The Twilight Saga is packed with visual effects, but there’s one detail that everyone remembers for how bad it was: the CGI baby Renesmee.
Twilight is remembered for offering a completely different version of vampires and a love story that has been the subject of many debates for years, but its film saga will go down in history for the infamous CGI baby in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2. Stephenie Meyer’s often controversial Twilight book series introduced readers to a world where humans, vampires, and werewolves coexist, even if humans aren’t aware of it. The core of the series was the relationship between vampire Edward Cullen and mortal Bella Swan, which many find to be quite problematic.
Still, the novels were a resounding success and Twilight was adapted to the big screen. Its final book, Breaking Dawn, was split into two cinematic parts. Readers and viewers spent four books and five films waiting for the moment Bella (Kristen Stewart) would finally become a vampire so she could be with Edward forever. Her transformation took place in a cliffhanger at the end of Breaking Dawn – Part 1. Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 begins just after Bella gave birth to her and Edward’s half-mortal half-vampire baby, which almost killed her.
Renesmee’s introduction was one to remember – unfortunately, though, not because Bella was meeting her daughter for the first time, but because the production crew decided to use a CGI baby in the place of a real one. Renesmee Cullen was obviously not a normal child. As a half-mortal half-vampire being, Renesmee grew rapidly both physically and mentally, to the point where she was able to speak only seven days after she was born. The crew of Breaking Dawn knew they had to somehow show a baby that was already very mature even if physically it was just an infant.
The result was a CGI Renesmee baby that couldn’t do the trick back when the film was originally released (and even less so now). Most audiences agree that Renesmee is rather unsettling, since her facial expressions don’t quite match the preconceived notion of what an infant looks like. In many ways, what the CGI Renesmee created was an instance of the Uncanny Valley, an effect that occurs in film when CGI or animated characters appear just human enough to unsettle audiences with their subtle differences (think The Polar Express). And yet, bonus materials released with the box set version of the films reveal that Renesmee could have looked much worse.
A behind-the-scenes featurette included in Twilight Forever revealed what Renesmee originally looked like, and it was so bad the production crew actually named it “Chuckesme,” thinking that it resembled the Chucky doll from Child’s Play. This version was a mechanical doll that was supposed to play the part of baby Renesmee, but actors could not stand to act comfortably around it during scenes. Doll producer Wyck Godfrey even said that Chuckesme was “one of the most terrifying animatronic babies to ever not be seen on film.” After Chuckesme’s resounding failure, they decided to go with CGI instead as they were trying to “create something that was otherworldly,” and she had to “be intelligent yet still look like a baby but actually look like a more mature baby.”
There were a lot of features that the Twilight crew wanted Renesmee to have, so much that ultimately the overabundance of CGI effects only made her look too unrealistic, unsettling and even a bit nightmare-inducing. In the end, Renesmee was a valuable lesson on CGI characters, which came in handy for director Bill Condon when working on the live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. Twilight’s weird CGI Renesmee baby will be forever remembered for how bad it looked, dating the film with poor usage of technology from day one, but surprisingly the initial animatronic was decidedly worse.
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