The Lone Ranger
Challenge & Solution
“The Lone Ranger” is a gritty Western that follows the exploits of The Lone Ranger and Tonto through a series of gunfights, across a runaway train and just steps away from an exploding bridge. The Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer Films offering was a rollicking good time that blended realistic sets and great effects to pull the viewer into the film.
Director Gore Verbinski knew that it was important to ground the film in as much reality as possible. “I wanted the audience to taste the dust,” he said.
To that end, Verbinski turned to the team at 32TEN Studios for a handful of practical effects and pick-up shots to be used during post production. The director and 32TEN had collaborated on several of Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” films.
Models / Practical Effects / Practical Elements / Pick-Up Shots
“We made [The Lone Ranger] the way westerns were made in their heyday — filming across five states and embracing everything nature threw at us,” Verbinski said. “When it came time to scale the larger than life effects, 32TEN Studios were in stride with that intention. They knew how important it was to get this exactly right: To make things feel raw, dynamic, and gravitationally correct.”
32TEN worked directly with Disney’s Associate Producer & VFX Producer Shari Hanson, Industrial Light & Magic’s VFX Supervisor Tim Alexander and MPC’s VFX Supervisor, Gary Brozenich.
The primary sequence created by 32TEN was the destruction of the train trestle bridge, including several shots of the bridge blowing up and collapsing.
The shots were meticulously choreographed in Previz by Alex Cannon, directed by Verbinski himself, and handed to 32TEN to be shot using 1/5th scale miniatures.
Three separate sections of the bridge were built at 32TEN Studios by Model
Supervisor Ben Nichols and a team of 22 model makers, with help from one of the movie’s Production Designers Crash McCreery and VFX Supervisor Tim
The three sections were placed outdoors in the back lot at 32TEN, inside a 50’ X 50’ water tank and against an 80’ x 32’ green screen.
Even at 1/5th scale, the largest model was 33 feet long and 25 feet tall.
The scenes were shot using high speed Vistavision.
Heron and his team used pyrotechnics, hydraulics and mechanical rigs to create the destruction required by Verbinski, who was watching closely from Los Angeles via a live video feed.
32TEN Studios also spent a week shooting a handful of other practical elements and pick up shots with extras against a green screen for both ILM and MPC in London. Supervisors at ILM and MPC supervised the scenes via a live video feed.
“Working with the amazing talent at 32TEN is like coming home for me. Over the years, I’ve worked with this team on hundreds of miniatures and practical effects,” said Disney’s Hanson. “When our big miniatures and key special effects elements came up for ‘The Lone Ranger,’ I knew we needed absolute perfection matching into our live action film. The 32TEN team was able to deliver in our true ‘Lone Ranger’ style of large scope and spectacular images, all beautifully executed.”
Crash McCreery, who, along with Jess Gonchor, worked as a Production Designer on “The Lone Ranger,” added, “Working with the artists and technicians at 32TEN reminded me of why I got into this business in the first place. With CG taking over so much of the visual effects needs of films these days, it was fantastic to actually watch a practical model that was built by hand blow up, for real, and to feel the heat and concussion of the explosion.
“32TEN had such a challenge set before them — to replicate an event originally constructed and executed entirely in a computer generated animatic,” he continued. “The rig they built was truly a work of engineering genius. The artists reproduced every detail to the tee. To witness this little piece of film history take place in real life was a rare treat.”
Verbinski appreciated 32TEN’s contribution as well. “They painstakingly adapted their approach through craft, passion and good cinematographic science, until it was absolutely believable. It is almost a lost art, and I am so happy to have a team like 32TEN around who knows all the tricks of the trade and are constantly advancing it to the next level. They make cheating the eye honest work.”