Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Danny Glover, Danny DeVito, Alex Wolff, Madison Iseman, Ser'Darius William Blain, Morgan Turner, Nick Jonas, Awkwafina
Director: Jake Kasdan
Genre: Action, Adventure
Running Time: 123 minutes
Synopsis: Jumanji: The Next Level reunites the four teenagers who survived the trials of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle as they return home to Brantford, New Hampshire from their respective colleges for the holiday break. Now college students, they're trying to navigate the next level in their individual lives. After Spencer is compelled to go back into the game, Martha, Fridge and Bethany must team up and re-enter the world of Jumanji on a daring rescue mission to bring Spencer home.
But the game is broken, and is fighting back. Everything they know about Jumanji is about to change, as they discover that there's more to it than just a jungle; it's bigger, more dangerous, and has more thrilling obstacles to overcome. This means that anything can happen, so in addition to big action, incredible visual effects, and epic locations, you should also expect the unexpected.
Also back in play are the avatar team of Dwayne Johnson as Dr. Smolder Bravestone, Jack Black as Dr. Shelly Oberon, Kevin Hart as Mouse Finbar, Karen Gillan as Ruby Roundhouse, and Nick Jonas as Seaplane, plus new players Danny Glover as Milo, Danny DeVito as Grandpa Eddie, and Awkwafina as a new avatar, Ming. However, things aren't always what they appear to be, and they must rely on their strengths to navigate the changes to the game to get out alive and bring Spencer home safely before it's game over for them all.
Jumanji: The Next Level
Release Date: December 26th, 2019
Changing The Game
Following the global success of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the filmmakers knew they had an opportunity to continue telling the stories of these characters. "The first movie was about what it means to understand who you are, and to throw your arms around everything you are capable of," says producer Matt Tolmach, "The thing about life is that we change all the time. And so has the game. The game is upping the challenge, and the characters are changing."
"The opportunity to come back to this idea, to these characters, both the kids in the real world and their avatars in the game, was irresistible to me," says director Jake Kasdan. "But the great gift of this story is that we could bring everybody back, get the team back together, but also change what everyone was doing. And that makes it all new again. It allowed us to reapply the big idea, but in a really different way."
The high school teens are now college students, trying to make their way in the world. They reunite over holiday break and have to navigate this new phase. "Relationships are now stronger than the last film. The characters now have history and success together," says producer Hiram Garcia. "The previous movie delivered an imaginary world that was exciting, but along with that adventure, audiences found a lot of heart. Playing into the world of wish fulfillment, and how we ultimately have one life to live and we should live that life to the best of our ability, resonated cross culturally, and fortunately here we are now…making a sequel that we hope will be more spectacular in every way."
"There was something really powerful to me about the idea of expanding the world to include characters at different phases in their lives. I love the kids and I love telling their stories, continuing their stories in this movie," says Kasdan. "But the addition of Eddie and Milo felt like discovering a new room in your house. It was totally exciting to me. And Danny and Danny made it a dream come true."
Tolmach, a longtime fan of the original Jumanji film, as well as Chris Van Allsburg's children's fantasy book that inspired the franchise, explains what drives the character development and storytelling, which connects with audiences in such a personal way: "A lot of us don't even realise what we are capable of. The game gives you a glimpse at your powers that should be embraced. The thing about Jumanji is that the game understands you. The game knows your strengths and weaknesses, and it challenges you to be the best version of yourself."
This time around, they knew they'd need to show more of the world of Jumanji. Just as the characters are out exploring the larger world outside the game, inside the game, we get to explore new locales, including arid sand dunes, treacherous canyons, and icy mountains"each with its own challenges for the gang to overcome, making for truly spectacular action sequences guaranteed to thrill audiences.
According to the film's star and producer, Dwayne Johnson, they knew how high expectations were from the outset: "The scope and the scale of the film is really epic; when it's Jumanji, it commands that. We went into this knowing that the pressure was on, and we've got to raise the bar. We've got to level up. So we brought in the best filmmakers, and the best in class with all our department heads and our crew. Also, what's really cool about Jumanji is we have no constraints, because it's a videogame."
Nobody knows how to deliver a high score on this game better than director, co-writer, and producer, Jake Kasdan, who, "is the heart and soul of the Jumanji adventure and franchise," according to Tolmach. "Jake was the one who challenged all of us to make a movie that lived up to what we had accomplished before, but to also go even further. Through storytelling, new characters, new animals, our avatars have to figure out how to navigate the game and life."
Says Kasdan, "what would you learn about yourself if you could spend a day in someone else's skin? That's the big conceit of these movies obviously. But it's an entirely different set of answers when you apply it to these new characters, who are looking back on the lives they've led. And it's just as relevant, I think. Just because you're older, doesn't mean you stop discovering things about yourself."
While the previous film allowed our characters to leave the world they knew behind and become someone else – an adventurer, a doctor, or a badass " this film has them coming to terms with who they are and how the game has changed them.
"This film is bringing things to the next level, to coin the phrase of our title, in a lot of ways. We go to the next level with our action sequences that are just really spectacular action sequences, our set pieces. What we've established is that there are multiple Jumanji universes, so we are going to the snow-capped mountains. We are in the desert dunes. We are back in the jungle. We are really all over the place in the best way," enthuses actor/producer, Dwayne Johnson. "If you're lucky enough to have a movie as successful as the first Jumanji, you've got to raise the bar. You've got to raise your game. You've got to level up. So, I think we did - and not only that, but we also introduced new characters in the movie which I think audiences will really respond to this time around."
Jumanji is a film franchise like no other. You get to see huge stars come in and completely play against type in a persona you've never seen them portray before. That unpredictability allows for special moments you won't find elsewhere. "One of the things that's happening in the movie is the characters are not necessarily showing up in the same avatars as they were in the first movie. And there's just an inherent level of comedy in that. I was accustomed to being in this absurd body before, but it became the normal and now I'm in this body? The idea of Jumanji is it places you in the game in an avatar in order to show you something about yourself, and that can be very entertaining," concludes Tolmach.
About The Characters
Returning are the Core Four from the previous film"Spencer, Bethany, Fridge, and Martha"who are now in college and reunite back in Brantford over the holiday break. We soon discover that everyone is dealing with this new phase differently; some are thriving, and some are having a tougher time adjusting to life after conquering the game.
Spencer and Martha have tried that classic long distance relationship, but are now in an awkward place, because Martha is really embracing the newfound self-confidence she discovered in the previous film. This causes Spencer to push her away and avoid her, creating emotional distance between them.
Spencer has been having a tough time in NYC; things are not going right for him at school, he's not happy, and he's unsure of the status of his relationship with Martha. Spencer returns home to discover that his grandfather is now living with his mom in their house while he recovers from a hip surgery. In fact, Grandpa Eddie (Danny DeVito) has moved into his old room, making them to be roommates in very close quarters.
Bethany has really evolved from the self-absorbed, popular girl she used to be; she's tapped into her sense of altruism and she's been traveling the world, helping people, finding fulfillment in being of service to others. She's experienced the world from a new perspective and it's shaped the way she sees life now.
Fridge has gone from the Big Man on Campus at high school to the much bigger playing field of college football. Getting used to a new place, a new team – a new world – has got to be a challenge, but becoming adapted to a new world is nothing Fridge hasn't been through before.
The Avatars Are Back In Play
The squad of in-game avatars are all back, as well"with some twists. Because the game was smashed at the end of the previous film, it's not functioning normally, which means anything can happen.
Dr. Smolder Bravestone
Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), the intrepid archeological adventurer and muscle-bound action hero is back in the game, complete with his laundry list of strengths: fearlessness, climbing, speed, boomerang, and his trademark smoldering intensity. However, this time, he serves as the avatar for Eddie (Danny DeVito), Spencer's grandfather. In the previous film, he got to play a neurotic teenager, and now he gets to play the opposite end of the spectrum. The juxtaposition of Bravestone's heroic abilities, and Dwayne Johnson's physicality inhabited by a cantankerous elderly man recovering from hip surgery, results in a slew of comedic moments. Especially hilarious is seeing Bravestone inhabited by an irritable guy from Asbury Park, New Jersey.
"Capturing the essence and nuances of Danny DeVito was the best time as an actor. I had a chance to study him, going back and watching a lot of his old movies and TV shows, all the way back to Taxi. His work is just so brilliant," says Dwayne Johnson. "There's just a wit and a way about him. I was able to spend time with Danny and embody him as best I could. And he was very gracious. It was a blast becoming Danny DeVito."
Dr. Sheldon "Shelly" Oberon
Jack Black returns to deliver more comic relief as Dr. Sheldon "Shelly" Oberon, the "curvy genius" whose strengths lay in cartography, archeology, and paleontology. While his weaknesses " poor endurance, and aversions to heat, sun, and sand " make for serious laughs, especially in the desert sequences, his newly acquired strength of geometry proves critical to the equation in a key moment.
In the previous film, he was an avatar for Bethany, which made for hilarity as imageconscious teen queen found herself inhabiting the body of, as she put it, "an overweight, middle-aged man." This time, Dr. Oberon serves as the avatar for Fridge, which brings fresh laughs, as the hulking athlete inhabits a body with considerably more physical limitations than he is used to. Fridge's frustration with being put into the Oberon avatar and his constant outbursts lead to serious laughs, as Black brings his comedy A-Game, regardless of the environment he's in, or who he's inhabited by.
Black was excited to return for another round in the game. "I was excited to get the gang back together," says Black. "You know, it's chemistry. That's one of the biggest parts of a film, and Jake has an eye for chemistry. He knew to put all of us together and add this person and that person and mix it in, and it's just fun, man. When it's the right chemistry, you can feel it, you know? And I definitely feel it on the set. I'm looking around going, 'oh sh*t, we are a team. We are gonna bring it!'"
As Black sees it, being back in the game doesn't mean the characters are just playing around. "Well, as you know, the game of Jumanji is not just for entertainment. There's always some personal growth that goes down along the way because in many ways, Jumanji's journey is life's journey. And, I guess the characters had a little more growing up to do," he explains, waxing a bit philosophical - which is perfectly in character, given Dr. Oberon's intellectual tendencies.
Once again, badass bombshell and martial arts master Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan) is Martha's avatar. Her existing strengths include karate, t'ai chi, and aikido, as well as her impressive dance fighting skills. This time around, she adds nunchucks to her strengths list, while retaining her sole weakness: venom.
This athletic "Killer of Men" finds herself taking on a more significant role within the group of switched up avatar pairings. In the previous film, Ruby helped Martha discover her inner strength and power. "Martha's come a long way since the last movie. She's incredibly intelligent, but still very bookish and quiet and socially awkward. Now, she's in the avatar that she knows how to use, and quite quickly, she realizes that she's the most capable of everyone and she becomes the leader of the gang, helping them through the game," explains Gillan.
Stepping into Ruby's boots once again forces Martha even further out of her comfort zone. "Martha has become a different person. She's going to college, she has this whole new cool group of friends, a new haircut, a piercing in her nose, and she has a new nickname. So she's kind of become this other person she doesn't feel totally comfortable in the skin of yet, so she feels slightly like a fraud. Like she's playing this part of somebody else, this cool college girl," says Gillan. "When she steps back into the game, she's evolved from the last movie, but her journey, particularly, is about finding her way back to herself and who she truly is. And I think that's why the game put her in the same avatar - to remind her of who she is."
Martha is the first one to volunteer to go back into the game to rescue Spencer. As Gillan explains it, "Martha and Spencer have a lot of unfinished business. They have gone off to college and their lives have become quite separate and they are now officially on a break when they first re-enter the game. They both really want to rediscover each other, but no one knows who's gonna make the first move, and if the other one even wants that."
"Karen playing Martha/Ruby ends up being the anchor of the movie for a long stretch in a way that I think people won't expect. With Spencer missing and displaced, it sort of falls to Martha to lead the team through a large section of the movie. And she stepped into that role so brilliantly. I just love what she does in the movie," says co-writer and director, Jake Kasdan.
"I think that this film is largely wish fulfillment for everybody who watches it," says Gillan. "I think we've all experienced wanting to be in someone else's existence and to know what that feels like. I think being in the body of somebody else, you discover a little about yourself. You also have this license to kind of do all of these crazy adventurous things that you would never normally do. I'm so excited for audiences to see all of these actors play completely different characters. I'm so fond of Martha and to play the awkward teenage girl is something that comes a little too naturally to me."
Diminutive zoologist and weapons valet, Mouse Finbar (Kevin Hart) is back sporting his trademark red bandana and huge backpack of weapons. In this level of the game, his new skill of linguistics proves especially helpful in getting the gang over some serious humps. Finbar's weaknesses include a lack of speed, inferior strength, and a penchant for cake. This time, he becomes an avatar for Eddie's estranged friend and former business partner, Milo (Danny Glover).
Kevin Hart's trademark rapid-fire style of comedic delivery is replaced by the meandering, lackadaisical narrative style of Milo, resulting in major laughs as he embodies Danny Glover's mannerisms and speech cadence. His zoological explanations of various animals provide comedic footnotes throughout the story, even if he is constantly bewildered as to how he knows this information. He doesn't grasp that he's been dropped into a video game, prompting him to continually ask questions, such ("Did I die and turn into a small, muscular Boy Scout?") and is constantly misunderstanding the circumstances of their predicament.
"You see Mouse Finbar take on the persona of an older gentleman, with me being Danny Glover. The older version of Danny Glover in movies just makes me laugh because he's so calm. Everything he says is just happy. I thought that could be a very funny place to play with. Like that older man that's a little more at ease, because I'm very 'Aahhh!' all the time," says Hart of crafting his performance.
"The idea of coming up with a character for Kevin that just completely changes up the energy that you're used to seeing from him seemed like a great comedy opportunity. He's so loose and funny, and we have such an expectation for what he does, because he has such a fully-formed comedy persona," says co-writer and director, Jake Kasdan. "What I figured out in the first movie is he's a phenomenal actor and he can change his moves much more than people expect. To watch him play this gentle, very slow-talking, wise older guy, seemed like it would be an unusual joke, but if we could land it, it would be brilliantly funny. And Kevin, I think, is just inspired in the movie, and it was really fun doing that with them."
Bethany is back in the game, too, though in a most unexpected way. When she realizes the others have re-entered the game, she goes to Alex to implore him to go back in with her on the rescue mission. Building on the special connection they formed in the first film, they partner up like nobody could have predicted; Bethany's new avatar is a majestic black stallion, and Seaplane is holding the reins. They are both champing at the bit to find the others and race to rescue Spencer.
Jefferson "Seaplane" Mcdonough
Also returning is Jefferson "Seaplane" McDonough (Nick Jonas), the dashing pilot who helped them on their previous quest as an avatar for Alex, a young man who had been stuck in Jumanji since 1996 before escaping with the teens in the previous film.
"Bethany is left out of the game and she's desperate to help everyone that went in, but she doesn't really have anyone to turn to who's gone through a similar experience - except for Alex. He spent 20 years in the game and he knows it better than anyone. So when Bethany turns to him he knows he's got to help out," says Colin Hanks, who reprises his role as Alex. Explains co-writer and director, Jake Kasdan, "This time, he has to come back and save the people who saved him the first time."
"The first film, we were able to get lightning in a bottle, and I feel like we have got a similar situation the second time around," says Jonas. "Jake just has this way of bringing out the best performance in everybody. It's so great to be back."
Marin Hinkle returns as Spencer's mom, Janice. "There wasn't even part of me that dreamed that I would be able to be asked back, so when I actually got the call, it was like the best Christmas present you could ever get," says Hinkle. "The idea that my character gets to reappear and reconnect with her son when he's a little bit older and you get to sort of dive in a little bit more to who he is." Says Hinkle, "Then they've added the extraordinary new character of my father, played by Danny DeVito. I have loved that man from the beginning of time. He acts so beautifully; he's one of our true, extraordinary character actors. The idea that I get to actually do scenes with him, it's a dream."
"The storyline with DeVito and Glover is so heartfelt. These two exquisite gentleman who are both pained by where their lives are at are brought together again in this film and have a rejuvenation. It's wonderful to watch." Continues Hinkle, "This film isn't really just about watching the superstars. It's actually about family, aging, and love. This film is your imagination at work. The possibilities are endless."
Rhys Darby returns as the NPC (non-player character), Nigel, who explains the game rules to our avatars, whether he is flying a plane or commandeering a dog sled. "In the world of Jumanji, which is a game, Nigel is simply there as the field guide. He's probably the most important man, really, because, you see, he takes the others and tells them what their adventure is, and really gets the mission going," explains Darby.
"The cast has all these big names, who are pretty funny people! As you could imagine, it's a bit of a laugh riot on set. We've worked with each other numerous times, and there's no one that feels out of place. It's kind of a magic box of mayhem. It was great to be back on deck again and caught in my loop," says Darby.
Eddie And Milo
A new dynamic duo of Dannys are in the mix: comedy legend Danny DeVito plays Spencer's Grandpa Eddie, who finds himself inhabiting the avatar of Bravestone, while Danny Glover plays Milo, Eddie's estranged friend and former business partner, inhabiting the Mouse Finbar avatar. Eddie and Milo are forced to work through their issues in the world of Jumanji after they unexpectedly get sucked into the game, too. The two Dannys deliver a powerful one-two comedy punch, as they bicker and work toward mending the broken fences of their relationship, all while navigating the adventures of Jumanji in the much more able bodies of their avatars.
"We got the two Dannys - Danny DeVito and Danny Glover " legends, both of them " and, Dwayne, and Kevin as their avatars, inhabiting those two old men. There's so much comedy, so much humor," observes Jack Black.
"That may be one of my favorite things about this movie is Dwayne doing a full Danny DeVito voice and accent," says Karen Gillan. "The same with Kevin playing Milo. In the last movie he had a very distinctive quality, and in this movie, it's completely different. It's a slow, old man kind of way of talking. Much deeper, raspier. It's just really cool to see everybody flexing their acting muscles in this action-comedy."
"Eddie is Spencer's grandfather, and he's getting on in years a little bit, but more so his body is starting to betray him in ways that are frustrating him to no end. And I think a lot of us have people in our lives like that. I've had people in my life like that that were sort of touchstones, you know, strong guy who just can't believe the indignity of the fact that his body won't do what he thinks it should be doing. And to put a guy like that with all of the strength of character that DeVito brings into the body of the strongest man in the world who suddenly finds himself able to do all these things, seemed like a great, kinda irresistible idea," enthuses co-writer and director, Jake Kasdan. "To have Dwayne Johnson playing this kind of grump just seemed like something you've never seen him do. For the most positive man on Earth to be playing this angry dude just felt like a comedy opportunity that would be sort of irresistible. Luckily, he agreed!"
The newest avatar is the mysterious Ming, played by Awkwafina. While her weakness is pollen, her strengths are nothing to sneeze at; they include cat burglary, pick-pocketing, and safe cracking, which may prove useful in the series of challenges she'll face as the world of Jumanji proves to be bigger and more dangerous than ever. "Awkwafina's a powerful performer. Rap artist, comedienne, actress…she's a multihyphenate, so I was very excited when I found out that we had snagged her to be in the movie. I knew that she was gonna take it to another level, and she has," exclaims Jack Black. "She fit just like a glove on this project. She's got sass and style and zest – the girl's got magic! We all just jelled right out of the gate and doing scenes with her has been special."
"I think that the message of Jumanji and the fun of it appeals to people of every age. When we look at superhero movies we see someone who obviously is flawed but has just some kind of insane power. Whereas everyone in Jumanji, they are normal people who become heroes in the game, and I think that resonates with anyone, across any culture. Bravery, courage, facing and understanding your flaws. Those are universal concepts and so old or young, I think that you really feel something when you see these characters," says Awkwafina.
Jurgen The Brutal
The new villain in this round of the game is Jurgen The Brutal (Rory McCann), a vicious conqueror who has descended from his mountain fortress to pillage the Avian Province. Worse yet, he has stolen the legendary Falcon Jewel, which ensures the fertility of Jumanji, hiding it away in darkness, away from the sun, causing the land to fall into drought and desolation.
Audiences worldwide came to know Glasgow-born actor Rory McCann as "The Hound" from Game of Thrones. Says producer Matt Tolmach, "our villain Jurgen is a terrifying, huge man who lives in a castle fortress, high on a mountain, that's super-hard to get to. We needed someone strong and imposing to play the role. Rory checked all of the boxes we needed."
Says McCann, "Jurgen is the obstacle to get through to finish the game. He's the biggest badass about. Big, nasty thing. I wouldn't say there is anything nice about him. He obviously was never cuddled as a child."
About The Design: Expanding The Jumanji Universe
"Before there was even a script, we were thinking, 'What will be the places? What will be the animals, and how do we start to build those sequences very early?' The ostriches and the dunes was one of our first ideas about action for this movie. That sequence was some of the first pages that we wrote, so we got a very early jump on starting to design and pre-vis those scenes as we started to figure out how that would work. We knew that that sequence would be best executed on a real location," says Kasdan.
While the previous film took place primarily in the jungle, this time, co-writer/director, Jake Kasdan wanted to explore different areas of Jumanji, so he partnered with veteran production designer Bill Brzeski, whose work includes Aquaman, Iron Man 3, The Fate of the Furious, Furious 7, and The Hangover film series.
Kasdan and Brzeski met early on to discuss the feel of this film. "We had a great meeting in the very beginning. And he's a storyteller. The scenery is important, but the success of this film was all about story, because people just loved the story," explains Brzeski. "He wanted me to support the story with as much real scenery as we could put in front of him. So although there are visual effects in this movie, they're not the bread and the butter of the Jumanji franchise. You need to be in some of these locations to really feel the reality of characters, so it doesn't feel like a videogame. You still have to kind of ground it in this Jumanji reality. It's a special place. It's been created to help people solve their problems."
Brzeski and his entire team were tasked with creating not only familiar spaces like Spencer's family home and basement and the Christmas-time residential neighborhoods and interiors of Brantford, New Hampshire, but also the arid desert, an exotic desert marketplace called The Oasis, a treacherous series of rope bridges suspended over a deep ravine, and Jurgen The Brutal's icy mountain fortress.
To do this, they took up residence at Atlanta, using five soundstages there in a constant rotation. For a few months prior to shooting, as well as the two months of principal photography, Brzeski's team was continuously building sets, taking sets down, and then building new ones.
Spencer's basement is one of the smaller sets built for the film, but it's essential to the storytelling. "The basement of the house was really a lot of fun. That little set was just a little tiny space but what was in that basement was interesting and how we told that story of that family in their home," says Brzeski. He and the art department created a lived-in, authentic basement, complete with old kick-knacks, clutter, and a workbench fully equipped with tools where Spencer attempts to repair the broken Jumanji game console, which he rescued after Fridge smashed it with a bowling ball at the end of the previous film.
For the real world sets, Brzeski and his team used practical locations, taking advantage of Atlanta's neighborhoods and their various architectural styles to stand in for locations such as the busy streets of NYC, the quaint New England town's main street area, and the local diner, for which they created a custom exterior and interior. Despite it being February, they recreated the festive holiday vibe by wrapping lampposts in twinkle lights, erecting a Christmas tree lot, with special effects supervisor J.D. Schwalm blanketing the locations with a white biodegradable paper product that is a dead match for real snow for authenticity.
Creating The Oasis
To create the desert town known as The Oasis, Brzeski and his team needed space to build it to scale; however, with no traditional back lot available, they had to explore other options. The perfect solution ended up being an old Kroger's grocery warehouse, which had previously used to store their food awaiting distribution to its East Coast stores. They built an entire town in the enormous warehouse space to accommodate actors and cameras to capture the action sequence which occur there; it includes a town square, the Smokestack Bar, a tattoo parlor, a metal work shop, a butcher shop, and a bazaar with purveyors of spices, clothing, rugs, and more all peddling their wares. They even built a camel livery.
"There are usually a lot of digital effects to make them extended, but in this case, we decided just go for it and make it as tall and as big as we could so we could be mostly 'in camera', as Jake was hoping for. So it's all there and the set works on its own. Danielle Berman who is my brilliant set decorator, made sure every little shop in town had a little character," says Brzeski, explaining the importance of this attention to detail.
"It had to be kind of real and it's based on actual Moroccan architecture. The Jewish quarters in Casablanca is what inspired us - what the shops would be, the butcher shop, how it really works. In some of the old cities and small towns in the Middle East, they still have those windy streets and that kind of stuff, so it's actually a lot of for us to do." Thanks to this amazing team of artists, when you see the Oasis set with its dirt streets, muted color palette, and incredible detail, you can almost smell the burning incense.
A Winter Fortress
Another of the huge sets Brzeski and his team had to create on an Atlanta soundstage was the icy mountaintop fortress of Jurgen The Brutal, the film's villain. While evoking a sort of castle motif, the team created a home for Jurgen and his horde on a scale grand enough to accommodate the towering warrior, who stands seven feet tall. Even more challenging, the set needed to be able to accommodate up to 200 people for certain scenes, as it's the home base of the marauders, where they hang out and eat and have parties – an occasionally, epic brawls with intruders. To create the room, the design crew opted for big, heavy stone walls and columns to convey a hard, imposing space with a lack of warmth.
The fortress features a lot of basalt"a, fine-grained, igneous rock in shades of grey and black, which is formed from the cooling of molten lava"which lends a weathered, wellworn texture to the fortress interiors and columns, giving the impression that it's grown up through the floor. Of course, since this is Hollywood, they aren't using actual basalt; instead, the faux volcanic rock used for the fortress is all meticulously carved out of foam and plastic. "What we did is we made a mold of different kinds of blocks and we put them up here and then the rest was all done with plaster," explains Brzeski. "I had probably the best plaster crew you will ever have in a movie here."
A centerpiece of the fortress hall is Jurgen's chair, which the design team crafted using sanded down railroad ties, raw blocks of wood, and faux fur to create a unique version of a modern motif lounge chair. To ensure it was as imposing as Jurgen himself, they added an enormous set of moose antlers as part of the chair back and"voila! "a makeshift throne for a villain standing over seven feet tall.
Viewers paying close attention will notice that the design team pays homage to the original Jumanji board game by incorporating various animal iconography resembling the game pieces into both the sets and costumes. "The homage of this goes all the way back to the book. It's about a board game and the board game morphed into a videogame, but it always has to do with the pieces and how they move around the boards and create different havoc in the players' lives. So we paid attention to what they did on the last one, and we've added the monkeys. Every set has got some kind of animal in it. And then Louise Mingenbach tried to do the same thing as the last costume designer did, putting the animals into the clothing so there is a little reference to all those things and how the game works."
Veteran costume designer, Louise Mingenbach has dressed everything from a group of hard-partying friends (The Hangover film series) to teams of iconic mutant on both ends of the good vs. evil spectrum (the X-Men films). So she brought her craft to the Jumanji universe, reuniting her with longtime collaborator, Bill Brzeski. "Louise I have known for years. She did the Hangover movies with me and we talk a lot. She had to recreate the original costumes, but also design a whole new winter version of those costumes," says Brzeski.
Each location came with its own set of challenges in term of production logistics – especially the frigid conditions of the Canadian Rockies. To outfit the Jumanji hero cast for this frigid mountainous trek, Mingenbach created a winter look to help them on their journey. "There's something just fundamentally funny also about seeing Jack and Kevin in these insane winter outfits. You've just never seen them like that before. And obviously they all give each other a really hard time about how silly they look in their winter garb," says producer Matt Tolmach. "Jumanji is a comedy, and we never live very far from that, even when the stakes are super-high. They are all still very identifiable as our characters, but now they're all a little warmer, which was good for the actors since we were actually shooting in Calgary in the snow."
In addition to the challenge of recreating familiar costumes and updating them to suit the winter weather, there was the task of finding a fresh take on the characters, while keeping them recognizable. "Those archetypal costumes come from the mythology of videogames. And they're kind of a cliché, kind of a thing that they do in all the games - you know the Laura Croft characters and the different characters. So she had to feel that out and work with Jake to figure out what those characters look like," says Tolmach.
About The Stunts
Everything about this film is about taking it to the next level – especially in terms of action sequences and stunts. "When you are fortunate enough to work on a sequel you naturally want to do things bigger. Even more important though is to do them better! It was important for us to build out the world of Jumanji. We wanted to elevate the challenges for our heroes while also expanding the universe. To do that it requires making sure you have the perfect team to execute with," explains producer, Hiram Garcia. "We were very excited to add second unit director/stunt coordinator Wade Eastwood, who brings an unbelievable acumen in the world of stunts and action. Wade did a fantastic job running our second unit and creating sequences with our actors that were incredible."
Eastwood, whose resume includes Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, and the Men In Black film series, was up to the challenge. A selfproclaimed avid gamer, Eastwood was eager to create the complex action sequences, using the avatars' super human powers and skills to stretch the truth a bit to accommodate the CGI of the video game world. Known for designing spectacular stunts using live and practical action, Eastwood was mindful of crafting the action to stay very true to the character and the story. "I don't shoot action just for the sake of action.
Anyone can shoot action, make it look like it's explosive and fantastic, but it's very important to me to make the characters believable through the action," he explains. "I treat it as a real environment and try and use it in as much as I can to keep the character very practically involved in the action." Known for extreme stunts in films that may not necessarily be appropriate for children, Eastwood was excited by the opportunity to work on a family-friendly project, being a fan of the series going back to the original Jumanji. "Yeah, I saw the original, and then I saw Jake's first rendition of it and it was just a real fun movie I could watch with my family. I laughed the whole way through it. I was attracted more to the characters and watching how they come through these avatars," says Eastwood. "I felt like I could do some fun stuff with the action, as I enjoy character-based action, this was appealing on that basis."
"We just wanted to make everything 2.0."next level"and have fun with it. I like doing real hard-hitting action. For me, the challenge on this was to add that jeopardy to the action that we're doing, but still keep it, lighthearted and fun. I don't want to scare the audience and the kids that watch it," he continues.
To accomplish that, Jake Kasdan and Wade Eastwood ensured that the physical comedy of each character and their avatar was a key part of all the action sequences. "We have pushed all the characters much harder in this film with doing their own practical action. All of the cast were willing to give it a go on their own and try their own stunts and have fun with it," enthuses Eastwood.
To create the breakneck dune buggy chase sequence, Eastwood and his 2nd unit action crew trekked to the Glamis Dunes of California to shoot the majority of the practical car footage. "I've shot a lot of dunes before. I shot in Namibia, which is stunning, shot in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. But to have those dunes on your door step in California - it's incredible," says Eastwood. "You know, this is three hour drive from the beach and you're in these amazing dunes.
This sort of land just ends. It just becomes a sea of sand dunes." The beauty of the location did not come without its share of logistical challenges, courtesy of Mother Nature. "With dunes, you can shoot one day and then if you have a heavy wind overnight, the dunes are completely different," explains Eastwood.
In order to maximize their time in Glamis, the crew had to get their setup routine down to a science. "We had two rehearsal days out there for how we could move as a unit, so that's video village, the medic, the rangers - everyone was in in buggies. It was remarkable how quickly and how insightfully the guys moved around those dunes. I knew the areas I wanted to shoot to match the light that we're in and the crew would be waiting. I'd radio to them and in 20 minutes, we could be setup anywhere in the dunes," recalls Eastwood. To ensure the footage they were getting synced up, they established a live video feed that transmitted back to Jake Kasdan and the crew back on the stages in Atlanta, allowing them to see the dune buggy action in real time.
Sure to delight audiences is the return of Ruby Roundhouse's dance fighting, which is taken to the next level with the incorporation of Ruby's new strength: nunchucks. Eastwood and his team had actress Karen Gillan and her stunt double train with the martial arts weapon"all different lengths, styles, and rubber, both soft and hard. "Every time you see her, she's flicking nunchucks, she's doing drills - she's phenomenal," Eastwood says of Gillan's diligence to master her new weapon.
"They've given me nunchucks - watch out everyone! Every day I'm working with them. There are about five pairs of nunchucks in my trailer at all times. There's some in my hotel room. I'm just livin' the nunchuck life at the moment. I'm lethal with them and I drop them a lot, which is quite worrying for people. But, I've perfected this whole routine where I take out like five guys in a row with these nunchucks…and it's something I love so much," confesses Gillan.
The actress herself is thrilled at the return of the dance fight. "I was so happy. The dance fight for Martha is the best strength out of all of them because it's so unique. This time, it's more brutal and way more deadly," says Gillan. "It's something that I think younger girls have really connected with…feeling like they can be empowered when they watch her. People of all ages are enjoying the fact that this girl can really defend herself in a very powerful way, which is just really cool to see."
For Eastwood, one of the highlights of working on the film was watching stars Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart find the physical comedy as the avatars for Eddie and Milo, respectively. "Dwayne's hilarious doing that because he is so big, but then his voice comes out, it's just sort of whiny angry Grandpa. It's so funny, even the little things like that, you know, (as Eddie) he's got weak knees, dodgy hips, you know, he's getting old. And suddenly, he's jumping around full of energy and vigor of life and he's discovering that," say Eastwood.
As for Kevin Hart's interpretation of Danny Glover's Milo, audiences are in for some serious laughs. "He's embraced that character so deeply. Danny Glover's got these little things that he did when I was growing up watching him, and Kevin just captured it ridiculously on a new level," marvels Eastwood. "It's not always just through the action, but the characters are laugh out loud hilarious. Even in take three, take four, and take five, saying the same lines. I can't get through like the first five seconds, I'm in hysterics. The audience is going to go crazy."
Karen Gillan agrees. "Honestly all I remember doing during the shoot is cry-laughing. I mean like actual tears coming out of my eyes. I don't know how they've gotten any takes out of me. It's so funny seeing everybody do these characters, it's ridiculous!"
Fans of the Jumanji will experience the visual feast they've come to expect from the series, thanks to visual effects supervisor Mark Breakspear and his team, starting with the swarm of attacking ostriches, which pursue the avatars in dune buggies. "At first, one comes over, and Dwayne Johnson is like, 'it's just an ostrich!' Then, over the horizon, thousands come towards them. They turn around and they jump into these dune buggies, and just take off with these ostriches chasing. They got these huge heads that can smash into metal! And they're just...basically trying to kill them," says Breakspear. "We've researched the whole thing. When I was in South Africa on another show, I went down to the Cape, and these ostriches were just running around there - and I got chased by one! I know the fear of being chased by a bird that's twice my size. So I feel very personally attached to this sequence."
"I'm in the very fortunate position of being able to make outrageous requests that then a team of geniuses all over the world have to figure out how to actually execute. And on this movie, we had an absolutely staggeringly great group of people working on animals all over the place," says director, Jake Kasdan. The visual effects group is truly a global team, with over 5,000 artists working tirelessly at various VFX houses all over the world, including Los Angeles, New Zealand, Montreal, Vancouver, and Melbourne. In addition to tasks like adding in backgrounds and digitally smoothing out tire tracks on sand dunes to make them look pristine, they also get to create a range of animals for the Jumanji universe, including hippos, giant anacondas, horses, camels, mandrills, and hyenas.
Breakspear explains the painstaking work that goes into creating the visual effects: "For every second of the big visual effects shots you see, it's been worked on for probably months and months of people's time. People at these companies work on a single shot. You might see it go by like that; they'll work on that for six months just so they can bring that to you and make you just amazed at what you see." With the number of visual effects shots in the film, the stakes are high and the clock is ticking. "You've got thousands of shots on the movie. So what you see in the movie sometimes is the tip of the iceberg to what's been done by visual effects in the background."
"The teams I work with, they are special. They are really amazing people," he says of this group of artists and digital wizards. "The needle's at 11 - it really is. The people that are gonna come and see this movie, they want to see the best. And visual effects plans on delivering."
Another key team member returning to help expand the world of Jumanji is Oscar®- winning special effects supervisor J.D. Schwalm, whose work includes First Man, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, and the upcoming Avatar 2.
Working closely with the visual effects team, as well as the 2nd unit director and stunt coordinator, Wade Eastwood, Schwalm and his team helped bring the world of Jumanji to life on set. One of the more intense sequences involves an intricate puzzle of hundreds of rope bridges suspended over a gorge, requiring the avatars to hastily navigate it while being pursued. Says production designer Bill Brzeski, "This is a videogame world. We knew these hundreds of bridges that were written in the script would kind of float up in the sky, and intercept each other in the gorge of this action sequence, but we didn't have to explain how that happened."
Schwalm and his team meticulously planned out this action sequence shot by shot, angle by angle inside the huge blue screen stage in Atlanta. While it was key to the suspense of the story that the bridges looked flimsy and unsafe, in actuality, they were reinforced with steel plates and rail running through them to ensure the actors' safety. "We had to make the bridges light enough so they could move around on the set, but heavy enough to support all of the cast. In the end we had three 30' long bridge sections, two 20' sections, and we also had 20' and 10' vertical sections of the bridge. All of the bridges we made were interchangeable," says Schwalm. "It was important we gave Jake and 2nd unit director/ stunt coordinator, Wade Eastwood the essential tools they needed for the big action sequences."
Early in the film, the actors get dropped into the game by falling out of the belly of the plane belonging to Nigel, depositing them onto the sand dunes. Schwalm and his team found a rare Russian plane that can fly low at very slow speeds, which was ideal, since the actors need to fall out and not get hurt. However, it did not have a loading door, so they had to create one. "We scanned the entire plane with a 3-D scanner, brought it back to Atlanta, where we designed our loading door and all the hydraulics," reveals Schwalm. Once they created the big trap door, creating the bumpy flight was simple: "We ultimately put the plane on top of one of our big 6-axis motion bases and we were able to give them all the flight beats and the nose dives, to simulate the rough weather."
One of the bigger builds for Schwalm and his team was the exterior of Jurgen's Fortress banquet hall. "Production designer Bill Brzeski came to me and wanted to give the hall a really evil and ominous feel, and make it look like a Viking warrior type of place. Bill wanted lots of real flames in the set," explains Schwalm.
His team built giant fireproof columns that ran through the set with 20' tall flames going through them all day long. There was a massive fireplace where Jurgen is burning giant logs, which was run by a giant propane line that fed to a 1,000-gallon propane tank. Always making safety a priority, Schwalm also installed a giant fire sprinkler system above the set in case it was needed. Plus, air quality inside the set was monitored throughout the shooting day. Says Schwalm, "We kept a close watch on everything and ultimately it went off without a hitch. The best part was a lot of the light they used was all natural light coming from the fire."
The Fearless Leader
Jake Kasdan, the man at the helm of the global Jumanji franchise has movie magic in his DNA"literally. His father, Lawrence Kasdan, has written some of the biggest blockbuster films of all time, in addition to being a prolific director and producer. So it's only fitting that Jake Kasdan would follow in his father's footsteps.
"Jake Kasdan is the heart and soul of the Jumanji adventure. He is the director. He is one of the writers. He's a producer. He is the North Star. And, there was no Jumanji without Jake," says producer Matt Tolmach. "He was the one who challenged all of us not only to make a movie that lived up to what we had accomplished before, but also to go even further. There was that moment where we said, 'How do we make this game more thrilling? How do we make the movie even funnier?'"
Jumanji star Jack Black has been a longtime collaborator. "We go way back to the 90s. We did a movie together a long time ago called Orange County and I loved the way he directed. He likes to work a lot on the fly, in the moment, asking you to try different things, different lines. 'Here, go this way, go that way' and he keeps the actors on their toes. I love his style. We mesh together really well,' says Black. "We've worked together a bunch of times since then; he's definitely one of my favorite directors because of that skill. And now that he's doing Jumanji level production, it's a whole different game. We were doing fun little indies together, but now it's like Avengers level production budget. But he's just relaxed. He doesn't care. He's just like watching the monitor going, 'Bam, funny idea! Bam, funny line!' off the top of his head.
"He is open, which is another great quality for a director to have - to have open ears for and care what the actors are thinking about. If you have an idea, he really listens. He is wide open. A lot of directors don't do that, but Jake is very actor friendly. It's that collaborative spirit that makes a movie fun to work on. It's hard to do that under the pressure of a big budget production. If you can stay relaxed and cool in the moment, it's a gift - and he's got it," observes Black.
Kasdan receives high marks from another person who knows something about filmmaking running in the family, Colin Hanks, who portrays Alex in the film. "I think Jake has got a deft hand at a lot of stuff. He is sort of a complete package in terms of writing and directing. And he's just very supportive of everyone. His demeanor is great. I think just the way he carries himself sort of brings the best out of everybody. I think that starts at the top," says Hanks.
"Jake is a really detailed director and very specific about the beats of his comedy. He's got a really clear understanding of the kind of movie he wants to make the minute he starts shooting it, which I think is so helpful," says Nick Jonas. "All of us obviously trust him, uh, because he made an amazing movie and made us all look good in the last one, so I think we're able to just dive in and know that he's gonna nail it like he always does. I always get so excited when he gives me that really specific direction and it kind of helps us all along the way and it's this big epic Jumanji journey, getting to tell some of these other stories, which are really poignant and interesting to tell from different perspectives. It just makes this whole thing even better."
The World Needs Jumanji
"I think audiences responded so positively to our first Jumanji for a few reasons. I think that it was fun, it had a ton of heart, and it was a surprise. We were fortunate enough for it to be a really big global hit, but we were like the sleeper of Christmas time. We came out against Star Wars and everybody called us crazy - and we were crazy. But, we also felt like we had something special in our movie," maintains Dwayne Johnson.
He continues, "yes, we were fun. Yes, we were entertaining. Yes, we had a ton of heart. But, I also think we went into our movie with tremendous reverence, love, and respect for the franchise and the original movie with Robin Williams, whom we all loved and honored as best we possibly could. And I think that was a fundamental element about our movie that resonated with audiences around the world."
If you ask Jack Black, the secret to the franchise's ongoing appeal is simple: "I think that Jumanji resonated worldwide because it was a great combination of action and comedy. Dwayne Johnson is a force to be reckoned with. Kevin Hart is the funniest man alive. It was just sort of a party, and people responded to that. I think people wanted to party. Now, more than ever, I think the world needs Jumanji."
Jumanji: The Next Level
Release Date: December 26th, 2019