In a time when CGI budgets are higher and more noticeable than ever, there’s been some debate about exactly how to get them to TV shows. The nature of television doesn’t really allow for the same time and money that visual effects require, but as TV becomes more and more of an arms race, companies are certainly willing to try incorporating as much as they can. Which is all to set the stage for The Sandman on Netflix, which featured a real talking raven.
Not really (sorry if you’re learning it here, but ravens don’t speak human). But it did feature a raven voiced by an actor on set, and played, in scenes, by a real raven — something Tom Sturridge, who plays Dream, found delightful.
“A real raven!” Sturridge exclaims to Polygon. “And a very tall man with a pumpkin on his head [playing Mervyn Pumpkinhead, voiced by Mark Hamill].”
Though there were so many other reasons he wanted to be part of Sandman, the choice to have practical production wherever possible — even when dealing with an actual bird — stuck out to him.
“There’s a danger with these kinds of productions, that it becomes a kind of CGI orgy. And there’s so much of the intention with this is always to make everything practical that you could,” Sturridge says. “The creatures in Hell were all actors in prosthetics, so you could feel their breath. And it makes such a difference when so often you’re expected to make such leaps in your imaginations as an actor because so much of it is not there.”
That’s not to knock other shows that are more reliant on VFX, or even the parts of Sandman that use CGI to help translate the scope of the comics. But with The Sandman, Sturridge hopes that the practical effects did more than just enhance his own experience of the show.
“The thing about dreams is that you don’t know you’re inside them, they feel real. So it’s important that in all of these fantastical environments, it looks like you could touch it. And we could — we could touch it, we could feel it,” Sturridge says. “The leaps were tiny, and it just makes it so much easier that way.”
Additional reporting by Tasha Robinson.