‘Peacemaker’: Is Eagley a Real Bird or Fake?

The Peacemaker television series picked up where the blockbuster film The Suicide Squad left off, with John Cena returning as the titular antihero. Created by James Gunn, the HBO Max original series follows Christopher Smith (Cena), who must join the black-ops group, “Project Butterfly,” to protect the United States from mysterious threats.

Season 1 included eight action-packed episodes, with the finale airing on February 17, 2022. Fans were delighted to learn HBO Max picked up the show for another season.

While DC fans can’t get enough of Cena, it seems his “pet” bald eagle, Eagly, is equally as popular. Many viewers of the well-received series are curious if Eagly is a real bird or computer-generated, and per usual, we have the answer.

John Cena as Christopher Smith in DC's 'Peacemaker' Episode 8. He's standing in the woods and looks surprised.
John Cena in ‘Peacemaker’ | Katie Yu/HBO Max

What we know about Eagly

No one expected the breakout star of the popular television series to be Eagly, the majestic bald eagle and trusty sidekick of the Peacemaker.

According to CBR, when the duo shares a hug in Episode 7, “Stop Dragon My Heart Around,” Leota Adebayo (Danielle Brooks) is shocked. Cena’s character shrugs her off, saying, “You don’t want to believe in miracles, that’s on you.”  

Looper reported that Eagly got some “brilliantly comedic moments in the first few episodes,” giving viewers a reason to take a little closer look at Peacemaker’s feathered friend. Fans were drawn in by the powerful connection between Cena and Eagly.

Is Eagly a real bald eagle?

Since Cena regularly works closely on camera with the stoic eagle, it would be hard to teach a real bird how to perform for each scene. Not to mention how difficult it would be to have a bald eagle replicate those iconic hugs. Therefore, the creators of Peacemaker decided to make Eagly a CGI character.

Gunn revealed on Twitter that the inspiration for the character’s sidekick came from the memoir “An Eagle Named Freedom: My True Story of a Remarkable Friendship” by author Jeff Guidry.

While many fans thought Sean Gunn was the voice behind the magical bird, Looper reported the “perfect squeaks and squawks” of Eagly are those of voice actor Dee Bradley Baker. He has a long list of credits that includes Klaus from American Dad! and Perry the Platypus from Phineas and Ferb.

Weta Digital (VFX) and Proof Inc. are the genius behind the CGI generation of Eagly. VFX Supervisor Betsy Patterson told Salon, “[James Gunn] talked about Eagly being as real as possible. But at the same time, he needs to feel like a pet. It’s obvious that Eagly adores Peacemaker.” She explained, “Their relationship is much more like a dog and pet parent, rather than your typical bird-trainer kind of thing. We wanted to establish that kind of easy familiarity between them and that he was very easily as protective of Peacemaker and loves Peacemaker.”

Other CGI characters created by Gunn

To create a believable likeness, VFX started with a real eagle. For comparison purposes, they scanned its image and took a lot of photographs to reference when building the character. 

Since Cena is so big, they increased the bird’s size by about 20% and gave it a larger wingspan to make the interaction between the two more genuine.

Paterson explained that any time Cena is petting or hugging Eagly, he is actually holding onto a “bowling pin-shaped gray pillow that he’s hugging so that way he could have something physical to react with.”

The special effects team also used a fake taxidermy rendition of the eagle to mark shots, check the lighting, and determine how the bird would appear on set.

Gunn is no stranger to using CGI characters in his films. In Guardians of the Galaxy, the smart-talking Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper and Sean Gunn) was computer-generated and quickly became a fan favorite. King Shark (Steve Agee and Sylvester Stallone) in The Suicide Squad was also a CGI character.

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