Forrest Gump: How does digital visual effect promote narrative film?

Written by Kepei Zhou

The most successful visual effect is not the most expensive one, but the one that you do not perceive, while watching it. So actually, the most successful visual effect might not in science fiction film, rather than the normal narrative film.

According to Prince (2011), Visual effects are coextensive with narrative film, and digital tools have made them more expressive, persuasive, and immersive.

Forrest Gump is the representative example, which won the 67th Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. Because it is a narrative film, and it not only marked a high point in bold, Hollywood sentimentality, but it was also a watershed moment for film special effects.

In order to make the narration be more integrated and create some impossible scenes on the big screen, it compatibly uses the technology of visual effect.

For instance, the beginning of the film, it actually introduces the trend of its CGI usage, there is a feather floating and landing near Forrest’s shoes. Although the feather is real, the effects team digitized the feather, creating motions of it twisting and turning in the air, and then edited it so it could be used the best way they saw fit (Smallwood, 2015).


Furthermore, the scene where Forrest spots Jenny at a peace rally at the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool in Washington, it also required visual effects to create a large amount of people surrounding the pool. By two days of filming, there were approximately 1,500 people attending filming. At every successive take, the extras were rearranged and moved into a different quadrant away from the camera. Therefore, with the help of computers, the extras were multiplied to create a crowd of several hundred thousand people (Paramount Pictures, 2011).


And there were also some other scenes made by visual effect, such as Lieutenant Dans’ missing legs, Vietnam War, meeting of the president is just incredible.





Prince, S. (2011). Digital Visual Effects in Cinema: The Seduction of Reality. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Smallwood, K. (2015). The Forrest Gump Feather Scene Was Entirely CGI. Retrieved from:

Forrest Gump-(Seeing is Believing: The Visual Effects of Forrest Gump-Enhancing Reality) (DVD). Paramount Pictures. August 28, 2001.


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