Army of the Dead VFX Boss on Crafting the Perfect Zombie Tiger

Army of the Dead takes your standard zombie flick and thrusts it into the heart of Sin City, crafting the perfect recipe for the ultimate heist flick. Because of the locale, the movie features a fair share of homages to zombie street performers and the like, even including Valentine — a zombie tiger from the show of Siegfried and Roy. Though the production obviously couldn't get a real tiger to use on set, there were plenty of visual effects tricks in place to make sure the actors had something to interact with while filming scenes with the beast.

In fact, Army of the Dead VFX supervisor Marcus Taormina tells us the process wasn't unlike what Marvel Studios does with Sean Gunn and Rocket Raccoon. Instead of creating Valentine using motion capture a la Planet of the Apes, Taormina and his team decided to use motion reference. That means a stunt person simply took the spot of Valentine in the scenes so that the actors could get their proper eye lines down. That actor was then painted over in post-production before the Valentine model was placed into the movie.

It's a whole different process than what you'd see with a character like, say, Mark Ruffalo's the Incredible Hulk or even Thanos (Josh Brolin). Those two actors wore the motion capture suits, and their movements were then synced with their respective character models. Here, there were no "mo-cap pajamas" in place.

"Our stunt performer would be in a green suit, and we'd have him there for eyeline, and also interaction," Taormina says. "So when Valentine jumps on the car, he's actually jumping on the car to give that little shake, right? It kind of adds to the believability. And then obviously, our ensemble cast wanted to make sure they had an eyeline to what was there. But that performer became the tiger, he was so invested in that character."

Instead of putting a tiger prop in its place, the aforementioned stunt performer wore a full-sized tiger helmet — comparable to what you might see with a professional sports mascot.

"He'd really get down on his knees, become the tiger, which was great because it really... Even in that, what to most people would be, funny-looking footage, it's actually a great reference point and a jumping-off point to the animation team, because you can still feel it," the filmmaker adds.

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He concludes, "So that was a huge, probably overseen, piece of Valentine that not a lot of people will probably ever see, but it was an important piece to it. And then obviously in post, we discovered the character even further and kind of gave it its own backstory, to understand where Valentine came from and what she was dealing with in all these five years."

Zack Snyder's Army of the Dead is now streaming on Netflix.