Search form

Polar Express

28 posts / 0 new
Last post
Polar Express

Anyone here work on it? I am looking forward to it. It hasn't come to my theatre yet, but I'll be there. I know there are lot's of strong feelings about it, but as a viewer it looks like just the Holiday fare I am after viewing.


phacker's picture
Pat Hacker, Visit Scooter's World.

Pat Hacker, Visit Scooter's World.

It's more like Polar Expressionless.

I know when I go and see it 50% of the time I'll be thinking "wow that's beautiful" and the other 50% thinking "ew, that wasn't quite right."


Department of Computer Animation
Ringling College of Art and Design
Sarasota Florida

I dunno


Being the purist I am - I can't wait for it to go away. just my opinion.

Really, really dislike "motion crapture".

Love Christmas-

Christmas yes!

Motion Crapture- NO!


Toons Rule

Motion Capture is one of the reasons I prefer cartoons. Let's see them get a capture suit on Quick Draw McGraw or a duck with opposable thumbs. ;)

But I'll still watch the movie.

These virtual human characters are just plain scary. I am so not against 3D like I used to be; actually, I am the opposite now. However... I think there is a time and a place for it. Ploar Express is just creepy to look at. I find the characters very unimaginative, and they move terribly, from what I have seen. In order to have good mo-cap, one needs to tweek the stuff after it is fed into the computer so as to ensure the timing works, arcs work, etc. Now though, in this film, it appears that none of this was actually done (or very little).

The characters in the Incredibles are well done... They did not try to make them look "as human as possible", and yet, they appear to have a lot more life that the characters of P.E.

Like Larry, and Ed, I hope this one goes away, and to be honest, I hope it flops horribly, thus teaching the wonderful people with the money in animation production a very valuable lesson.


"Don't want to end up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard" - Paul Simon

I guess what I appreciate about what I've seen in trailers is the fact that they tried to capture the feel of the book and it's illustrations. Maybe that doesn't make for a classically animated piece, but perhaps it's truer to the vision of the author.

It was a Caldecott Medal winner, so trying to stay true to the style of illustration is very important.

For those not in the book trade:

The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

Pat Hacker, Visit Scooter's World.


I just think they could have done a nice job on this with CG effects and live characters. They still would have been able to preserve the look of the book. A lot can be done with matte painting, and compositing of CG backgrounds/fx.


"Don't want to end up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard" - Paul Simon

I'm always excited by a new animation style.

This will be Warner Brothers' first 3D animated release and it looks like no other animated picture before it. Although I'm certain that there'll be some eye-rollingly bad animation, the reviews so far are fairly positive, so I imagine it's worth a gander.

I wonder at what point in preproduction did they go, "Well we have these really humans doing real things, I know, let's make them CG!"


Department of Computer Animation
Ringling College of Art and Design
Sarasota Florida


I just think they could have done a nice job on this with CG effects and live characters. They still would have been able to preserve the look of the book. A lot can be done with matte painting, and compositing of CG backgrounds/fx.


They proved you can successfully make a film with all CG elements and live actors with Sky Captain. Everything except the actos in that one were CG, why couldn't they have done something similar with Polar. The humans just look sooooo wierd to me. Like I'm watching someone animating a bunch of corpses.

I don't mean to steer the thread away from the specifics of Polar Express, but can anyone shed some light on what mo-cap aspires to?

I think, as a tool, it can aid in the physics of movement. Is the idea that one day the realism will be so seamless that there will be no need for flesh and blood people? How redundant is that, I mean we've only got about 6 billion people to choose from if ya want to do live-action.

I know, it's the spawning of a new genre-the lifeless action :rolleyes: .

I think this article pretty much answers all of your questions. I know some of you are never going to appreciate this film, because in some way it threatens you. But as this article points out this mocap/performance capture method was developed in order to be true to the feeliing of the book. I suggest you all check the book out at your local library.

Pat Hacker, Visit Scooter's World.

I know some of you are never going to appreciate this film, because in some way it threatens you.

Wow, no reason to get snarky, phacker, just expressing my opinion. Don't you see the irony in creating a technique to mimic, virtually, what 6 billion of us are capable of doing (some better and more convincing than others). I can, and I think it's funny as hell.

It seems to me it's an art form that's all style and, perhaps, no substance, time will tell.

I wouldn't narrow it down to it necessarily -threatening- anyone. If you open a thread for discussion be prepared to hear opinions that don't necessary mesh with your own. That being said, the look is fantastic, but not because of the animation. There's no innovation in it (doesn't make it bad, but it also doesn't make it -new-) and the lip sync is both underemphasized, and in some places (speaking of just the trailer obviously) just plain -off.- If I had prior experience with the book I'd probably go out and see it, but for now I'll have to see if I happen to run into it instead.

As an aside, Tom Hanks is a great actor, and Woody was one of his best roles ;)

I was actually previewing this as Ed made his comment. Animation is a caricature of realism, it isn't realism itself. If it were, we could just go "OK I'm watching a tape of this really happening in my head" and draw each frame as if it were a frame of film on a strip. Instead we have our own methods of exaggerating and producing a livelier effect than even real life itself can have in terms of communicating a message visually.

I don't know about the rest of you, but BAD, scary animation certainly does not make ME feel threatened at all. It just makes me feel sad that someone is actually butchering the art for that I have loved for so long.


"Don't want to end up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard" - Paul Simon

I Agree with Ed and Wade


Most animation is good for the industry...AND I agree with Ed and Wade. Zemeksis is using motion crapture because it's a live-action director's use of animation.

I would prefer they hire real animators and go for it!

Sorry folks - don't mean to rain (or snow ) on anyone's parade.

Did not see INCREDIBLES this weekend- what is the matter with me....oh well, someone has to prop up the film for next week.

I will go see Bridget Jones new sequel- it has humans doing human things...


One more...

I won't be shelling out my cash to see the film. I'm sure the story will be nice and Christmassy, but I too am freaked out by semi-people. I'd rather just enjoy the book. Had they used real actors, I might go see it, but really, I find what I saw in the trailer visually disturbing and weird. Didn't everyone learn there lesson from Final Fantasy?

Just a quick comment. At the rate at which computer hardware and software is developing, and making people gobs of dough as well, I will make a conservative (like 51% of americans apparently) guess and say that within 10 years you will see complete and utter realism via mo-cap. Probably more like 5 years really. And, the arguement that you can't mocap a oddly proportioned figure? I'll bet they can do that now with some of them fancy algorithim things. unless the joints bend funny like a dog or horse, but they can make a program for that too. Its all incredibly technical and boring really. There are no suprises in movies anymore, they can do anything! I miss latex, airbrushes, foam, real explosives, blue screens, forced perspective, real tough guys flyin around, models, hydraulics, radio controls, robotics, cool behind the scenes stuff as opposed to green screens and maya, etc. sniff. Kicking and screaming into the 21st century I am going.

The problem isn't the realism of motion capture; play an EA Sports game and revel in its accuracy. The problem is that motion capture isn't animation and it cannot be by its inherent qualities (Don't mean to bum your word HH but it's a good one).

As an aside, one of those Rotten Tomatoes review revelled in the quality of the animation. That guy needs to get smacked. I can understand how people outside the box can have certain ideas, because they don't know any better. Doesn't make 'em stupid or even ignorant (in the negative connotation I mean). But couldn't he connect to more pleasing animation he's seen in the past and compare? It must work well within its own context in this movie or something.

Reminds me of a Roger Ebert review of Aladdin I caught a few weeks back. He said he wondered which came first for the Genie, Williams' vocals or the animation. At first I understood his meaning, because he went on to talk about how free and impromptu his stylings were, but then I thought about how I hoped he wasn't serious in his inquiry. Even if you don't know a lick about animation, doesn't it stand to reason, using (un)common sense, that when even people who know anything about drawn animation know that it's broken down into...well, wouldn't just have a team of guys making lip sync/dialogue animation for minutes on end, aimlessly, and then pin your hopes on Robin nailing it with whatever he says so it doesn't look retarded? I know it's picky but it bothered me, especially when the Genie was so heavily dependent on props and pantomime.

As an aside, joel, there's nothing funnier than the phrase "semi-people" to describe these characters. I love any word someone creates when they're reaching because of the extremity of the emotion that evoked them. Gotta love the language that allows you to create words on the fly and somehow everyone instantly understands its definition. Well, yah, this one's a bit easy, but I mean moreso when you use nouns for verbs. For what it's worth, I am glad to have never been "pantsed."


"A delightful tale guaranteed to enthrall viewers of all ages."
-- James Berardinelli, REELVIEWS

"The movie seems determined to be an instant Christmas classic, but its idea of seasonal awe comes straight off a factory conveyor belt."

"Unnervingly smooth, mouths moving in strange, even frightening formations, the Polar people are the least convincing things on-screen, glaring impostors amid the otherwise painstakingly rendered scenery."

"The Polar Express remains true to the book, including the bittersweet final image."
-- Richard Roeper, EBERT & ROEPER

"Entertaining and innovative animated film."

"There is wonder for us to cherish, courtesy of a spectacular visual sense. But there are also moments that deliver shock and awe instead, sequences of such exhausting, turbocharged jeopardy that it seems like we've wandered into a Jerry Bruckheimer movie."
-- Kenneth Turan, LOS ANGELES TIMES

"A wondrous, dazzling, eye-popping adventure."
-- Bruce Westbrook, HOUSTON CHRONICLE

"The Polar Express is a stunning technological achievement and, for the most part, a stirring emotional one."

Since you mentioned Ebert, here's his review:
"The characters in "The Polar Express" don't look real, but they don't look unreal, either; they have a kind of simplified and underlined reality that makes them visually magnetic."

I started this thread, because I really look forward to seeing the film, being a fan of the book. To me it's looks like they have accomplished that. I am in not promoting their methods as the newest form of animation to be embraced.

They set out to make a film version of a very memoriable, loved, award winning children's picture book...and I think they've done that. I would have hated to see it "Disney"fided.

Pat Hacker, Visit Scooter's World.

now that the film is out.. have any of you seen it?

I saw it last weekend.

while I feel that technically.. the look and fx for many of the shots were quite cool, and the animation of the animals was really nice.. the facial animation, body motion, shading, and models were disturbing.

while I don't doubt the technical and artistic abilities of those who worked on it, I wish that the director pushed things in a different direction, since sony certainly can (and has) create work which doesn't leave me cringing.

looks a bit scary to me, i don't know if i fancy it at all!

there's one shot in the trailer of the little girl smiling...... pretty demonic stuff.

ps hello everyone. haven't posted in months.

I saw it in IMAX THREEEEE-DEEEEEE... which was pretty cool, except I probably missed a bunch of cool shots because there was no depth of field blur and the screen was too huge. Anyway, the animation wasn't great, as to be expected from mo-cap or in this case "performance capture." The shots of the kids when they're far away from the camera looks completely real and can be mistaken for live action... the closeup shots and facial expressions were never convincing. There was a lot of subtle stuff happening with the face, such as little twitches and gestures that would be almost impossible to get right through keyframing, but the overall effect was that it was too stiff. The lip synch seemed to be off and the expressions never went far enough.

Another thing that kinda surprised me was that the acting was pretty bad. Every role that Tom Hanks played was the best "animated" in the film, but side characters, such as the girl, had a lot of genuinely bad acting choices when it comes to animation... It seemed as if an untrained actor was put in a mo cap suit and asked to emphasize the lines of dialogue with their whole body... so there were a lot of poor animation type gestures, lots of palms out emphasizing and just movement for the sake of movement, so it was distracting.

I know some of you are never going to appreciate this film, because in some way it threatens you.

There are going to be a lot a things to appreciate about the film but the mo-cap won't be one of them.

Anyone who has real animation talent will never be threatened by mo-cap. Mo-cap is limited in its range. It only works well when doing humans with average human proportions.

The point of animating is to bring to life, mo-cap records life, there's a big difference.


Department of Computer Animation
Ringling College of Art and Design
Sarasota Florida