One VFX Artist On 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever' Was Mainly There For Fish Poop

Tenoch Huerta in 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever' (2022).
Tenoch Huerta in 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever' (2022). / Marvel Studios

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was a production largely defined by tragedy. The premature death of Chadwick Boseman in 2020 shaped the film both in terms of story, which had to be rethought drastically to deal with T’Challa’s absence, and as a filmmaking experience, with cast and crew united in grief.

Something vastly less tragic? The movie had a fish-poop CGI person. 

As wrote, building the underwater world of Talokan, the aquatic kingdom ruled by Namor, took an enormous amount of work. The production designers did deep research into Mesoamerican civilizations, working with academics and experts in Mayan history, culture, and architecture to create an environment that felt authentic and complete.

However, the kingdom being underwater meant that other, more practical elements needed to be considered—and fish waste was one of them. So one employee of Wētā FX, the visual effects company co-founded by Peter Jackson and best known for its work on The Lord of The Rings movies—had the full-time job of making sure there was enough scat floating around.

Why? Because the sea is full of poo. Go down deep into the ocean and there’s a constant stream of, well, stuff, raining down. It’s known by a few cheery euphemisms—marine snow and marine dandruff being two of them—and is a mixture of broken-down dead sea creatures, sand, and, yep, fish feces. We don’t tend to think of it as poop, because nothing would suck the breathtaking beauty out of gazing out at a glorious undersea vista like doo-doo chat, but there’s a lot of poop in there.

As Wētā VFX supervisor Chris White told, if you get the poop wrong, being underwater simply doesn’t look right. “We were literally discussing the shape of the fish poop that makes up all of the stuff that's floating around, and how we need to make sure that shape is correct,” he said. “Because when the lighters light it and it's not the right shape, it doesn't look like underwater.” 

CGI models of all common fish poop shapes were constructed, and distributed in their millions throughout the movie’s digital world, all managed and wrangled by one CGI artist, who was there to ensure the movement, density, and composition of the deep-sea dung was correct. 

It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.