Dr. Toon: Is Avatar Good for a LAFF?
Oh, Dr. Toon, can't you ever give LAFFs a break? What if they all looked as good as Avatar? They won't. I submit Exhibits A through D as evidence. These were constructed by various artists who submitted them to sundry sites as examples of how animated characters could be realistically constructed to mimic live beings. As can be seen, they range from unsettling to grotesque to terrifying. However, this is pretty much the way they would have to be done if a LAFF were to successfully resemble Avatar.
As can be seen, just because an actor can be made to look like a cartoon character does not make it a good idea. When all is said and done, what you have is a very ugly version of the character in question, so that the effect is more like looking at a human mutation rather than a familiar cartoon character. I, for one, would not want to watch ninety minutes of such horror. If LAFFs were to adopt the realism of Avatar, two things would be certain: It would be a triumph for the animators and a surrealistic exercise in weirdness for the folks in the theater. With all due respect to the wizards of LightWave, (and they have earned it), I have to wonder how this movie would have been received had it featured the grotesqueries depicted above. Am I the only one who gets the willies from imagining them moving around and talking? If anything, ultra-real CG might make LAFFs even worse than they already are.
One might also note that several of the above artists depicted characters from The Simpsons. It might be interesting to note that The Simpsons Movie grossed $183 million on a $75 million budget. A survey by the website Box Office Mojo found that 85% of audiences rated this film an "A" or a "B." Rotten Tomatoes found 90% of its contributing critics recommending this movie. It was made in 2D with the characters appearing just as they do on television. Would it have been better using the technologies employed in Avatar?
If visuals on the order of Avatar could save LAFFs, they might have a slight chance, but no such luck. There's another factor working against them. Consider a recent interview with Dan Lin, producer of the upcoming Tom and Jerry CGI live-action mishmash. As one of the brewmasters of Cartoon Brew pointed out, Mr. Lin believes that Tom and Jerry were the originators of cartoon violence, that T&J's relationship was a sibling rivalry and that the series was actually a "show." These three statements alone make one wonder how much Mr. Lin has researched Tom and Jerry or animation history.
To begin with, sticks of dynamite and deadly mallets were pulled out of thin air in many cartoons well before T&J. Slowly rising lumps on skulls and steamroller-flattened bodies surely existed before the cat and mouse were born on Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera's drawing boards. In fact, I believe that a certain brick-tossing mouse may have preceded Tom and Jerry by several decades. As Cartoon Brew also notes, siblings generally don't use deadly weapons against each other with the intent to disfigure or maim. Finally, anyone who forgets that T&J were theatrical stars long before they had a "show" probably shouldn't be making Tom and Jerry films in the first place.
But please, let's not be too hard on Mr. Lin, who is probably a very nice person. He is, after all, the perfect person to helm this project. To date he has never worked on an animated project in his career, although he appears to have some animation-related titles "in development". The pattern of giving producers and directors with no animation experience whatsoever green lights for LAFFs continues. In my November 2009 column I noted that the same mistake was being repeated with Robert Rodriguez, who is heading the live-action Jetsons feature.