Believe it or not, The Walking Dead’s biggest special effects star this past season wasn’t the animation of countless gruesome and gory zombie deaths. It was a tiger — her name is Shiva! — owned by a pretend-monarch called King Ezekiel, and the deadly virtual feline played a big role in Sunday’s season 7 finale. It turns out that it’s a bit too cumbersome, and maybe dangerous, to bring a real-life tiger on the set of a TV show, so AMC and special effects guru Greg Nicotero decided to go full CGI.
That brings us to stunt man Scott Hunter, who donned a blue mocap suit to act as Shiva’s on-set stand-in. In a behind-the-scenes look at the episode released yesterday, we get to see exactly what the shots looked like from behind the camera. And sure, getting mauled by a tiger is probably profoundly unchill. But I’d say getting tackled by a faceless 240-pound man (whose last name is Hunter) after he leaps at you from a mini-trampoline is high up on the list of experiences I’d rather not have.
As a bit of special effects magic, however, it’s pretty neat:
The Walking Dead relied on VFX company Rhythm and Hues, which won an Oscar for animating the tiger in the live-action Life of Pi adaptation, to perform the Shiva transformation. (A bit of VF history: Rhythm & Hues was also the central voice in a 2014 documentary about the financial struggles of the VFX business, having declared bankruptcy less than two weeks just prior to winning the Life of Pi Oscar.)
That means Hunter still had to act out some hilarious and off-putting screen direction to make it all work. That’s how this little mauling scene...
... turns into this: