Meet the first Pakistani visual effects artist in Hollywood

Published: September 7, 2015
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Artist recalls landing a job at Walt Disney Pictures and how it shaped his entire future. PHOTO: FILE

Artist recalls landing a job at Walt Disney Pictures and how it shaped his entire future. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: Conquering foreign lands with robust talent, Pakistanis have proved their mettle to the world. While we talk about Pakistanis making waves in Hollywood, meet the man who was the first visual effects artist in Hollywood, Muqeem Khan.

Speaking exclusively to The Express Tribune, Muqeem recalls landing a job at giant entertainment film company, Walt Disney Pictures and how it shaped his future.

“I was exploring job opportunities in 1996 when I was told that Walt Disney Pictures was looking for creative artists for their film George Of The Jungle. I applied for the position and got hired,” he said.

A fresh graduate at the time, Muqeem could hardly believe his luck. “It was incredible. Straight-out-of-school I was being given an opportunity to work with top level professionals from the field,” he added.

The Pakistan born visual effects artist, who is an Industrial Design graduate from Ohio State University, has names like Walt Disney Pictures and Square USA films to his credit.

He initially enrolled at National College of Arts, Lahore in 1988 to pursue a degree in Architecture but left for the US after a year in hopes of continuing his education abroad.

He shares his experience working on the following projects:

George Of The Jungle:

He had to create digital elephant’s feet stomping on the ground — an assignment which took four months to complete.

“It may sound extremely simple, but it is actually quite complex when it comes to detailing; particularly at that time when not many tools were available and computer graphics had only just entered into the motion picture industry,” he said.

Flubber:

After George of the Jungle, Muqeem’s next project was Robin Williams’s Flubber.

“I had to create clouds and wisps that interacted with the star’s car, when he flies through the sky. It required around a month of research and development,” he explained.

Armageddon:

Michael Bay’s film which featured Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck was a tricky one to do.

“We had to show an explosion taking place on a surface similar to that of the moon. We had no live footage of that to work around/with. We had to combine physics and arts to show how the debris would move in space,” he said.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within:

The film made by a Japanese company Square USA was a mix of reality and fantasy.

“They were working with cutting edge technology to create this full-length digital feature film. The characters and everything had to look real, so we had to work very hard to create an amalgam of animation and reality. The film wasn’t a big hit, primarily because of the script. However, in terms of technology it was a pioneer,” he said.

Apart from the aforementioned, Muqeem has also worked on action horror film, Deep Rising (1998).

The artist shared proud moments of representing his country in Hollywood:

“When I first started working at Disney, my supervisor asked me to put up a Pakistani flag in my cubical like the others did and I was delighted to represent my hometown,” he said proudly.

“It was such a proud feeling when my name rolled up on the VFX credits list during the first screening of George Of The Jungle,” he added.

Apart from films, Muqeem has been teaching multidisciplinary courses at Virginia Commonwealth University and Northwestern University in Qatar. He is currently doing his PhD in the field of Digital Intangible Heritage (DIH).

He is pleased with the fact that a large number of Pakistanis have ventured into Hollywood. “I am so happy to see artists contributing their talent both, in Pakistan and abroad.”

Further sharing his hopes with the emerging talent he said, “Pakistanis, especially women, are taking keen interest and excelling in animation and interaction design. I am looking forward to seeing these young minds develop in the computer graphics industry in the near future.”

Watch his TED talk about Playful Technology To Keep Cultural Heritage Alive here:

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Reader Comments (4)

  • Antiq
    Sep 7, 2015 - 3:51PM

    Precious gems of Pakistan. Salute you!Recommend

  • raz
    Sep 7, 2015 - 3:59PM

    Now thats called a true International talent.
    Respect !Recommend

  • hira bilal
    Sep 7, 2015 - 5:53PM

    Proud to be have a uncle like you in our family. Recommend

  • Kiran Patel
    Sep 7, 2015 - 9:19PM

    Congraulations to my bros across the border, the talent in Pakistan is untapped I wish you all the ultimate success you deserve. We are seeing Pakistani TV shows & they are showing a side of Pakistan most of us did not know existed. I only wish the Goverment of Pakistan would do more work to advertise their country we can alll agree that the promotion of Pakistan has been poor the tourism, the fashion & textile industry need more exposure also the agriculture products can help the local economy the opportunies are endless !Recommend

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