'Ant-Man and the Wasp' Had a Surprise Villain for Its Visual Effects Team

A behind-the-scenes look at what goes into shrinking and embiggening objects.

Ant-Man and the Wasp might feature a building-sized lab that shrinks down to the size of carry-on luggage and a villain named Ghost who can phase through solid matter, but the most nefarious and challenging adversary for one of the film’s visual effects teams was actually a pesky pigeon.

VFX supervisor François Dumoulin of Rodeo FX tells Inverse via email how his team worked created the effects for various objects that shrink and grow throughout Ant-Man and the Wasp. It turns out that one of the most challenging scenes was the first time with see Hank Pym’s mobile lab shrink, but not for the reason you might think.

“When the lab shrinks for the first time, a stubborn pigeon stays on it,” Dumoulin says. “We did a fully computer-generated pigeon that was standing on top of the lab and had to create a new system to handle the quality needed to do feathers seen in close-up. That was a huge challenge to handle.”

Creating that level of detail required help from pretty much every part of the company, but the end result was worth it. Watching the movie, you probably didn’t even realize you weren’t looking at a real pigeon.

It's hard to believe this pigeon is 100 percent CG in 'Ant-Man and the Wasp'.

Marvel Studios

Several VFX studios worked on different parts of Ant-Man and the Wasp, but Rodeo produced 132 shots for the movie with a special emphasis on the shrink and grow effects that are so core to the movie’s plot.

The team handled Dr. Pym’s small Hot Wheels-style cars that transformed into real vehicles, along with creatures like the hairy moth in that scene at the end where a shrunken Scott, Hope, and Cassie watch a movie together.

The secret to making these huge fluctuations in size look more realistic?

“Shrinking and enlarging is all about weight,” Dumoulin says.

Despite being roughly a cube, Pym’s lab interacted with the surrounding environment in radical ways. When the lab expands it needs to grow from the size of a suitcase to a full-sized building in a “split second.” That means pretty much anything in the immediate area gets destroyed, including cars, trees and “all sorts of debris.” That all had to be simulated with special effects.

Designing the lab itself was also a surprisingly complicated.

“Our lab asset was built with a great number of smaller parts that all needed to react to each other, and had to look great no matter what angle or size you’re looking at it,” Dumoulin says, adding that “because there were so many variations of this sequence, it was fun to work on some unique situations.”

Part of the VFX process involved practical creations on set that incorporated a green screen.

Rodeo FX

One of the most unique, according to Dumoulin, was in recreating San Francisco’s Pier 41 for one of the film’s final action sequences. Specific teams had to address the destruction that unfolded when the lab expands right on the pier.

“We had to carefully place every item that needed to be on the street,” Dumoulin says, “and then our FX and asset teams handled the destruction that came with the building’s sudden expansion.”

The final result is a mix of a digitally recreated Pier 41 and actual footage using a specially built set to simulate the destruction. Thankfully, there were no pigeons around for this particular scene.

Marvel Studios

Ant-Man and the Wasp is currently available to own on digital HD, DVD, and Blu-ray.