That time a CG elephant crushed a car


…and audiences went wild.

A new Jumanji film, Jumanji: The Next Level, comes out this week. It’s the follow up to Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, itself a sequel to the original.

The first Jumanji film from 1995, directed by Joe Johnston, was a major foray into the combination of animatronic, on-set special effects and CG creatures (courtesy of ILM). There were many memorable moments, including a stampede of animals that occurs after a roll of the dice in the Jumanji boardgame summons the creatures. A very cool part of that scene is the shot of an elephant crushing a car.

Back around the release date of Welcome to the Jungle, I spoke to Johnston, as well as then ILM animation supervisor Kyle Balda, for an article for VFX Voice about the role of the original film in the history of visual effects.

There was one question I asked Johnston about the elephant scene that I couldn’t fit into that article. So, with the imminent release of The Next Level, I thought I’d feature the question and the director’s answer here:

Original plate.
Jumanji wireframe
final shoot of Jumanji
Final shot.

There is such an iconic scene in Jumanji of the elephant crushing a car during the stampede. I’m really curious how that scene evolved from conception through to final – was it always envisaged that way?

Joe Johnston: It was storyboarded that way except that the location dictated the path of the animals. In the original storyboards the animals are coming down a narrow street crushing everything in their path. Because of the limitations of the practical effects that had to rip doors off and crush the car it was decided to move the stampede into a more easily accessible location.

My only disappointment with that scene was the weather. I was hoping for sunny skies and hard shadows but it was pretty much a whiteout. That scene stands out as state of the art CGI for its time. The elephants and rhinos were really convincing. The toughest hurdle in CGI is believable mass. It helped to have the car to interface with the elephant’s feet to give it enough implied weight to flatten the car.

There were silly rumors that we used a real elephant to crush the car. I guess that’s a testament to how good the CGI is. I can assure you no live animals were used anywhere in the film.

So there you go. I still love watching the original Jumanji, and I thought Welcome to the Jungle was brilliant, plus I have high hopes for The Next Level, which just premiered in Hollywood overnight. Look out for coverage of the new film coming soon to befores & afters.

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