The Unexpected Challenge Clifford The Big Red Dog’s Natural Color Caused For The Movie’s Crew

After years of charming audiences in the pages of books and animated series, Clifford the Big Red Dog is finally making his live-action debut on the big screen. The latest trailer for the movie hints that the beloved dog is going to get himself into plenty of humorous situations. However, plenty of viewers have also probably taken notice of Clifford’s live-action look, particularly his signature red fur. While the crew ultimately managed to land on a color they were pleased with, the process of doing so created an unexpected problem for them.

Working with a CGI character can be challenging for a myriad of reasons, but it can be even more tedious when you’re dealing with a visually distinct character. The creative team behind Clifford the Big Red Dog truly had their work cut out for them. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with director Walt Becker and producer Jordan Kerner, who shed some light on the process of zeroing in on a suitable shade of red.

When asked how long it took to land the color, Walt Becker was honest, saying that it took “a long time.” He also explained that before they even got to determining the red, there were other variables to consider when crafting a red dog reminiscent of the one seen in the books:

The interesting thing is on a book, especially with sort of that 2D animation thing, red is red. And when the studio made the decision that they were doing a live-action movie... we had to figure out, are we doing a photo-real dog? Are they doing a Scooby-Doo version? When we decided that the best version of this would be a realistic dog that's red that can also be big and bring the magic into a real world... It's pretty amazing to see. … It's a tightwire act of red, and sometimes too red, makes him feel not real. And then not enough red makes him feel like we're not really sort of giving this character that we all grew up with life as a red dog. So it was finding the balance and basically putting it right to the edge. But yeah, the color has kept a few people up at night...

Jordan Kerner echoed Walt Becker’s sentiments, jokingly saying that neither he nor Becker had gray hair before they started working on Clifford’s fur color. The veteran producer, who’s worked on adaptations ranging from Inspector Gadget to Charlotte’s Web, also discussed some of the technical hurdles that came with the color:

By the way, not only was it a challenge creatively to get it, but red as a color, tech and in the world of digital, doesn't hold perfectly. So if you've ever watched a movie, on a DVD or even on… just straight across on Netflix or something, that if the titles are in red, they kind of bleed a little bit. You know, there's that, and Walt and I had to do a lot of research, way before we started shooting all the way through. They had to take it out of our cold dead hands, basically, refining every single shot. And to have the technology, Paramount was very helpful in helping us come up with the technology that would hold the red that we chose on movie screens and on iPads and on phones and on computers, on home television. So it was a real big deal to get the red right creatively and then hold it like make it actually stay there.

You have to appreciate the level of time and effort that was put into nailing the look of Clifford the Big Red Dog’s star, and it’s nice to hear they had the necessary tech at their fingertips. It’s true that red is a difficult color to nail down, but Jordan Kerner’s comments suggest that they found a color that both looks good on screen and stays true to Clifford’s iconic appearance.

Clifford the Big Red Dog arrives in theaters on September 17th.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.