No CGI! Trained wolves star in epic ‘Wolf Totem’

Wolf Totem

How did French director Jean-Jacques Annaud get wolves to act on command for his new film, “Wolf Totem?” He started with wolf cubs and trained them over two to three years to trust humans, Indiewire reports.

The director of “Quest for Fire” previously raised bears from cubs for his 1988 film “The Bear.” “Digital can’t capture the soul or the instinct of an actor, human or animal,” says Annaud, who uses CG only to fix shots post-production.

Per Indiewire: “The ‘Wolf Totem’ production had to wrangle 480 technicians, 200 horses, nearly 1,000 sheep, and 50 trainers and handlers, including armed guards and local farmers.” The most dangerous and difficult sequence — with 200 horses and 25 wolves running together in a blizzard at night — was captured by an aerial drone. The New York Post says of the scene, “This adaptation of the best-selling novel is worth seeing just for a spectacular sequence depicting the wolves chasing a herd of prize horses toward a frozen lake during a blinding snowstorm.”

Annaud filmed the movie in China as it’s based on a  2004 bestseller by Jiang Rong about two Beijing students who live among the nomadic herdsmen of Inner Mongolia. One of the students rescues a one wolf cub and raises it, despite warnings that he will upset the balance of nature between wolves, sheep and humans. China just chose the film as its official Oscar selection.

The Post warns: “‘Wolf Totem,’ featuring one of the final scores by the late great James Horner, is probably too brutal for younger children and more sensitive animal lovers.”

The film is currently playing in limited release and on IMAX screens.

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