fxinsider’s summer movie preview

Perhaps even more than in recent years, this USA summer is offering up an enormous wave of diverse and highly anticipated movie releases. Many of the films, too, are part of huge franchises or re-tellings of classic stories. For our fxinsider readers we’ve put together a list of some of the biggest VFX and animation films coming out, with what to look out for and which studios are behind the work.

The Jungle Book

Overview: Disney’s reimagining of this classic Rudyard Kipling tale, helmed by Jon Favreau, was essentially filmed all against bluescreen with only a live action boy actor for Mowgli, and then computer generated imagery crafted for environments and creatures. VFX supe Rob Legato is leading the charge.

What to look out for: So far the trailers and clips have provided clear evidence of the incredible lengths the filmmakers have gone to to render the jungle environs and animals photorealistically, but we’re curious about how lip sync for the talking creatures was tackled and how the world has been fleshed out.

Main vendors: MPC, Weta Digital, Digital Domain, Magnopus, Legacy Effects

US release date: April 15

The Huntsman: Winter’s War

Overview: Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan was the visual effects supervisor on the first Huntsman outing, which surprised many with its compelling tale and exquisite design (it also earned a VFX Oscar nom).

What to look out for: More lush landscapes, an even more magical mirror and Emily Blunt riding a polar bear.

Main vendors: Double Negative

US release date: April 22

Captain America: Civil War

Overview: A lot has been building towards this moment when Iron Man takes on Captain America (along with each of their followers) after the government tries to regulate superhuman activity.

What to look out for: The usual suspects are back, plus some new and not-so-new superheroes including Spider-Man. The result is likely to be an impressive melding of practical costumed performers and their digitally realized counterparts – a hallmark of the Avengers series of films.

Main vendors: ILM, Double Negative, Cinesite, Luma Pictures, Method Studios, Trixter, Lola

US release date: May 6

X-Men: Apocalypse

Overview: Teased at the end of The Days of Future Past, ancient Egyptian mutant En Sabah Nur has a starring role in Apocalypse, directed by Bryan Singer.

What to look out for: Again, there are so many characters to get excited about in this franchise but we have a bias towards Quicksilver based on his impressive high speed turn last time around. A fun Singer Instagram post adds to the anticipation.

Main vendors: MPC, Digital Domain, Rising Sun Pictures

US release date: May 27

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Overview: There’s nothing like the melding of the minds of Lewis Carroll and Tim Burton and this looks set be just as fantastical as the first film.

What to look out for: Visual effects veteran Ken Ralston returns to oversee the work here. What’s impressive about these Alice films is how ‘over-the-top’ the imagery looks and how much that of course fits into the story – not all films get away with such whimsical creatures and environments.

Main vendors: Sony Imageworks, Double Negative

US release date: May 27

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

Overview: Who would have through wise-cracking turtles from the 80s would be a big deal in 2016. But they are, and they’re bring more Shredder and more Beboy, Rock Steady and Kraung with them.

What to look out for: In recent years ILM has ramped up its already impressive performance capture stripes by adopting on-set capture, Disney Zurich’s Medusa system and its own tech solves. Combine that with further advancements in green skin rendering and the company, and its partners, are a perfect match for turtle power.

Main vendors: ILM

US release date: June 3


Overview: It might have been delayed for some time but Duncan Jones’ Warcraft looks like more than just your normal game-to-film adaptation. Also, it’s Duncan Jones!

What to look out for: Virtual production and mocap techniques were high on the agenda to tell the Warcraft story. But recent clips have also pushed heavily the live action shoot and practical effects – which might surprise some filmgoers. ILM likely rev’d up its toolset for muscles, hair and facial animation to make the film possible.

Main vendors: ILM, Hybride, Rodeo FX, Weta Workshop

US release date: June 10

Finding Dory

Overview: First it was Nemo, now it’s Dory. Either way, this is one of Pixar’s most anticipated releases.

What to look out for: Pixar’s first big film to take advantage of their RIS path tracing – which is probably going to require multiple repeat viewings to see all the details.

Main vendors: Pixar

US release date: June 17

Independence Day: Resurgence

Overview: Roland Emmerich can’t stay away from disaster films, and we don’t mind at all.

What to look out for: The first film in 1996 was kinda big and silly and audiences loved it. Will that same feeling be felt without what was previously a large reliance on miniatures and practical effects? The key VFX team of Volker Engel and Mark Weigert look to have this covered.

Main vendors: Scanline, Image Engine, Uncharted Territory

US release date: June 24


Overview: Roald Dahl’s classic story gets the Spielberg treatment.

What to look out for: The filmmakers at Weta Digital and Weta Workshop have a history of such tight collaboration with the principal filmmakers, and a deep-seated desire to craft their characters from the ground-up – so expect the BFG himself to be no different. We simply can’t wait to see where they go with facial animation and skin detail, especially with the in-house Manuka renderer.

Main vendors: Weta Digital, Weta Workshop

US release date: July 1

The Legend of Tarzan

Overview: Harry Potter helmer David Yates has two big films out this year – this and more Harry Potter. Tarzan looks to be a uniquely raw re-telling of the Edgar Rice Burroughs tale.

What to look out for: There’s jungle, apes and animals here, and MPC is one of the main vendors, but this isn’t The Jungle Book. We’re intrigued to see how far a human raised as an ape can be taken with visual effects enhancements.

Main vendors: MPC, Rising Sun Pictures, Framestore

US release date: July 1


Overview: Director Paul Feig is behind this all-female Ghostbusting crew take on the original 1984 film.

What to look out for: The original films were beloved for their comedy and their practical ghostly and plasma effects. There might be a tendency to showcase all the advancements since that time, but we hope not.

Main vendors: Sony Imageworks

US release date: July 15

Star Trek Beyond

Overview: Justin Lin takes over the voyages of the starship Enterprise.

What to look out for: Dneg, rather than ILM, is the lead vendor this time around. We’re just hoping for some frenetic Justin Lin input into the franchise.

Main vendors: Double Negative, Atomic Fiction, Kelvin Optical

US release date: July 22

Jason Bourne

Overview: Director Paul Greengrass and actor Matt Damon – it’s classic Bourne (for the fifth time).

What to look out for: The Bourne films contain surprisingly high numbers of visual effects shots – more the seamless kind. Look out for clever ways that effects are used to tell the story.

Main vendors: Double Negative

US release date: July 29

Suicide Squad

Overview: Bad guys get out of prison to do some good – what could go wrong?

What to look out for: This DC Comics adventure is a large part of the widening of the DC Universe so a large part of the effects effort should be character powers and make-up work.

Main vendors: Sony Imageworks, MPC

US release date: August 5

Pete’s Dragon

Overview: There isn’t a lot of detail out about Pete’s Dragon yet, but if it’s anything like the animated Disney film, and we assume it will be, bring tissues.

What to look out for: Weta Digital seems almost the perfect VFX house to do dragons (of course they’ve done plenty in the past, so their take on Pete’s dragon should be interesting).

Main vendors: Weta Digital

US release date: August 12

Kubo and the Two Strings


Overview: Travis Knight directs this beautiful looking film from the animation studio behind Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls.

What to look out for: Not only has LAIKA mastered the art of stop-motion animation, they also haven’t shied away from incorporating stop-motion-like computer generated imagery into their films.

Main vendors: LAIKA

US release date: August 19

So, which films did we miss, which films are you looking forward to – or not looking forward to! – this summer? Let us know in the comments below.