The Oscar-nominated visual effects team behind "Guardians of the Galaxy" created entire galaxy of alien species, including a sentient alien tree (Groot) and a wise-cracking raccoon (Rocket). But it was the group's work on the supervillain Thanos that will likely have the biggest impact on the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.
"It was a pretty mad rush, actually," said Stephane Ceretti, who was nominated alongside Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould for the "Guardians" effects. "He was in the movie initially, and then he sort of came out. Pretty much with about three months before release, we thought we were missing something. They wanted to bring him back, and we were like, 'Do you really want to bring him back now?'"
Thanos made his first official appearance in "Marvel's The Avengers," a quick glimpse that showed the evildoer's face but little else. "My producer, Susan Pickett, had worked on 'Avengers' as well," Ceretti said. "She knew everything about him. The design team at Marvel jumped on the thing and started going into more detail about what his costume would be, and the details of the face. They got that done very quickly."
Hiring an actor proved valuable too. Oscar nominee Josh Brolin came on to voice Thanos, and Ceretti said the "Guardians" team used facial capture techniques to give the character some human elements. (In creating Rocket and Groot, motion-capture was not used.) "For Thanos, because we had such little time, and we wanted to make sure the performance from Josh would make it into Thanos, we did facial captures," Ceretti said. "What we really wanted to do in the design of his face was to keep a lot of Josh's facial features, especially around the nose and mouth. I don't know if people actually know that's him, but it was just to try and get a better sense of the character."
It's a character fans will know well by the time credits roll on "Avengers: Infinity War - Part 2" in May of 2019. "Ultimately, it's Thanos against everyone," Brolin said in an interview last year with Coming Soon. "Why wouldn't you do that?"
The visual effects nod was one of two "Guardians of the Galaxy" scored during this year's Oscar nominations. The blockbuster film was also cited for Best Makeup and Hairstyling.
"It's not just the lead characters, but you see the huge amount of aliens who look different and look good," hair and makeup department head Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou said. "There are so many characters in the background, so every character we did do, everyone was looked after well. We never thought they were going to be in the background because we just didn't know where the cameras were going to be. Everyone was done with really loving care. That was the biggest challenge to me. The quality of the work carried throughout."
The 87th annual Academy Awards take place on Feb. 22.