Entertainment

A digitally resurrected James Dean is just the beginning, as team forms new CGI effects company

Key Points
  • A newly formed company is digitally resurrecting actors, celebrities and iconic figures in history to bring them to traditional film and various other platforms.
  • CMG Worldwide, known for its roster of intellectual property licenses, and content creation studio Observe Media are merging to form Worldwide XR, Variety first reported on Tuesday.
  • Worldwide XR holds and represents the rights for more than 400 celebrities, athletes and sports teams.
  • Some of these digital humans could make their way into the classroom, museums and music, depending on what makes most sense. 
Actor James Dean poses for a Warner Bros publicity shot for his film 'Rebel Without A Cause' in 1955 in Los Angeles, California.
Michael Ochs Archives | Moviepix | Getty Images

Two companies are combining forces to resurrect famous actors and celebrities to bring them back to the big screen.

CMG Worldwide, a management consulting company known for its roster of celebrity clients and intellectual property licenses, and content creation studio Observe Media are merging to form Worldwide XR. Worldwide XR will bring digital humans to traditional film, and other mediums and platforms, through CGI restoration.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

This is the team that used visual effects to bring back actor James Dean for the upcoming movie "Finding Jack." The news came out last week that the Vietnam war movie would feature a digitally recreated Dean, who died in a car accident in 1955 at the age of 24. Dean is best known for "Rebel without a Cause," "East of Eden" and "Giant."

Using a digital recreation rather than an actor to portray Dean was met with some backlash.

The controversy will continue thanks to the formation of Worldwide XR. The company holds and represents the rights for more than 400 celebrities, athletes and sports teams, Worldwide XR CEO Travis Cloyd said. Other celebrities Worldwide XR will enable creators to bring back include actors such as Bette Davis and Burt Reynolds, professional wrestler Andre The Giant, sports legends like Lou Gehrig, and artists like Maya Angelou and Chuck Berry.

To create these digital humans, creators will use CGI restoration, sometimes relying on computer-generated imagery based on existing content or combining assets with look-alike actors.

"I think everybody is critical of new technology because they are unfamiliar with what it is," Cloyd said.

He added, there are already different opportunities in the sector right now and Worldwide XR is essentially utilizing tools and technology that already exist.

"This is the future, this is where technology has led us," he said. "We are doing everything we can to make sure all the immersive experiences and technology that is being delivered in the market ... that we are controlling the narrative."

Film is not the only platform that Worldwide XR plans to work with. It will also create digital humans for augmented and virtual reality experiences.

"Each platform has its own complexity that comes with it," Cloyd said. "It's truly the wild West of immersive experiential content right now."

These digital humans will also make their way into school systems, museums or music, depending on the iconic figure Worldwide XR is working with, Cloyd said. For example, some individuals from history might make more sense in an educational setting such as a classroom. Students would be able to learn directly from the digital human created by Worldwide XR about the life and story of whatever iconic figure was recreated, rather than from a textbook or teacher within a classroom.

Worldwide XR works closely with the families of these celebrities and famous figures to ensure they are creating a story and campaign that meets their expectations and wishes, according to Cloyd.

"Sometimes people will look at someone like James Dean and say, 'he only lived for 24 years and he's been deceased for 64 years, why should his family still continue to be able to protect his name and likeness?'," CMG Worldwide CEO Mark Roesler said in an interview. "Our job is to keep the memories of some of these icons alive and that's what we're trying to do."

Roesler started CMG Worldwide in 1981 and Dean and Elvis Presley were the company's first two clients. He will join the newly formed company as chairman and co-founder.

Variety was the first to report the news on Tuesday.