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An Academy Award Win for Equines and Equestrians Alike

The 89th annual Academy Awards may have gotten a lot of things wrong last weekend, but they did get at least one award right.

Amid the big winners and wild fashion, Leslie Mann and John Cho took the stage to recognize the many deserving recipients of the Scientific and Technical Awards. This year, among the winners, was Mark Rappaport and the team behind the Creature Effects Animatronic Horse Puppet.

Rappaport was recognized for the for the concept, design and development of the Animatronic Horse Puppet, Scott Oshita for the motion analysis and CAD design, Jeff Cruts for the development of the faux-hair finish techniques, and Todd Minobe for the character articulation and drive-train mechanisms.

The award comes after Creature Effects’ Animatronic Horse Puppet has been making the film and television industry safer horses and riders for more than a decade.

Rappaport’s big break in the field came with the Tom Cruise blockbuster, The Last Samurai. The film required an animatronic horse capable of performing stunt sequences that would put a real horse and rider at risk of great injury. Rappaport was commissioned to build a horse that could seamlessly replace Tom Cruise’s real horse for those scenes.

What resulted was probably the most sophisticated horse or animatronic creature ever made for film. Creating this amazing machine cost Rappaport well over a million dollars, but it proved a wise investment. Creature Effects’ Animatronic Horse Puppets now feature prominently in many well loved, and well awarded, films, such as Seabiscuit, 300, True Grit, The Lone Ranger, The Revenant, and most recently, the remake of The Magnificent Seven.

You can witness more Creature Effects Horse Puppets running, rearing, and flipping, all without incident for real horses or riders on their dedicated “Horses” webpage here:

Over the years, the team at Creature Effects has also had more than a little bit of fun with their Horse Puppets. You might be familiar with their commercial work on this Diet Mountain Dew Commercial:

And, you really ought to check out their hilarious work on a Nutri-Grain Bar campaign for British audiences:

As appropriately noted by the Academy, the “the Animatronic Horse Puppet provides increased actor safety, close integration with live action, and improved realism for filmmakers.” So the next time you can only bear look between your fingers as the horse goes over the cliff in The Revenant, take a deep breath and rest assured that absolutely no horses (or riders) were actually harmed in the filming of that scene thanks to Creature Effects Animatronic Horse Puppet!

About the Author

Marjorie Wilkinson is the co-founder and co-editor of Counter-Canter Culture—a revolutionary online publication intended to unite the equestrians and equestrian-enthusiasts who aren’t afraid to kick up the dust that has settled on the conventional equine lifestyle. She is also a real-life Hollywood music supervisor and the official curator of Counter-Canter Culture’s musical column, 100% Sound.

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