’s James Cosmo, were shot over the past week. Mr Cosmo was present on the West Auckland sets for only two days to complete his part in the project.

The only live animals to appear in the Disney-Walden Media production will be horses and wolves, which were yesterday working on sets near Henderson.

All other creatures will be computer generated by American companies Sony Imageworks and Rhythm & Hues.

Casting decisions are still awaited for six major roles: Aslan the lion, Maugrim, the White Witch’s wolf henchman, and the four children – Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter – as adults.

See Holly at Work
See a Closeup of Holly

This story was originally published at The New Zealand Herald