The Sound On Sight Twitter Animation Debate

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Ricky D accidentally ignited a day-long Twitter debate about Animation and specifically whether Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin is an animated movie or not, when he was tweeting related to his article about the biggest Oscar snubs.

Since the debate was spirited but polite, we thought that we would compile the debate and make it available in one place. Tweets have been slightly edited to remove spelling errors and redundancies and the order altered a bit.

Taking the position that Tintin is an animated film: Sound On Sight contributor Michael Ryan who tweets under the name Llakor. Michael is not an animator, but as Festival Director of the YoungCuts Film Festival he evaluates hundreds of animated films every year made in a variety of styles. He also grew up an NFB brat, meeting and talking to animators from a very early age, which includes visiting Co Hoedeman when the animator’s office was dominated by a giant sand box used to create the Oscar winning short The Sand Castle. His personal Animator Mount Rushmore is Walt Disney, Norman McLaren, Chuck Jones and John Lasseter.

Taking the position that Tintin is not an animated film: Marie, who tweets under the name MarieMJS. She is a French expat living in the city of her heart (that would be London) and sharing her time between her geeky job (that would be 3D Animation) and her various geeky favorite things (that would be theater, movies, fandom things, and the Baker Street Babes podcast ).

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The debate started innocently enough:

Ricky

Ricky: Can’t believe this dude just called Spirited Away a cartoon.

 

MarieMarie: Can’t believe people are calling The Adventures of Tintin an animated film!

 

Ricky

But it is.

 

 

Marie

It’s a frame by frame 3D rendered project, but the motion is mostly data based, not hand animated. So, in my book? No.

 

RickyI’m not an animator, so just asking, but isn’t it defined as computer animated? I mean the motion capture still has to be drawn in.

MarieIt’s computer “rendered”, but we need to make a distinction, because there is a human being creating the motion form…

 

That was the end of the conversation, until Michael waded in many, many hours later.

MikeSorry, I call bullshit. I know you work in the field Marie, but negating motion capture implies that Andy Serkis is doing no work. When you say “human being creating the motion form”, you are placing too much importance on the tool (body vs. brush/pen). There are a lot of people who would call Norman McLaren’s body of work “not animation”. Those people are fools.

MarieYou totally didn’t read my explanation. I’m saying that, by confusing who does what, there is no recognition for the right people! Animators have their field, motion capture technicians have theirs. And motion capture actors need their field too! Andy Serkis is not an animator, he’s an actor who worked with motion capture technicians. People need to create recognition for everyone instead of one ridiculous basket.

MikeIt drives me crazy that Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin is considered a failure. (It isn’t.) Or that it is not considered an animated film. (It is.) I am saying that we need to focus on what is on the screen rather than how it gets there. Judge by results.

MarieI am not trying to cheapen motion capture, I am pointing out the fact that we need to create sub-categories in frame by frame media. How is data recording an art? See my point? I want everyone to get recognition, for the right reason, that’s all. I am being cynical and extreme here, but understand how it looks like from our side of things too. And yet, I agree with you about the “judge by results” too. So yes, no crazy debate, just subtlety in details. It is a difficult topic, and not as simple as it looks, especially for animators.

Still, when you say “judge by results”, do we? Is it okay for a motion capture technician (doing data recording) to get an award instead of an animator (drawing by hand)?

MikeYup. The actor and the technician are an animating team, using body and tech as pen and paper. (I wonder if being raised as an NFB brat colours my opinions about what is and isn’t animation.)

Marie“The actor and the technician are an animating team, using body and tech as pen and paper.” I dare you to say that to an Aardman animator, or Pixar animator, etc. I’ll watch and grab the popcorn. LOL. I can’t get behind that. I just can’t. Because if I follow you, an actor on stage is an animator, a ballet dancer is an animator, and then it goes on, it means that animation and live action are one and only art form… eh? Andy Serkis is doing performance art, translated into data, and should be recognized for that.

MikeI don’t care if you use a razor, a pencil, a pen, a brush, clay, a doll, a ballet dancer or funny ping pong balls – it is all animation to me.

MarieExcept that you’re bypassing the actor at the root of the motion capture, and that’s just bizarre.

 

MikeNo I am not. I am saying that the actor and the techs combine as a team to create animation. Process is important, but not as important as what is on the screen. As an example, from the YoungCuts Film Festival, here is a music video made with photo collage animation called Haleiya.

MarieThat’s lovely, that’s stop motion animation, and it has nothing to do with our discussion. Again, you’re on about the art of movies, when I’m specifically on about the art of animation. Food for thought :)

MikeIt has as everything to do with it. I don’t care how you made your film. I care what you made. To me, motion capture is a new animation tool.

MarieMotion capture is a new “technological tool”. Look at what James Cameron called it when he made Avatar: “performance capture”.

MikeSee, I throw Avatar into the same category of films as Mary Poppins and Pete’s Dragon. Films that combine live action with animation.

MarieO_O

 

 

MikeI have the American Film Institute in my corner, Marie. They nominated The Polar Express when they were taking votes for Top Ten Animated Films of all time.

Marie

Which frankly disgusts me. Seriously? How are you not offended by this?

 

MikeI am offended because The Polar Express was a terrible movie not because it isn’t animation.

 

MarieI am offended for both reasons. The Polar Express wasn’t a movie. It was a technological acting experiment, having Tom Hanks impersonate various characters. Instead, let’s think about Happy Feet which won an Oscar for best animated feature film. It was a combo of motion capture and key frame animation.

MikeOkay, that is a better example than The Polar Express. It also means that I have the AFI and the Academy on my side. Pigs is Pigs.

MarieBecause the Academy matters in this debate? No offense but really, I would not rely on them to decide what is animation or not. LOL. Although, they took The Adventures of Tintin out of the race because it probably didn’t respect the percentage rule, so right back atcha! :D

I’m perfectly aware that it is a lost fight. Motion capture will be designed as animation, blurring lines, and opening the door to epic shit. It makes me sad on various levels, because it’s above everything else, a technological experiment.

Where do we stand with the Andy Serkis campaign to recognize his work on Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Adventures of Tintin as an actor? Blurry line yet again?

MikeI have no real issue with Johnny Depp being recognized for his work acting on Rango, so recognizing Andy Serkis for his performances is even less of a leap.

MarieI am all for Andy Serkis getting recognized for his performances, but that proves my point. Performance not animation. It pains me because he’s not alone. A motion capture award should be for the main actor and the main motion capture technician, on principle.

Mike

Hence Best Animated Film which recognizes the entire team no matter how they contributed – voice, drawing, motion capture, keyframes, etc.

MarieTrue true. I just wish there was a way to make a difference you know? Dunno, it’s extremely frustrating.

There is animation in The Adventure of Tintin, for scenes that couldn’t be done in motion capture, of course. But the movie is mainly motion capture, so it’s an annoying place to be for animators who worked on the film.

At this point, we had a debate run-in as Jack Gregson who tweets as JFGinDigital3D chimed in.

JackJack: Couldn’t one argue that it was used in the same way that rotoscoping has been used since the early days of animation?

 

MarieNot saying we are not entering dodgy territory here. I just have feelings about motion capture: 70% founded and 30% unknown. LOL. I have problem with it probably because fully motion capture movies are generally humans characters who could be live. That is useless. And I am talking realistic humans, not cartoony ones. Counter example, Monster House was quite fun.

JackBut there was definitely cartoonish enhancement for The Adventures of Tintin though. Not that I disagree, just playing Devil’s Advocate.

MarieOh yes, there is animation on top of every motion capture, that is a fact, but the root of it is motion capture and performance.

 

JackBut that is the same for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, no? I would consider that to be an animated film (forgive me if my info is wrong, I am not an expert).

MikeReferring to the fact that Walt Disney filmed actors performing the parts to help his animators draw the scenes in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Other good examples: Walt Disney bringing in a live deer to the studio for Bambi, the live bear cub brought to the studio for Brother Bear, the live audio performances for Rango with the entire cast, the mannerisms of Ariel in The Little Mermaid based on Jodi Benson or Belle’s mannerisms in Beauty and the Beast based on Paige O’Hara.

(Okay, so I didn’t actually tweet that at the time. Sue me.)

MarieYes. It’s still considered a form of animation art though, because it’s not just a replica, only the movement lines are copied.

Ultimately, for me motion capture is massive technology above everything else. It’s a geek toy meant for visual effects and suddenly people are making full movies out of it.

Concluding Remarks: (Marie’s were made off-line and not on Twitter.)

MarieI’m not, in any way, saying that motion capture is a lesser art, but mainly something different. I actually love when motion capture is brilliantly used for visual effects (Avatar, Gollum in Lord of the Rings, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and applaud what the people have been doing in the past few years, it’s mindblowing, technically. It’s also, most of the time, a combined work between motion capture with animation added on top, and I don’t reject the animated part of it at all. Again, it’s a fine line, and the combination of very different people working together. But I love the fact that there is an assimilation for this as “VFX” special effects instead of saying “animation”. Just like “performance capture” sounds about right to me.

MikeThe process (the technology) is important, but not as important to me as what is on the screen.

 

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Not sure that anyone changed their minds after all that tweeting/arguing, but it was certainly entertaining!

What do you think?

Is The Adventures of Tintin an animated film or not? And should it have been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Film or did it deserved to be snubbed?

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3 Comments
  1. wigwam says

    Motion capture and 3D are both unwatchable-eyesore-bastard-crafts and Bill Plympton should smash his lightboard over both of your empty heads!

  2. Staindslaved says

    This Marie guy is so off base here. He acts like the motion-capture people simply type in codes of basic and viola Andy Serkis is now (insert character here). They spend countless hours animating, Yes ANIMATING, the characters and the environments. They use motion-capture as a means to best capture the movements and expressions of the characters. If I film a man walking a dog I am simply taking a photographic copy of actual events. If I draw several frames of the same man walking a dog I am animating this scene. Similarly if I use motion-capture technology of this same man walking a dog the computer does not simply create the animation for me, I need to animate the characters and the environment into the program, then these animated characters will move as the man moves. It if far closer to traditional animation than you give it credit for sir and a disservice to the creative team that worked on TinTin and other motion-capture animated films by simply dismissing them as technicians.

  3. Alex says

    TinTin isn’t simply a motion capture film. Sure the actors might have been motion captured but the entire world of the film was created and animated by animators. To say that Tintin is not an animated film is a lie. To say that it isn’t entirely an animated film, that I can agree with. Unless Andy Serkis mo-capped the waves in the ocean, the air plane crashing, the birds flying and a giant ship bursting through sand dunes I have reason to believe that those scenes were animated by animators. Snowy wasn’t motion captured either. The performances might have been rendered by actors not animators but the entire rest of the movie is animated. This is a hybrid film.

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