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Controversy, My Preciousssss 

I've long had a deep respect for the work Andy Serkis has done in elevating the acting in visual effects. Serkis is, in many ways, the figure head of the fusion form or acting and animation known as performance capture, Hes already given us King Kong, Gollum, and Caesar. But in interviews he's beendownplaying the efforts of animation teams in bringing these highly memorable characters to life.  It's really pissing animators off. That's kind of a shame since film is such a collaborative medium. It's also a shame that he himself doesn't get as much credit as he should with his acting peers for how good his work is in these movies. So there's enough lack of credit to go around... deficent credit for everyone. Um... hoorah?

Here's an interview he did in March with i09 about his work on the forthcoming Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) and two responses, one angry from Cartoon Brew and one measured but annoyed from the Lord of the Rings animation director Randal William Cook. Cook makes an interesting comparison with Marni Nixon's voice work on 1960s musicals in his rebuttal...

Let me state that Andy really should be considered the principal author of Gollum’s performance, but there’s a hell of a difference between principal author and sole author. The Animators who helped shape Gollum’s performance are actors of a very special type, working at a high level of achievement. They’re not like Marni Nixon singing for Natalie Wood in WEST SIDE STORY, doing only the things that Andy couldn’t do: they were doing the same things Andy did, in concert with him...

Next up for Serkis is his debut in the director's chair, helming Warner Bros live action version of The Jungle Book in which all the animals will be performance captured. This is not, to be clear, the same Jungle Book movie that has been in the news recently with celebrity castings (the one that Lupita Nyong'o signed on for recently) which is an animated film. But with these types of feelings brewing among animators directing his first feature employing tons of them might be a tougher task than first features already always are.

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Reader Comments (3)

With all due respect to Serkis, who is indeed a master at his craft, likening the digital artists' job to that of the practical makeup department is false equivalency. He provides the CG character's virtual skeleton, while the animators literally apply the muscles, sinews, and skin in what is truly a collaborative effort, which doesn't at all diminish his stellar, detailed work. As memorable as all of his characters are due to his efforts, they would not exist without the gifted hands of the digital artists.

This discussion is precisely why we are still several years away from having a performer nominated in a traditional acting category for a motion capture performance. It's too much of a partnership.

May 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Not that I'm taking sides or anything, but everyone who isn't the director and it's behind the scenes goes unrecognized or gets short on credits. When it comes, for example, to a "traditional" performance, there's tons of people who helped the actor to make that peformance. For example: the director said this, but the cameraman took the right angle. Even the person who brings/makes the coffee is helping (even though that person barely exists for what it matters to anyone).

May 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMe34

What do you mean that the Disney version that Lupita and Scarlett are going to voicing characters is animated? Isn´t that combination of live-action and CGI characters as well?

May 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChinoiserie

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