Clifford the Big Red Dog (2021)
Although there are animals in this film, Clifford was created by CGI. Production used a fake “Clifford’ puppet to elicit reactions and help actors engage with him.
In the scene where the dog runs into a warehouse where he discovers a litter of puppies, the puppies were filmed on greenscreen in a studio, then superimposed in final shot. They used a “scan cam” to film the puppies, then they used those images in final scene imbuing them through CGI. Puppies were never filmed on actual warehouse set. In the warehouse scene itself, the trainers stood off-camera and directed the dog to pick up fake “stuffy” puppies and place them elsewhere. They also used non-toxic makeup to make the dog look dirty. Experienced film animal trainers had prepped the dog for her specific actions (looks to bait stick, go to mark, lie stay, moving blanket rig).
When we see the dog jump through the window, the trainers prepped the dog to jump through window with no glass. The glass was placed in post production with CGI. The dog never worked near any glass. Prior to filming, the trainer placed the dog on his mark. On action, the trainer cued the dog to jump through the open window. The other trainer used a bait stick to cue dog’s eyeline to mark where CGI puppies will be added. The dog picked up stuffy puppies on trainer’s command.
In the scene where Clifford talks to the man in the park who feeds pigeons, trainer brought the pigeons in large travel crates. The trainer retrieved a few pigeons from the crates and placed them on their cues. When the camera was rolling, he spread some bird food on the ground of the green screen set area. On action Mike took one bird out at a time and let them flutter to the food in the middle of the stage from about two feet in the air one at a time.
When the actor walks towards a tent and we see a capuchin monkey standing on the tent and a macaw on a nearby perch, the capuchin monkey, Crystal, was brought to set on a waist tie and leash in accordance with New York City laws by her trainer. Both animals were given a large private tent on the set for privacy. Both animals were professional animal actors and very accustomed to being on set. The handler for each animal was dressed in costume and standing close to the animals at all times. The areas the animals were working was thoroughly checked by the handlers and American Humane, including the perch, the crates and the tent, which were all well secured by the set dressers for stability and ease of use. Prior to filming the scene, the macaw was brought to set in his crate, and removed and placed on his perch beside the tent entrance. The capuchin, Crystal, was also brought to set on the shoulder of her trainer/handler. Her trainer cued Crystal to jump up onto the tent entrance just below the sign, and then removed her leash. Crystal’s trainer stood to the left of the tent entrance and acted as though he was working beside the tent. On action, he cued Crystal to jump down from the tent entrance and onto his shoulder as he continued to act. Cut was called and Tom rewarded Crystal with a food treat, and the macaw’s trainer rewarded him with verbal praise before resetting.
Inside the tent, the actress encounters several animals, including a sloth, iguana, guinea pig, rabbit, cat, goat, pig, snake and horse. This scene was filmed on a stage, which was air conditioned, large, clean and well-secured, with several holding areas to accommodate the diverse species. Prior to filming the trainers brought the animals into a large tent on stage. The iguana was placed on top of mirror. Two guinea pigs were perched separately. A fake mouse and two real mice were used on platform. The trainer placed his boa on a brass coat rack by the door. The trainer also placed the sloth on a perch. The trainer stimulated the sloth activity with food, while the other animals acted naturally. Some of the animals were in the shot, others were not used. Very basic action. When we see the cat peck at the man’s hand, they placed baby food on the trainer’s hand, and the cat licked it.
In the scene when the family eats dinner and Clifford meets Owen, the apartment was built on a stage. The set was built to be safe for dogs, which had access controlled with doors and secondary containment. Two animal trainers were on set the entire time, cuing the animal action from behind the camera. Clifford is a puppet head production used to cue the other dog to look up and react. In the scene itself, Clifford licks the dog, ingests him and spits him out. Obviously this was created through CGI. However, they cued dog off set to react. They also placed a non-toxic slimy substance to make it appear as if the dog was licked. The scene was filmed in a series of takes, with the trainers placing the dog on his mark, cuing his eyeline with the puppet dog, then engaging with the actors. The dog was immediately washed and returned to trailer after filming.
In the scene where Clifford sits in a vet’s waiting room and we see a ferret, a couple cats and dogs and a cockatoo, there were eight professional animal handlers on set at all times. The animals were all familiar and comfortable with working on a set. The dogs were acclimated to “acting” with the Clifford suit. The entire cast and crew were notified that animals were working on set, and they were all asked to keep noise and movements to a minimum while the animals were working. The animals were brought to the set last before rolling to minimize their time on set and to settle the crew before they were present. The set was in a closed studio, with all doors closed and the set locked down. The set area was checked by American Humane and the trainers and found to be safe and free of hazards and debris. All cats and dogs were on leashes at all times, and the birds were all handled by professional handlers. Prior to filming, the trainers brought their animals to set, placed them on their marks and cued them with hand signals and voice signals from behind the camera. At completion of the scene all of the animals were brought back to the animal area by the animal trainers and returned to their crates.
In the scene where Clifford is in a medical lab and we see a rabbit in an enclosure in the background and a goat, the rabbits and the goat were habituated to being handled and the animal wrangler was standing by in frame. The rabbit enclosure was open on the top and lined with plastic hexagon bars to prevent the rabbit to hop away. The animal wranglers carried the rabbit to set and placed him on an enclosed open box with open nylon straps on each side within the makeshift laboratory area. On action, the actors walked around the laboratory area while the rabbit just acted normally. On cut, the rabbit just stayed in the enclosed area and the same animal action was reset and repeated. The trainer walked the sheep to set and carried her to her mark. On action, she was recorded acting normally. On cut, she was walked out of the set and into her trailer. Everything went well.