Yes. This was the era of the CG/animatronic combo for the same characters. You had Winston, Baker/Cinovation,ADI,and a few others who worked alongside ILM on film after film. It was also an era when they were still working out the right ratio and types of shots that worked best for the particular craft, CG or animatronic.
Sometimes they were less successful than others. By the time we get to 1997, just a few years from Jumanji, it was becoming clear that animatronic and CG cross cutting of the same characters was starting to fall apart. Some of that was on the filmmakers, who were designing really elaborate shots with wild and alive characters and camera moves for CG, and then really conservative shots for the animatronic. Sometimes you could just see the seams or the tradeoff of the techniques.
And I feel like that's something that's often overlooked when it comes to discussions (and by "discussions", I also mean random armchair experts on Youtube comment threads and such
) is that practical FX work, let's focus more on animatronics here than make-up effects, just don't work with certain shooting methods. The quicker you film, the more you move the camera, the more minute details you require from the creature/character, the less animatronics are able to do convincingly. And if you're trading back-and-forth between practical and digital, seams can show. A LOT. Close-up digital creature work as of late has been so amazing (R&H in Life of Pi
, ILM/Imagine Engine in JW
, etc.) that animatronics simply cannot keep up. Twitching eyelids, fluttering throats, microscopic lip curls... to create that level of detail in animatronic form would so unbelievably difficult. Add onto that a camera move that will pan from the head of a creature to its legs, and suddenly you've got a problem because animatronics aren't often full-body.
James Gunn actually had some really good comments on it in his audio commentary for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
“There’s a marriage between practical effects and visual effects where they work together to create the best effect sequences. Because what you’re really looking for from an audience member, is for them not to know what’s not real.”
“I always like to use practical [FX] when it works, just like I like to use CGI when it works. I don’t buy into this belief that practical is always best. It isn’t. I don’t believe that there’s anyway, for instance, that we could create the kind of emotion we see with Baby Groot here, with practical FX. You can’t create a puppet like that. There’s too much movement. Even moreso with Rocket, an even more complicated character, with his eye movements, the meniscus in his eyes, the reflections; you couldn’t create that with a puppet. But, when something can be created practically, I feel it’s best to go that route.”
It's refreshing to hear a contemporary filmmaker who can word his responses in such a way as to bring praise to both methods.
It's funny because I never liked the monkeys in this Jumanji film. And some of the animatronic characters are just...ooppff. They just don't work. But again, this was a very ambitious film at a time they were still trying to work things out. Unfortunately, it shows in the end result.
But...but...practical FX 5ever!