Although Cloverfield was released by some other movie studio, Disney’s special effects department was intimately involved in certain aspects of the film. In particular, the fact that Cloverfield was filmed entirely with a consumer video camera made it impossible to insert conventional computer animated special effects, so former Jim Henson Productions creature specialists were called into create a 900-foot-tall puppet that could be used in the movies more dramatic sequences.
“The movie’s conceit is that huge amounts of the secret ingredient for a popular soda are released into the ocean, causing this enormous baby monster to be over-stimulated by caffeine and just go nuts,” says Jimmy “J.J.” Jaybrams, supposed head of Disney’s Imagineering Creature Shop, Gigantor Division. “We went through a lot of concepts for this one. We eventually settled on a creature by thinking of what Lucky the Dinosaur would look like if he were horribly mutated, angry, carnivorous, gigantic, covered in parasites, and lived on the bottom of the ocean. The final puppet was a real masterpiece. It took more than seven hundred dedicated operators to control the thing for filming, and at one point one of the guys sneezed and accidentally knocked a couple of floors off an apartment building. You should have seen the company insurance guy’s face!”
Those who pay close attention to the film may notice the sly reference to a certain Disney mascot. Says Jaybrams, “If you look at the traditional Disney silhouette of Mickey Mouse, it looks kind of like a mutated three-leaf clover. So many Disney people worked on this film that at one point the director said it looked like a ‘field of Disney’ — which, because of the clover-look thing, became ‘field of clover’ or ‘clover-field.’ So there you go.”
Since we had him on the line, we asked Jabrams for the solution to a number of frequent questions about the film:
What happened to Marlena? “She exploded. On the set we joked that she’d eaten too many churros. It was really funny! Seriously! Okay, I guess you had to be there.”
What is the whispered phrase after the credits? “It’s dirty. We Disney folks always like to put hidden dirty messages into films. It’s jus t part of who we are.”
What falls out of the sky into the ocean at the end of the movie? “I’m surprised anyone even noticed that. It was a model of Michael Eisner’s private plane — a bit of in-joke wish fulfillment from the crew.”