The director of "Cruella" can not distinguish between a real dog in the film and a CG dog

In 2019's The Lion King, Disney pushed cg animation to extremes of realism, doing its darnedest to create the illusion that these talking, singing, backstabbing lions existed in the actual world. The studio's latest film Cruella has gone one further, fooling its own director with the naturalism of its animation.

Cruella is a chiefly live-action film about the villain of Dodie Smith's novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians. Naturally, the film contains many dogs, some real, some cg-animated (by MPC, the same studio that worked on The Lion King). Director Craig Gillespie has confessed he can't tell the living pooches from the virtual ones.

In an interview with The Wrap, he said, “We had all the dogs on set all the time, and I would always try to shoot real dogs first, and sometimes it would work and we'd be done, but more often than not, within every scene, half of it is real dogs and half of it is cg. And they're so good with the cg, I can't even tell the difference anymore.”

Of a specific scene in which Cruella (Emma Stone) is holding a dog, Gillespie added, “It's a close-up with this puppy right here, and half of them are cg dogs, and I don't know which ones are which now.”

The director, who previously helmed live-action films like Lars and the Real Girl and I, Tonya, goes on to discuss the difficulty of wrangling Dalmatians. But then he returns to the animation: “The cgi part of it is kind of exhausting. That was a year of meticulously going through shots, reviewing shots over and over and over: the fur and the eyes and the lighting. Maybe I'd have persevered with the real dogs a little more had I known what I was in for.”

Cruella was released in theaters and on Disney+ (for a $30 premium fee) on Friday. It has grossed $43.4 million over its first two weekends.