Special Effects in The Great Gatsby Movie: What’s Real, What’s Not

Yesterday, the VFX supervisor on the film The Great Gatsby released a composite “before and after” reel, showing the sheer amount of special effects it took to re-create the lavish world of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s beloved novel. The Bowery Boys previously dissected the trailer for architectural and historical accuracy last year, and today, we’re adding to the analysis of what’s real and what’s not.

1. Downtown Manhattan Waterfront: 

The Great Gatsby-Downtown Manhattan-Battery Park-VFX-Chris Godfrey-001

The Great Gatsby takes place in 1922 and the film opens with a view of downtown Manhattan. Battery Park City wasn’t built until 1985, so the shape of the waterfront and the inclusion of piers are roughly correct, but Battery Park is shown much more lush than it was. Here’s a vintage photograph circa 1929:

Skyscrapers of New York City-Aerial View of Battery Park-1929Source: NYPL

At this level of resolution, it’s hard to analyze the buildings specifically, but the scale and placement of the buildings along State Street (the eastern border of Battery Park) seem a little off. State Street also wasn’t as angular of a street then as it is now, as you can see from the curvilinear border of Battery Park in the vintage photo.

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7 Responses
  1. Actually the colour of the woolworth building’s roof is made out of bronze and this material gets greener as it gets older so they were right about that.
    Very good article btw 🙂

  2. I feel in the picture the skyscraper under instruction in the center is the Empire State Building and the one under construction on the far left is 500 Fifth Avenue. And the building with the construction worker is the Rockeffeler building. But it seems too close to be it.

  3. Alex Wallach Reply

    Great post! The shot of the “mystery skyscraper” looks to me like it was taken looking south from the “Top of the Rock” observation deck atop the GE Building in Rockefeller Center. Of course, 30 Rock wasn’t built until 1933, but they already took some anachronistic liberties with the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. Compare it to the view in this photo: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/39/NYC_Top_of_the_Rock_Pano.jpg.

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