Oscar-nominated special effects team for 'Apes' - the wizards behind the real stars

LOS ANGELES -- When it comes to the "Planet of the Apes" movie franchise, arguably the real stars of the films are the apes - and they're not real! But the people who create them are.

This year, "War for the Planet of the Apes" is nominated for best achievement in visual effects. To say the film is packed with movie magic is probably an understatement.

"The movie was two hours and 20 minutes. All but 15 shots have visual effects in them," said visual effects supervisor Dan Lemmon. "So it's endless!"

The senior visual effects supervisor on "Apes" is Joe Letteri, who also worked on "The Lord of the Rings," "King Kong" and "Avatar." He's already a four-time Oscar winner, who loves what he does for a living.

"There's nothing about the apes that are real," said Letteri. "They're completely digital creations, have been from the first film - the furs, the eyes, everything we create in the computer and just try to give you the illusion that they're real because we want you to watch the movie and be completely engrossed with the story and not have to worry about suspension of disbelief. We want to do that for you."

It's not just the apes they're creating. These visual-effects magicians make all sorts of things look real.

"I do the practical effects which is the fire, the explosions, the falling show or the snow on the ground or the rain and fire," said visual effects supervisor Joel Whist. "What I'm seeing now is you don't see the difference between the practical and visual effect. It's seamless."

"With each new story, there's new things, new elements that we kind of have to make work," said Lemmon. "On this movie, one of them was snow. And that was the first time we had the snow to work on the fur. We had millions of strands of fur on the bodies. And each strand of fur might have several dozen flakes of snow."
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