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The Polar Express

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The Polar Express

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Is it time again already to bash motion capture and hyper-realistic styles of animation?

A new trailer was released last week for Polar Express. Some of the animation looks pretty good. Some of it looks a little stiff.

Motion Crapture!

Here we go again - more motion crapture- why was this done in animation?

Beats me!

I'm really not looking forward to this film. Too bad too, since the book is a great one.

The girl in the trailer looks good, but little else.

Who knows? Gollum (another motion "crapture" character) worked pretty well in most of his scenes, but then he had real film footage to work against.

Is it possible that the animation approach to this film was to cut back on Special Effects costs? I would think that live action with SPFX would likely be more cost effective, even with Hanks providing most of the characters. I have no idea what it would cost to animate such a feature, but it seems to me that the costs would be extraordinary.

abvox: Voice and Sound Design Services

I think Gollum wasn't entirely motion capture.

Hi Mona.

Actually, someone kindly pointed out to us in another thread that he had friends who worked on Gollum, and he informed us that he was in fact, mostly key-animated. What impresses me the most about that is that it just looks so realistic that everyone assumes (including me) that he was mo-capped. A job well done in my books.


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

Right Wade!


You are so right Wade- a former student was one of the folks who animated Gollum- it was motion capture that was given to animators to enhance the performance and add weight, etc.


None of the characters actually HAVE any real character... and why does everyone's voice sound the same?! Bah, it might have had a chance if they simply shot it live action rather than use this bad video game look.

My problem with this flick is that it is completely lacking in life (from what I haev seen). I think the animation looks too jerky in places (they should have eliminated some of the jerkiness after the mo-cap was taken), and it just has no...... SPARK. No feeling. No life. No appeal.

Anyways... Just my opinion, and again, sorry to anyone who "animated" (and I use that term VERY loosely) on this.


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

To me, well, I don't even know if this justifies CG actors, but one could do a period piece where, say, picasso, or winston churchill, or some other dead person is created in CG. that might be WAY too creepy tho.

Ok, I just watched the new trailer, and the visuals they've created for that world look great, but the facial animation sucks! The mouths look like real actors who've had their mouths taped shut at the corners! So little expression with the eyes and rest of the face as well. I will be very interested to see if audiences can relate to characters that look and move like bad puppets!

Flash Character Packs, Video Tutorials and more:

just for reference, gollum in "the two towers" was:
60% keyframe, 10% pure mocap, and 30% being a combination of techniques.

don't say he's all mo-cap or his animators will be sad.

don't say he's all mo-cap or his animators will be sad.

Sorry! :)

no worries at all, harv, it just makes gollum even more of an achievement, huh?
just for kicks, frame through the polar express trailer at the bit where a little girl is about to turn to the boy after saying, "there's santa!" or something. in my humble opinion, she seems just a leetle bit scary! eek!

I only watched the trailer once. Maybe it's the design and modeling of the girl I like, rather than the animation (?).

But - based on the 2 minute trailer - you guys are probably right. There's too much pure motion capture and not enough tweaking.

As animators we think that the animation is stiff or what ever!! But the story is great, and it looks great visually, I'm sure it's well worth seeing- Can't wait!

I'm really not looking forward to this film. Too bad too, since the book is a great one.

Yep the book is great; magical. This movie just looks creepy, the lip sync is odd, the mouth moves but not much of the rest of the face and Tom Hanks doing variations of Tom Hanks voices isn't adding much to the story.

Just might have to go see it to see how much of a train wreck it actually is though. It could be the first nail in the "3D is supreme" coffin for the public.


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

Not everyone in the public thinks "3D is supreme." I think you'd be surprised at just how many people still see it as a hi-gloss novelty.

I shudder to think that someday all movies will be filmed in 3D animation.

Shudder, I say!

abvox: Voice and Sound Design Services

Those of you who used the word "creepy" to describe how these characters move... You hit the nail right on the head. I couldn't have put it better myself. It makes my skin crawl.


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