WWF-Canada Blog:

Visual effects bringing ideas to life

I have had the privilege of getting up close and personal with one of our planet’s most impressive and stunning creatures: the tiger.  There is nothing quite like looking into the eyes of these animals and running your hand along those beautiful stripes.  I can’t imagine being able to create such beauty and power on the big screen.

CGI tiger


‘Life of Pi’ was honored with an Oscar for Visual Effects this year, with very good reason.  Apparently, movies usually use real animals or animated ones – not both.  This time, the artists had the challenge of having both appear in the movie. This means that perfection was necessary in order to allow the audience to be immersed in the story, convinced that the tiger was real. When I found out that every animal – in fact most of the film – was computer-generated imagery (CGI), I was blown away.

Blown away by the incredible talent and vision of the team of animators who brought that story to life in such great and flawless detail.  Blown away by the fact that these talented people were not acknowledged by Ang Lee, the director, for what without them would have been the story of a kid in a boat in a pool holding a tiger-sized pillow.

Life of Pi


What does this have to do with conservation? The fact that some of the most amazing creatures we are trying to protect are also some of the most elusive, found in the most remote places. The fact that through exploring the past (e.g. weather patterns), we can learn for the future. The fact that showing inspirational tales like ‘Life of Pi’ is a powerful way to connect people to nature. CGI can help us bring tigers, dinosaurs, the ice age, deep-sea creatures, and more to living rooms around the globe.

Conservation, like CGI, begins with an idea that is brought to life through action.  Scientists research, collaborate, and plan before their vision of a protected area or species recovery plan is put into place. CGI animators do the same before they bring ideas to life on screen.  It is important that we appreciate this hard work and give credit where it is deserved, because imagination and creativity are the roots of solutions.

[Click here and here to read more about what is going on in the world of visual effects (VFX).  You can show solidarity by changing your Facebook profile picture to ‘green screen’ green and talk about this on Twitter #vfxunion.]