Clifford the Big Red dog was originally the subject of a (really long-running) series of children’s books. Norman Bridwell wrote and illustrated the first of these, which feature an oversized vermilion canine, in 1963.
Today (10th December) sees the general release date of the Clifford the Big Red Dog feature film. It has a high-profile cast including John Cleese, Jack Whitehall, David Alan Grier and Darby Camp as Emily. Yet, it isn’t immediately obvious who plays Clifford himself.
AREN’T ALL ANIMALS IN MOVIES CGI CREATION NOW?
For sure, using live animals in films these days is likely to cause criticism from rights organisations, and this movie does feature a CGI Clifford. He certainly looks different to the old Clifford. When the first trailer for the movie was released in November 2020, fans of Bridgwell’s original books noticed this. His coat was now a very dark, yet spangly shade of red. It looked far more real, something many of them weren’t happy about.
Then when photos emerged of on-set filming, online conversation then turned to Clifford’s physical form. Leaked pics showed a 10 foot tall puppet with an exoskeleton being inhabited and controlled by two puppeteers – Rowan Magee and John RiddelBerger. In matching red shoes and shorts, they controlled its movements from inside (as you can see in the tweet below).
FILMING CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG
The two puppeteers later talked about their experiences on set, and thethe long hours this entailed. It was physically demanding work, the exoskeleton weighing around 75 pounds. Because of this, they agreed to take turns at the front – the heaviest end.
Riddelberger explained in The Ringer that their – to provide a more believable subject for actors to work with than ‘just a tennis ball on a stand’.
…when your lead title character is not there, the puppet becomes a central point that everyone can check in with.
When Magee and Riddelberger were preparing for scenes, they had to do quite a bit of research into the way dogs act and behave. This included looking at reunion videos (with owners), and choreographing movements to move like a dog.
With a recent announcement that there will be a sequel, despite some mixed reviews. As Clifford is a puppy in this, will that mean an even bigger Clifford next time? This thought amused the two puppeteers. ‘I think it will be a more complex thing than stilts’, said Magee.
The film is released today in UK cinemas.
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You can see Clifford the Big Red Dog trailer below.
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