Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Best Animated (Motion Capture) Feature

The nominations for the 79th annual Academy Awards were announced today. I actually got up early and watched the announcement live this morning. Last year I started doing a little contest with the staff at One Way Street to see who could pick the most winners for the Oscars. You can find the complete list of nominees here.

I was really glad a few years ago when they introduced the category of Best Animated Feature. The number of nominees in this category varies from year to year depending on the number of eligible films released. This year there are 3 nominees: "Cars", "Happy Feet", and "Monster House". If you ask me, there's no contest. "Cars" will win. I've actually seen all three of these films, that's pretty rare for me now days.

"Cars" was a great movie. I think the producers forgot they were making a movie aimed at kids toward the middle though. I think all the Route 66 nostalgia was cool, but they went a bit overboard with it and the kids in the audience got a bit antsy. Still a fantastic movie, though and a real advancement in computer animation.

"Happy Feet" was a big disappointment to me. I found the animation really flat, the voices uninteresting, and the blunt force politics of the film to be just plain annoying.

I enjoyed "Monster House," for the most part. I didn't like the character design at all, but it was a good little horror story. Definitely not a kids movie, though they tried to market it that way. I watched this one before deciding whether or not to let my kids watch it. I think they'd find it too scary. But I have no problem with a good horror story. In fact, I think this film would've worked much better as a live action movie. Honestly I found the animation to be somewhat distracting in this case.

The big question here has to do with the fact that only one of these movies, "Cars," didn't utilize motion capture. "Monster House" was all motion capture. It was filmed with actors covered in white dots and then transferred to computer generated characters. "Happy Feet" hat quite a list of motion capture performers in the end credits, I assume for much of the penguin dancing sequences. So is this truly animation? Honestly, I'm not sure myself. It comes across to me as being like a new high-tech version of rotoscoping, which I have never been a fan of. Rotoscoping is essentially tracing animation over footage that was filmed. Ralph Bakshi is a director who used this quite a bit in films like the animated version of "The Lord of the Rings." I think it looks kind of creepy myself.

So is motion capture animation? Should it be eligible for the Oscar? I suppose, but I hope that we don't reach the day where all animated films are done with motion capture. At least the most creative and orignal of these films is the one that used no motion capture.

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