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Jen Underdahl, Visual Effects Producer for Marvel Entertainment, had a great video interview with WIRED explaining so many of the VFX work for Endgame. At one point, she noted that the rat who activated Ant-Man's device and freed him from the Quantum Realm was real.
For those of you who are curious, that is not a digital rat. For all the things that we do and for all the things that we replace, that is actually a practical acting rat. I don’t have his name, but he’s really there.
You. Don't. Have. His Name?! How are you even sure he is a he? The true tragedy of Endgame, beyond the major character deaths, is that no one has fully credited this rat. The rat didn't get an on-screen name -- unlike, say, Goose in Captain Marvel -- or apparently an off-screen name for the credits. A scandal. It deserved at least a small part of Robert Downey Jr.'s gigantic salary.
Anyway, visual effects producer Jen Underdahl said there was a bet between the VFX supervisor and a line producer about the rat. The line producer thought they'd have to replace the rat, but the VFX supervisor was sure they could find a rat who was trained and who could "behave" and do it. Sure enough, they found the right rat. A nameless hero for our time to join the many other underappreciated rats of the world. (Interestingly enough, about 80% of Goose's shots in Captain Marvel had to be done through CGI because cats are ... well ... cats. Except when they're Flerkens.)
Check out WIRED's full visual effects video, it's pretty cool:
It really is interesting to learn why visual effects are sometimes needed to show seemingly simple things whereas a real-life rat could be trained to save humanity. At least fans have shown the rat the respect he/she deserves, creating posters and other tributes:
That rat should return in future MCU movies, team up with Thor, and be called some new version of Sweet Rabbit. Maybe he'd actually see the rat as a raccoon.
Also, not sure if you knew, but Hope van Dyne's missing cat almost had a role in all of this too. Ant-Man and the Wasp's co-writers previously shared a story about that movie almost including a line about Hope losing her cat, because Marvel was going to set up something to continue into Endgame. So the writers figured Hope's cat was going to be the one to do the rat's job and free Scott Lang from the Quantum Realm, or something. However, after a couple of months, the Ant-Man and the Wasp writers were told to never mind about the cat line, 'cause Endgame was going in another direction.
I do feel like the MCU could set up an entire team of animal/animal-esque Avengers, led by Rocket and Goose, but also this rat, Hope's cat, and more. $1.5 billion at the box office, easy.