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Wakanda Forever: Making the world of Marvel Studios’ Black Panther

Marvel’s Black Panther character made his debut in the comic book world in “Fantastic Four Vol. 1” Issue 52, published in 1966. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby the comic series has been a fan favorite for years known for crossing racial and cultural lines. There’s a lot of power in bringing a regal African King, from the reclusive nation of Wakanda, and his super hero role into the Marvel universe.

The “Black Panther” movie is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Black Panther character was introduced in Marvel Studios “Captain America: Civil War,” but unlike most of the recent non-Avenger films it stands alone with no other super heroes involved. That’s fine, because Wakanda can more than hold its own.

Here are some fun facts about the creation of the “Black Panther” movie:

Creating the culture of Wakanda

  • It was decided early on that Xhosa, one of the official languages of South Africa, would be the language of Wakanda. A precident that had been set in “Captain America: Civil War” when celebrated South African actor John Kani, who portrayed King T’Chaka, used his native accent. Chadwick Bosemman, who plays T’Challa/Black Panther, picked it up from him as well.
  • The writing you see for the fictitious Wakanda script is based on an old existing Nigerian language.
  • The cast and stunt team practiced with African drums played by musician Jabari Exum so their movements would have a musical quality found in many African-based martial arts.
  • The majority of the Wakanda sets wee constructed on sound stages at Pinewood Studios in Atlanta, including the Tribal Council; the Wakandan Design Group, Shuri’s hive of research and development of the vibranium rich country; the ancient subterranean Hall of Kings; and most notably Warrior Falls, the ceremonial heart of Wkanada’s revered traditions.
  • The Warrior Falls set was inspired by the majestic Oribi Gorge in South Africa.
  • The Warrior Falls set was 120′ x 75′ in size, the set was 36′ tall, with teh pool being six feet above ground level. That made the cliff faces 30′ tall. The entire cliff wall, including the computer generated set and the practical set is 100 feet high.
  • Costumer designer Ruth Carter kept her designs steeped in the appropriate African custom while elevating it to reflect the fantastical elements of the mysterious country and culture. Each tribe has its own color palette.
  • For example, the color blue signified danger or trouble, so blue was reserved for the Border tribe who act as a policing force. Killmonger’s character also wears blue. No one else is in any king of blue palette.
  • She used the clothing of the Dogon tribe as an inspiration for the costumes of the Jabari tribe, who also wear grass skirts that were a hit with director Ryan Coogler.

The Dora Milage

  • The Dora Milaje, the corps of strong fierce women who serve as the personal security force to the King and royal family are an important part of Black Panther lore. These tall, statuesque, bald-headed warrior women usually move as one and command attention wherever they go.
  • Led by Danai Guria’s character, Okoye, the Dora Milaje security force features and international contingent of actors from all over the world, including Florence Kasumba, who returns to play Ayo, a character that first appeared in “Captain America: Civil War.” The Dora Milaje were cast from a pool of actresses, stunt women, and Broadway dancers so that each individual Dora could have specific skills they brought to the table as required by the script.

About the actors

  • Young Zuri is played by Denzel Whitaker. While he shares the same last name with Forest Whitaker, who plays the older Zuri, they are not related. However, they did play father and son in Denzel Washington’s “The Great Debaters.”
  • South African actor Atandwa Kani plays the character of Young T’Chaka to his father and celebrated South African actor John Kani’s King T’Chaka.

The craft

  • The cast did the bulk of the fight work that is seen in the film. Chadwick Boseman, whose has an extensive martial arts background, knew what he was in for when he and all the other actors had to attend a “boot camp” to prepare them for the physical aspects of their roles.
  • Michael B. Jordan, who plays Erik Killmonger, spent about two and a half hours in the special effects makeup chair every day, while makeup designer Joel Harlow and three other makeup artists applied close to 90 individual sculpted silicone molds to his upper body. This ‘scarification’ application process entails transferring each mod and then blending and painting them to match Jordan’s skin tone. Each of the mercenary Killmonger’s scars represents a “notch” of his kills over the years.
  • Actor Daniel Kaluuya learned how to ride a horse as practice to simulate riding W’Kabi’s armored rhino in the film.

After you’ve seen Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” let us know which part of the production stood out to you.