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The Incredible Way Weta Created Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ Spoilery Opening

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When Weta’s Erik Winquist heard Fox was making another Planet of the Apes movie, he was initally skeptical. “It was presented as ‘Hey, there’s another Apes film, are you interested in working on that?’ And I was like, ‘Oh. I don’t know.’” he told io9. “Part of it was… where is this going to go? Because if it’s just going to be ‘And then…’ [I wasn’t interested.] Caesar’s dead. Where’s this gonna go?”

Winquist was a VFX Supervisor on each of the three previous Apes films so he didn’t want to just do the same thing again. Thankfully, when he read more about it, he realized Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes wasn’t that at all. “The biggest thing for me that pulled me in was just this notion of like, what are the possibilities of a world that’s this far beyond the end of human civilization when nature is taking over?” he said. “You start imagining all these visuals in your head and the possibilities of that were fascinating. It was a really nice, fresh, new beginning to the next chapter of the franchise.”

Before the film can be that next chapter though, it has a crucial prologue linking the two together and Winquist contributed to it in ways both expected and very, very unexpected. [This is a minor spoiler so here’s a warning just in case.]

Image for article titled The Incredible Way Weta Created Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes' Spoilery Opening

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes picks up almost immediately after the end of War for the Planet of the Apes with the funeral of Caesar, and the scene instantly gave Winquist lots of thoughts.

“My first thought was that it was like, ‘Oh, wow, we’re going to start this live-action movie with a fully CG scene,’” he said. “The actual characters that we’re seeing, yes, they were essentially taken off the shelf, dusted off from War and given some upgrades to our later shading and everything else that we’re doing these days… Make sure they’re compatible with all the latest changes that have been made in the pipeline and off to the races we went. The big thing there was just the environment side of it.”

Image for article titled The Incredible Way Weta Created Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes' Spoilery Opening

Image: Fox

Winquist explained that the final scene of War was shot on a set and, since the team was on location in Australia to make Kingdom, he wanted to do something different. He talked to people in the locations department to ask if there was a place he could go and capture footage to make that first scene stand out.

“I want this environment to be based on a real place,” he said. “And they pointed me to this really fantastic location in the far south of New South Wales, near the border of Victoria that’s on top of a ski resort there. It’s got these amazing granite rocky structures in this almost alpine tundra landscape. And so Jake [Cenac], a guy who’s been with us for years on a number of Apes films, he and I jumped in the car, drove five hours south, and hiked to the top of the ski resort with our gear. [There] we spent an afternoon just capturing [and] LIDAR scanning this whole landscape, so we could have some material to make our digital environment with just so that it wasn’t pulled out of our backside and it was based on a real place.”

So, to clarify, no one involved in the actual filming was involved in capturing that scene? “That was literally two VFX guys with gear on their backs,” Winquist said. “It was really fun.”

[End Spoilers]

Image for article titled The Incredible Way Weta Created Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes' Spoilery Opening

Image: Fox

Part of the reason Winquist was able to do that was the relationship he developed with director Wes Ball. “This was probably the most enjoyable experience I’ve had on a [movie] to date,” Winquist said. “The thing that’s beautiful about Wes is he brings so much exuberance to everything about the post process. The post process is his favorite part [and] it’s definitely more his wheelhouse than the on-set part of it even. And that’s because he comes from a 3D animation background… So he’s our people. We speak the same language… The number of times I heard Wes in this process say, ‘Oh, I trust you, just do whatever you think is right.’ And then, we would come up with something and present it and he’d be like, ‘That’s great.’ So yeah, I’d love to sign on board [with] whatever Wes is doing next.”

We don’t know what Wes Ball or Erik Winquist is doing next—but if it’s working on another Apes movie together, we’d know it’ll be in very good hands both on set and in the visual effects.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is now in theaters.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.



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