How Rodeo FX created George Clooney's rocketing bathtub in Tomorrowland

Digital effects and miniatures shot in-house deliver VFX for Brad Bird's futuristic world


Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland benefitted from fifty visual effects shots from Rodeo FX, including digital matte painting, blue screen compositing, scene enhancements, CG effects and simulation.

Partnering with ILM, Rodeo FX combined digital effects and miniatures shot in-house to deliver visual effects for a magical and futuristic world.

In one sequence which sees a childhood version of George Clooney's disillusioned inventor Frank Walker experimenting, Rodeo FX created the VFX for making the boy fly using a jet pack.

Images © Walt Disney Pictures 

The VFX team replaced and enhanced the sky, added a CG jet trail, stitched plates, and added practical debris and particles to show the boy’s point-of-view as he flies through grass and over a fence, before crash-landing into a cornfield.

Images © Walt Disney Pictures 


In another innovative sequence, lead character Casey Newton (played by Britt Robertson)and George Clooney's Walker escape from police in Frank’s homemade bathtub-pod. This launches like a rocket, just as the house explodes. 

Rodeo FX built a precise reproduction of the real house, a maquette that was five feet wide and four feet tall, then loaded it with a balance of explosives – gunpowder for black-grey smoke and naphthalene to create a realistic explosion. Two cameras captured the action against a greenscreen. 

“We tested to get the smoke and the size of the explosion to fit the scale of the house,” explained Ara Khanikian, VFX supervisor at Rodeo FX. “We also determined the right amount of debris and how to synchronise a rapid succession of detonations to achieve the right effect.” 

Images © Walt Disney Pictures 

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For the flight of the bathtub pod, Rodeo FX used the background production plate, which had the camera following the desired trajectory for the escape pod hitting the water. Then the team generated a CG camera takeover for the beginning of the shot where the camera needed to be much higher to show the farmhouse and its surroundings as it explodes, and then follow the CG pod as it shoots into the air before crashing in the lake.

Images © Walt Disney Pictures 


Rodeo FX created the fully digital environment, enhanced the plate, and augmented the water splash. The surface of the lake was also enhanced to show the effects of the sinking pod, while the entire scene was colour corrected to look like early dawn. 

Images © Walt Disney Pictures 


For a sequence with the principal characters in the Eiffel Tower, Rodeo FX took plates of actors shot against a bluescreen, then stitched live plates from the production shoot in Paris and re-projected them as a matte painting.

“We really enjoyed working on Tomorrowland, as it offered interesting technical and artistic challenges that required our expertise in various fields, such as compositing, matte painting, CG, and practical shoot,” said Khanikian. “Combining all these different elements to create a seamless shot is definitely one of the team’s greatest strengths.”

Images © Walt Disney Pictures 

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