The Nutcracker and The Four Realms (2018)
All horseback riders were stunt riders or experienced actors who were skilled at riding, mounting and dismounting. All running/galloping scenes were well choreographed, and actors used caution while on and near animals. When teams of horses pulled wagons or carriages, the drivers were experienced and teams of horses were familiar with each other and accustomed to the pulling action. Whenever horses were seen tied to posts/fences, they were attached to lead ropes tied to posts.
In some of the opening scenes where we see several shots of Victorian London with horses and carriages through the snowy streets, this was a closed set with fake snow. The special effects and oil based organic smoke. All the carriages were stored and ready on the street to be filmed on. The horses had their harnesses fitted and were led to the carriages. All the horses were being used so none were left alone at the holding area, all the grooms also escorted the horses to the set. Once on set the horses were hitched,to their carriages and harnesses were made comfortable. They then waited in a holding area until they were ready to be positioned. Fire officers and Medics were on set at all times. No animal was left unattended at anytime.
In the same scene, many of the extras had dogs with them. The extras with the dogs were given time to get to know the dogs and given time to be taught by the trainers how to hold the lead and command the dogs. Dogs were given food and water between takes.
On the close-ups of the horses pulling the carriage, the production used all experienced carriage drivers, grooms and horses. The handlers were just out of camera at all times, escape routes were preplanned, just in case. There was never excessive use of special effects close to horses at anytime. All route were cleared of hazards and well lit. Silence on set was requested whenever the horses were present with no bells or shouting. All harnesses and carriages were checked for safety and comfort prior to use. There were several rehearsals before shooting the scene.
In the scene where Clara walks into the workshop, and we see an owl on a perch in the background, the owl was experienced at flying in the environment and was prepared with a visit to the location and flight on the same set prior to shooting. Pre-shoot owl safety and action meetings were undertaken. We ensured that only a light atmosphere smoke was allowed and not in the direct area of the owls. The building was secured entirely preventing escape. Both birds wore braided cords. The flight path was directed so that the birds would not fly into or close to the naked flames of the candles. No members of the cast were allowed to handle, feed or touch the birds without prior permission of the handlers. On action, the trainer cued the owl, who flew from the perch to another trainer.
When we see the soldier walk the horse across the bridge, the horse was led to the set tacked up by the grooms. The trainer walked ahead of the horse to clear the route. Rubber matting was put on the floor of the studio. The set floor was made up with wood chip and bark, then covered in white fabric. The fake snow blown over the set was dry inert plastic. Two grooms were in blue suits, so able to stand near the horses while the scene was shot.
In the scene where the soldier and Clara ride on the same horse into the woods, the horse used was a seasoned, trained horse accustomed to film sets. The actors had previously had lessons with this horse at the trainers’ farm. The actor doubles were accomplished riders. The floor of the set was compacted soil, covered in wood chip & bark. The horse wore steel shoes all round.
In the scene where Clara rides into the palace with two soldiers on horseback, the palace was actually a studio with a makeshift drawbridge where they shot the scene. All the floors were matted with rubber to prevent the horses from slipping. And all other precautions were taken.
When we see a raven standing on a sculpture, the bird was carried to set in his transport crates by the trainer. The bird had Jessies on his legs.The Jessies were soft leather, around each leg. The tether lines were thin, strong fishing line. Before shooting the scene, the trainer placed the bird into position using a ladder and tethered the bird to a secure peg. The bird was accustomed to being tethered. Smoke levels were kept to a minimum near to the bird. A trainer stood near the bird at all times. On action, the trainer cued the bird to squawk.