Home MoviesMovie News ‘Strays’ Director Filmed 95% of the Movie With Real Dogs, Not CGI

‘Strays’ Director Filmed 95% of the Movie With Real Dogs, Not CGI

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Realistic Animal Filming

‘Strays’ Director Josh Greenbaum opted to film approximately 95% of the movie with actual dogs instead of relying on CGI, in a deliberate effort to maintain an authentic feel with the animal characters. In this R-rated comedy, which features actors like Will Ferrell, Jamie Foxx, Isla Fisher, and Randall Park, Greenbaum aimed to fuse talking animals with mature humor. He asserted that real dogs are more relatable to audiences than other creatures, and by preserving their realism, the comedy gains an added layer of amusement.

The film Strays, an R-rated comedy starring notable actors such as Will Ferrell, Jamie Foxx, Isla Fisher, and Randall Park, blends the conventional concept of talking animals with a 90-minute dose of raunchiness akin to an American Pie movie. Yet, the process of creating such a film defies expectations. Crafting a talking animal movie used to follow a straightforward formula—animals, voiceovers, and character building. This approach has become somewhat outdated. With advancing technology, filmmakers can take shortcuts by employing CGI to animate animals, endowing them with human-like attributes. However, this practice risks diluting the core essence of these animals, ultimately transforming them into fully animated entities.

For director Josh Greenbaum, preserving the authenticity of the animals held significant importance during the production of Strays, as he shared in a conversation with FilmSweep’s Steve Weintraub. He revealed that the filming took place prior to casting the character voices, and computer-generated imagery was employed solely when the actions would have been unsafe for real animals, all in the pursuit of comedic effect.

Greenbaum explained, “We shot most of the film without the voices, which is an intriguing approach. What you just witnessed is about 95% real dogs, and this aspect was crucial to me.” He clarified, “Whenever it was potentially risky for a dog to perform a task, we opted for full CG. However, my primary goal was to ensure that audiences initially felt they were watching actual dogs. Although we had to make them talk since training dogs to do so wasn’t possible, I considered the option of going full CG.”

Greenbaum further detailed his perspective, drawing a distinction between films like Lady and the Tramp and The Lion King, which successfully depicted digital animals in realistic environments. However, as a dog owner himself, he believed that those familiar with dogs could readily discern inauthenticity, unlike with animals encountered only fleetingly, such as at a zoo.

While comparing working with animal actors to human actors, Greenbaum pointed out that both groups convey more genuine emotion in their performances. He highlighted a specific scene where Ferrell’s character, Reggie, confronts his former owner, Doug, and how the trainers meticulously crafted the dog’s behavior to accurately convey emotions like “fear.”

For instance, Greenbaum highlighted how the trainers trained the dog to walk at various speeds to capture nuances of emotion and personality. He noted that similar to human walking, dog walking carries nuanced messages that need to be accurately portrayed, such as conveying fear, happiness, or hesitation.

Currently, ‘Strays’ is being screened in theaters. To catch a glimpse of the movie, watch the trailer below:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Realistic Animal Filming

What is ‘Strays’ about?

‘Strays’ is an R-rated comedy featuring talking animals and adult humor. It combines the concept of family-friendly talking animal movies with a dose of mature comedy, resulting in a unique cinematic experience.

How did the director approach the use of animals in the film?

The director, Josh Greenbaum, aimed to maintain authenticity by using real dogs for about 95% of the movie. He wanted the animals to feel relatable and genuine to the audience, believing this approach enhances the comedic elements.

Why did the director choose real dogs over CGI?

Greenbaum believed that dogs are more relatable to viewers than other animals, and by using real dogs, the humor in the film becomes even funnier. He acknowledged the advances in CGI technology but felt that real animals offered a more authentic and relatable presence.

What was the director’s perspective on authenticity?

The director was conscious of the fact that viewers with experience in owning dogs could easily discern inauthenticity. He drew parallels between human and dog behavior, emphasizing the trainers’ efforts to convey nuanced emotions through the dogs’ movements, which added to the authenticity of their performances.

How were the dog performances enhanced?

The trainers worked on various walking styles to accurately portray emotions. For example, in a scene where a character experiences fear, the trainers meticulously trained the dog to walk at different speeds to capture the appropriate emotion, demonstrating the depth of detail put into the performances.

Were any CGI effects used?

While most of the film was shot with real dogs, there were instances where CGI was employed. CGI was used when it would have been unsafe for real animals to perform certain actions, especially for comedic effect.

What sets ‘Strays’ apart from other talking animal films?

The film stands out due to its commitment to using real dogs for the majority of its scenes, focusing on authenticity and relatability. This choice adds an extra layer of humor to the film’s comedic elements, creating a unique viewing experience.

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