UNDATED (CNN) -- In the make-believe world of Hollywood, computerized special effects have made it very difficult for us to know what's real and what's fantasy. Behind the scenes of the film "Life of Pi" to show us the difference.
Every Bengal tiger is different. This male is 10-years-old and weighs in at about 500 pounds. His name is King and he was born to be a star. Animal Trainer Thierry le Portier says, "Every animal has his own look and ' King' looks very sure of himself and dominant; that's how Ang Lee saw it."
This is King's story, but it's also about his miraculous identical twin, his digital twin, made for "Life of Pi". R&H visual effects supervisor Bill Westenhofer says, "We knew if we had a real tiger we had to cut up against that that our digital tiger had to be flawless. The tiger took about -from start to finish - about year and half a model just to build the model that's before sitting down and working on shots and doing the animation."
Le Portier has been a professional big cat trainer since he was 16. For your benefit, he put a young tigress called Minh through her paces. He apologized it wasn't King, but that would have been rather tougher proposition altogether.
On "Life of Pi", the trainer formed an unusual bond with the film's director. La Portier says, "We were both almost in tears, you know. I finish and I say that's why I do this and he said to me, 'Oh I understand. You work with tigers for the same reason that I make movie.'"
Over half the film is set on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean; just the boy, Pi and the tiger. It was shot in a water tank in Taiwan against special effects blue and green screens.
For safety reasons, the actor and the tiger were never filmed together. At one time it was just King, Thierry le Portier and the camera.
In the video, you cans see footage from rehearsals on the boat, shot on a mobile phone from the safety of a cage by le Portier's daughter. The voice you hear is her father's.
Creating King's digital twin took about 600 animators. IN the end, what you see on screen is 87 percent digi-tiger; 13 percent is King. Westenhofer says, "My friends couldn't tell them apart."
The simple truth is the tiger was marked out for the part, literally. As Ang Lee noticed when he first saw him, those defined stripes on his forehead match the Chinese character for King.
The special effects team has deservedly won awards. Thierry le Portier gained Ang Lee's friendship and admiration.
King himself has earned another slap of fresh meat