Although Harrison Ford takes top billing, and does a magnificent job as mountain man, John Thornton, it’s Buck the St. Bernard/Scotch Shepherd cross who will truly steal your heart.
Although entirely computer generated, Buck was created using a digital scan of a real dog. Buckley, as he was coincidentally called, was adopted from an animal shelter during the early days of the film’s production by director Chris Sanders’ wife, Rebecca.
When the team realised that he was the same cross referenced by London in his novel, Buckley got the gig.
The CGI in The Call Of The Wild looks a little different to say The Lion King, where the animals are so real you could be watching an Attenborough documentary.
The VFX team’s goal was to make Buck the dog a “fully photorealistic” but also “emotionally authentic” character. And they nailed it.
Actor and stunt coordinator Terry Notary stood in for the CGI canine. An established motion-capture performer, Notary’s credits include Avatar, Planet Of The Apes and The Hobbit trilogy.
From Han Solo to Indiana Jones via Rick Deckard and Dr. Richard Kimble, Harrison Ford has played a host of heroes (and antiheroes) over the years. But it wasn’t the chance to play one of literature’s iconic characters that enticed him to The Call Of The Wild. It was his love of dogs.
“I’ve had dogs all my life,” shared the actor. “They have personalities. You give them affection, companionship and, in turn, they will love you. In John Thurman’s case, when he finds Buck, he finds a companion for an adventure. It changes John Thurman’s life. It changes Buck’s life.”
The novel's enduring popularity owes much to its' depiction of nature. The Yukon, a wild, mountainous territory in northwest Canada, is as much a character in the author’s story as John Thornton or Buck.
Director Chris Sanders and his team wanted the production to be as environmentally friendly as possible.
The crew used reusable water bottles, collected (and donated) leftover food and recovered tonnes of used plastics from the filming locations.