Much like the franchise's post-credits scenes, cameos have always been part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its success.
Beginning with Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury in 2008's Iron Man, audiences have enjoyed all types of cameos, whether they be directorial cameos from Joe Russo and Taika Waititi, or those from other characters like Hayley Atwell's Peggy Carter and Charlie Cox's Daredevil. And, of course, there was the long-standing tradition of Stan Lee's big screen cameos.
Celebrities ranging from David Hasselhoff to even Elon Musk have become an MCU staple, with the most recent being Megan Thee Stallion in She-Hulk.
While Marvel's cameo trend shows no signs of slowing down, Thor: Love and Thunder included a somewhat secret cameo and one which was achieved in an innovative way.
Bob Chapek's Grandson Had a Thor 4 Cameo
According to Rising Sun Pictures and IMDb, Cameron Chapek, the grandson of Disney CEO Bob Chapek and the son of Marvel Studios executive, Brian Chapek, had a secret role as Baby Thor in Thor: Love and Thunder.
During one of the film's flashback sequences narrated by Taika Waititi's Korg, Baby Thor was shown charging into battle with his mother, Frigga.
The following concept art was shared by artist Jonay Bacallado on Instagram.
The likeness of this pint-sized Thor was based on Cameron Chapek whose grandfather became Disney's CEO in 2020 and whose father has contributed to Thor: Ragnarok, Black Widow, and now, Love and Thunder.
While this cameo was no doubt a special one for the Chapek family, it was also achieved through a different means than what fans have come to expect from Disney's tentpole franchises.
As opposed to using deep fake methods to bring Baby Thor to the big screen, Rising Sun Pictures studio achieved a mini God of Thunder via animation and artificial intelligence.
Senior VFX Producer Ian Cope explained the advantage of this technique over deep fake tech was the result of "a full screen photo-real Baby Thor:"
“The advantage of this technique over standard ‘deep fake’ methods is that the performance derives from animation enhanced by a learned-library of reference material. The result is a full screen photo-real Baby Thor storming in to battle.”
While deep fake tech has rapidly improved in recent years, as evidenced by Luke Skywalker's roles in both The Mandalorian Season 2 and The Book of Boba Fett, there are still some issues.
But according to Dan Bethell, who served as Thor 4's VFX Supervisor, Rising Sun Pictures' AI method allowed Baby Thor to look uncannily real as opposed to that of the uncanny valley:
“Subtle nuances are what make a baby look like a baby. We had great references of the real baby and used them to get details right, such as how his mouth moves, and the way light reflects in his eyes. Over several iterations we honed the look and achieved a digital baby that audiences will accept as real.”
Love and Thunder's Family Affair
Cameron Chapek wasn't the only family-related cameo in Thor: Love and Thunder. Chris Hemsworth's own daughter, India Rose Hemsworth, played Thor's adopted daughter Love in the appropriately titled Love and Thunder.
While Thor 4 was clearly a family affair in more ways than one, how little Chapek was used as a digital reference is definitely worth paying attention to from a technological standpoint.
Both Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm have been using, as well as perfecting, deep fake and de-aging tech for years. Even though AI isn't a new concept in achieving digital characters, how it was utilized in Thor 4 seemingly tackled issues that other methods have struggled to overcome.
Years from now, it's possible that this cameo won't just mark a moment in time for the Chapek family, but also the progress of digital innovation in terms of cameos.
Thor: Love and Thunder will be available to stream on Disney+ on September 8.