‘Mank’ VFX: How David Fincher Directed the Scene-Stealing Stars of the Hearst Castle Zoo

Fincher provided meticulous notes to Industrial Light & Magic on how the monkeys, giraffes, and elephants should look and perform.

Bill Desowitz
February 3, 2021

While the “Mank” visual effects team meticulously recreated ’30s-era LA in black-and-white (utilizing the matte paintings of Artemple, Territory’s LED rear screen projection, and Savage’s sky replacement with the Unreal engine), David Fincher took a special interest in directing the photo-real CG animals from Industrial Light & Magic that inhabit the Hearst Castle private zoo.

In a brief but memorable series of exchanges with the animals during their chatty moonlight stroll, Mank (Gary Oldman) and Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried), are definitely upstaged by the scene-stealing Capuchin monkeys, elephants, and giraffes. “David wanted specific performances from all the animals,” said ILM VFX supervisor Pablo Helman (“The Irishman”). “He wanted the [four] monkeys to be agitated, the giraffes to spring in a certain way, and the elephants to have a response.”

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