The thing you will notice about the fight in the finale of Netflix’s blockbuster series, Wednesday, is how clear it looks. The climactic battle, with The Hyde in the center, could have been a muddled mess. It’s set at night and the movements of both participants are feral and violent. What Visual Effects Supervisor Tom Turnbull brought to that brawl, and the entire first season, is a level of elegance that we wouldn’t expect from a show packed with demons and monsters.
Tim Burton’s work endures partly because of the dazzlingly stark visuals he brings to everything–whether it’s Beetlejuice or Batman. When Wednesday was first released, you couldn’t escape those visuals on social media, so, needless to say, Wednesday Addams has cast a spell on viewers yet again. Turnbull praised the legendary creator.
“It was intimidating,” Turnbull admits. “I have watched all of his movies, and they are all so visually interesting and they all carry stylistic threads all through them. He clearly always has a vision. Honestly, when it came to working with him, it became quite easy, and I enjoyed how visual he communicated. That helped me too, because I tend to think visually as well. I can read written notes for hours or I can look at a reference image or a sketch and understand it in ten seconds.”
A lot of press has been written on the visual effects of the character of Thing. One of the most unique aspects of Turnbull’s overseeing the visual effects department is that he participated in the casting process for that part. Ultimately, the part went to Victor Dorobantu, but Turnbull’s involvement really drives home how understanding something from the very beginning can make all the difference.
“I watched a lot of acting from a lot of broad places,” he says. “That’s not normal. I asked to be involved in it, and Tim was very accommodating. I would make my recommendations, so that casting was quite collaborative. We narrowed it down to three, I got to be in the room for that as well, and that was definitely a unique experience. Watching hundreds of those tapes was difficult, because you are trying to find the gem in there. Not a lot of people can wrap their heads around it sometimes. With Thing, I wanted to be invested in doing my part to make sure that character came to life. With Wednesday, they let me do that, and that’s unique to this show. That’s not normally in my job description, and I think that level of collaboration speaks to the success of the show as whole.”
Seeing The Hyde in all its glory in the finale of Wednesday is something to behold. The writers and visual effects team have only teased him before we get to episode 8–maybe an eye here or a shadow there. Having believable movement was paramount to Turnbull, and he reveals that bringing the stunt team to choreograph the fight between the big baddie and Enid (all wolfed out) isn’t typical.
“I terms of the design, Tim had very specific ideas about it,” Turnbull says. “The creature is very much a Burton creation with the big eyes. For me, I needed to fulfil that as much as possible. My biggest effort was to make him as physically believable as possible. We would base its movements on the stunt department and their reference material. The physics of him needed to feel correct, and that can be a struggle in CG animation. That’s was my focus on the creature–to give him a higher level of believability. Tim oversaw the entire series and he was part of the post-production, obviously, but we needed to make the schedule for that finale. We put a lot of effort into how we shot it, and we collaborated heavily with the stunt department. They did the most of the choreography, and they came out on the day of shooting. One actor was on stilts and had arm extensions to perform as the Hyde and another was playing there werewolf. We watched their paces and set up our equipment, and, by and large, that’s what we followed in post. We were out in the woods with actors on cables and tossing them around with full intention of replacing them with CG. That’s not the easy way to do it, but I think that contributes with the believability of the fight. It’s about real people making real films, and then the animation department used that as a foundation to make it better.”
My personal favorite visual effects moment comes when Wednesday defeats the fire demon version of Joseph Crackstone. As he is being sent back from whence he came, he slowly disintegrates into horrifying ash, piece by piece floating away. It’s a truly gnarly sendoff.
“No one has asked me about that actually,” he says. “We didn’t want him to burst or pop. He is created from smoke and ash, and when Wednesday stabs him and twists the knife, we wanted him to look like he was going back to his origins. That’s why he s from the inside. That said, going into that sequence, we didn’t have that well-drawn plan. It became work in post-production. We felt the pressure during the filming, but I really credit the visual effects house who really made that happen. It strikes the right notes, I think. Tim’s real note was to add more embers floating around to give it the right button.”
Wednesday is streaming now on Netflix.