How 'Captain Marvel' VFX Team Crafted a Scene-Stealing Cat

Captain Marvel' VFX Team Crafted a Scene-Stealing Cat  - Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Goose, the feisty feline companion in Captain Marvel, is no ordinary cat. For one, Goose is actually an alien creature called a Flerken, which can emit tentacles from its mouth. And secondly, Goose is computer generated.

Disney and Marvel's Captain Marvel, the first female-fronted stand-alone movie in the MCU, with Brie Larson as the titular lead, takes place in the 1990s and explores the origin story of the comic book superhero. For the filmmakers, Goose needed to "perform" beyond the scope of what is teachable to a real cat.

And then there was the issue of Larson's allergy to cats. This meant that the VFX team had to create a fully CG feline. The character "has full muscle, fur and skin animation," explains Janelle Croshaw Ralla, one of the film's VFX supervisors.

Scenes included Goose in zero gravity while traveling on a space craft, swallowing the Tesseract and fending off enemies with its giant tentacles.

Goose was modeled on a real feline named Reggie, who also appears in certain scenes. During filming, Reggie was supported by three stand-in cats that would take over when he needed a rest. But it was Reggie that the VFX team cloned in CG to create Goose.

Reggie first had to be lidar scanned, which provided a guide, Croshaw Ralla explains. A model cat was built without fur and a skeleton was added. Strands of fur were meticulously placed, and animators created movement such as walking and jumping. "A big challenge was to match the incredibly complex fur patterns on Reggie," Croshaw Ralla says.

The work on Goose was part of the whopping 2,400 visual effects shots in Captain Marvel, shared by 15 VFX houses including Industrial Light + Magic, Trixter and Animal Logic. These included action sequences and the de-aging of Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury to make him 25 years younger.

The work on Jackson — comprising roughly 550 VFX shots — was shared by three VFX studios, with the most shots handled by Lola VFX. "Nick Fury was our first feature de-aging a major character," says Lola VFX supervisor Trent Claus. The Lola process involves 2D digital compositing onto the actual face, resulting in a sort of hybrid of live-action and digital effects. Clark Gregg's Agent Coulson also benefited from de-aging magic.

Meanwhile, Croshaw Ralla says that the film has 70 VFX shots of CG Goose that had to be blended with scenes of the real Reggie.

Other VFX highlights in Captain Marvel include the kinetic metro train action sequence, inspired by the classic L-train chase in The French Connection. This involved filming live-action environments and layering in a CG train before adding a complicated fight scene that takes place on the train's roof.

And then there's the work needed for Captain Marvel herself, for the moment when her full power is unleased. Says Croshaw Ralla, "The idea was to make it feel like the power is coming from within her, and not that she's on fire."

This story first appeared in the Nov. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.