Spoiler warning: This article discusses story details and plot points of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.
“I’ve been looking for this all my life,” says our adventuring archaeologist in the trailer for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. But that sentiment could have also come from Industrial Light & Magic’s Andrew Whitehurst, longtime visual effects supervisor, about what the opportunity to work on the film represented.
“I have the joy-of-going-to-the movies side of loving Indiana Jones, which was that it was this ultra-exciting adventure serial,” he tells Lucasfilm.com. “Everything seemed plausible and tangible and real-world, but then with this supernatural edge to it. The characters were so engaging and there never seemed to be anything cynical about it. The peril is absolutely in earnest and the jokes are absolutely in earnest. Even as a kid, I loved that. And from the visual effects side of it, in the ‘80s there was a BBC science series called Horizon. Every week they would do an episode on a different subject, and one week they did visual effects, which I knew nothing about. I was nine years old, and it was mainly focused around the making of Temple of Doom. And so I had my mind blown for an hour where I learned that you could make movies with models and paintings and animation. That was my literal introduction to what visual effects is. To see that and, you know, 40 years later I’m supervising the fifth one, it’s kind of crazy. So, the visual effects of Indiana Jones is a really key component in me doing what I do for a living now.”
The adventure begins
As production visual effects supervisor on Dial of Destiny, Whitehurst would oversee the work of ILM and all vendors for a time and world-jumping adventure, which follows Indy from WWII-era Europe to 1969 New York and Morocco to ancient Sicily. Even for someone with Skyfall, Ex Machina, and Annihilation on his resume, it was a lot. “The trickiest thing about a movie like this is that it’s an odyssey,” he says. “Almost every single scene is in a different location or has a different component to it. So you have to break up the project into all of the various places that we are and things that happen within those places.” Whitehurst worked closely with production designer Adam Stockhausen in figuring out the look of the various effects sequences in the movie, with input from director James Mangold throughout the process.
Over time, Whitehurst has developed his own method for realizing sequences in a way that welcomes in his collaborators. “My background is in fine arts, so I tend to draw and paint a lot for two reasons. One, for me to start to get my own head around how things might look or the things that are going to be tricky. And also, then, to communicate ‘How about doing things this way?’ to Jim or Adam or, Phedon Papamichael the DP, or Mike McCusker the editor, and so that they’ve got something concrete in front of them as a drawing or as a really rough, sketchy animatic or a painting or something. They go, ‘Well, I like this. I don’t like that. What about doing this?’ I tried to get things going visually as early as possible, often in quite a rough, loose way.”