Last week, Twentieth Century Fox honcho Tom Rothman stated that he was committed to getting an Academy Award nomination for Andy Serkis’s motion capture performance work in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. Rothman noted that part of the push would be to educate Academy voters as to how motion capture works and that what is seen on the screen is the work of an actor and not just some technological trick.
But that education may be a bit of an uphill battle.
Recently, while talking with director John Landis about his new book Monsters Of The Movies*, conversation tangented off to the topic of motion capture performances. Landis stated that he did not believe that an actor can be the driving force behind a motion capture performance.
I don’t think people understand how motion capture works. Andy’s performance is wonderful, but it’s the animators that make it work. It’s not like the actor performs and its fed into a machine and the machine realizes the picture. Look at the credits of any of these movies and you’ll see hundreds of names. It’s extremely labor intensive. And that’s down to the skill of the animators.
As much as I love Andy Serkis, I’ve worked with Andy [on the comedy Burke And Hare] and he’s great. He’s brilliant as Gollum. But it’s the animator that makes that work, it doesn’t matter what the motion capture performance is like if the animation is shitty.
Bob Zemeckis has done a number of these films. But the one with Tom Hanks? The Polar Express? Now I’m sure that Tom’s performance was great, but I thought that it looked like a weird robot in the movie. That just has to do with the skill of the animators.
Now, I have to admit that I have been a big John Landis fan nearly all my life. I’ve met the man at a couple of fan events and he has always been very gracious and nice. I have an autographed picture of him and myself hanging on the wall behind me as I type this. So it pains me a bit to say that I have to say that I disagree with him on this. While the role of the animators is important in the success of a motion capture performance, I’m not sure they are the make-or-break factor he believes them to be any more than a bad costume or shoddy makeup job would be.
And I would imagine that Landis is not alone in his view of how motion capture works. It will be interesting to see how Rothman and company push forward to change that perception.
*And we’ll have that conversation for you later this week.