Film Review A Christmas Carol Film Review A Christmas Carol

Even Monkeys Hate Robert Zemeckis

Christmas Carol

An article in National Geographic discusses the results of an “uncanny valley” test on monkeys. Researchers showed monkeys three versions of a monkey on a monitor–one video of a real monkey; one stylized CG model; and one realistic “uncanny valley” animated face. Guess what happened? The research suggests that “given the choice, monkeys prefer to look anywhere other than at a realistic fake monkey.”

The monkeys looked more often, and longer, at the real deal and the unrealistic fake, study co-author Asif Ghazanfar said. “This is anecdotal, but they seemed to even avert their gaze from the realistic fake face, like they didn’t want to look at it,” said Ghazanfar, a Princeton psychology professor.

The article goes on to say:

The discovery may be important, for a couple of reasons. First, Ghazanfar said, it provides evidence supporting the theory that the uncanny valley is not a result of cultural preferences–it’s hardwired into our heads.

(Thanks, Arthur Metcalf)

  • tom Stazer

    Monkeys are smarter than Bob Zemeckis, apparently.

  • wgan

    blaming Robert Zemeckis becoming a fashion or something while michael bay still keeps delivering out his endless explosion and realistic cg crap steel from garage and dumb fox face? seriously, somebody gives a honest review on his Christmas carol

  • I watched The Mask the other day and noticed that the animation and especially the texture of the CG looked just as good as A Christmas Carol.
    And this is comparing the 3D trailer at the El Capitan to a standard-def pan-and-scan broadcast of a 15-year-old film on an old ’80s TV set.

  • Monkeys don’ like to wear pants either, you know. They prefer going “commando”.

    Just sayin’ :-P

  • Jeffrey McAndrew

    The title of this post made me laugh. I’d be very interested in seeing a study done with how primates react to Disney’s Christmas Carol. Or would it be cruel to test on animals?

  • Scott

    It IS cruel to animals. Or rather, it will be tomorrow when it’s foisted upon an unsuspecting public.

  • Boiling

    On his latest interview he claimed that “Everyone is excited” for this genius idea of making a sequel for Roger Rabbit and the use of his cutting edge tech called “performance capture”. Zemeckis makes me think he doesn’t have internet at home..Dose he read this stuff here and on million other forums?
    And is this “Performance Capture” going to be the industry’s latest euphemism now? what’s next “E-motion Capture”?
    For god’s sake Zemeckis, leave CG to what CG is good for.

    Boy am I angry..

  • Jonathan

    How about showing the monkeys Peter Jackson’s KING KONG.

    Might get a different response.

  • Marbles

    I personally don’t find the Scrooge face to be anywhere near the uncanny valley. It’s cartoonified enough so that it doesn’t emit that otherworldy oddness of Final Fantasy or Polar Express. I haven’t really seen the previews though, so maybe it’s different in motion. But based on all the still images I’ve seen, I don’t agree that this movie falls in that category.

  • Val

    I read a review that said much of the “uncanny valley” feeling from Polar Express has been remedied for this movie. For me, the animation is the least of my issues with the trailers, which I suppose is a good thing for the animation. Bad thing for the plot, though. Such crazy stuff happening to Scrooge, but the same review insists that it is keeping with the spirit of Dickens’ book even going so far as to illustrate specific lines of text. I suppose the bottom line is that I have to see this movie and make a call for myself.

  • wgan

    ok let’s face this, maybe they’re all facial paralyzed, but animation is still animation, Polar Express isn’t that bad at its time, it’s just nothing too cool at worst, Monster house even shows some stunning character motion/facial moves, the story doesn’t do it justice though, beowulf didn’t meet my expectation at all, but it’s got that style no one else has at its time too, to be quite honest i don’t find dw’s monster vs alien is more attractive than these while few people shits on that

  • Rio

    This screen grab isn’t so bad, but I think it’s because the “uncanny valley” problem is much more noticeable in movement. That’s how we experience humans in life.

  • Blasko

    Finally, solid research that supports my total distaste for mo-cap. Now that’s what I call worthy scholarship. What else can we have the monkeys look at?

  • I don’t want to know what Zemeckis is planning for the Roger Rabbit sequel, his vague commentaries about it already scare the hell out of me.

    Doing a Roger Rabbit sequel is already pretty risky. It would be difficult to find a good script, the actors are older, the first movie was a classic, the story had a pretty perfect ending, it’s a long time since they did the first one…And he wants to add motion capture?

    I didn’t feel reassured when he said Roger will always be in 2D (that was obvious) but if he made a mixture of cartoons and mo-cap actors the result would be horrible too.

    If he ever does it I hope the motion capture will be reduced to , perhaps, one or two characters (maybe toons disguished as humans, like Judge Doom).

    But I’d rather see more Roger Rabbit shorts rather than a sequel, it’s too difficult to get it right.

    I know it’s not totally on topic, but I needed to get this out of my system.

  • Mocap is here to stay. That’s a reality. The plus side is that it gives animators more job opportunities. Is the medium perfect… no. Is 2D perfect… no. Does it all come down to storytelling… YES. Who cares what pencil is used to create the visuals as long as the story is good!

    Also, the title to this article is pretty lowbrow — oh wait, it’s Amid! That makes it ok because he’s the all knowing authority on animation lol

  • gsm

    Roger Rabbit? Nah, just give him the Cool World license and let him go to town with that.

  • some guy

    there are hairs coming out of the pores on the tip of his greasy red nose.

    I may not be a monkey, but that’s not appetizing in the least.

  • Rufus

    Maybe the monkeys thought they were looking at demon-monkeys. I mean really, it makes sense, doesn’t it?

  • Ghost of Christmas Comments

    I have seen the movie and it is good. It’s hard to judge only because the story has been done to death. However despite a few whiz bang moments it really sticks close to the original source material. As far as the motion capture they sure spent alot of money on Scrooge. Scrooge alone sells this movie for me. Jim Carrey did not ham it up! There are NO pop culture references.(YAY!) This was done tried and true. The whole feel of the movie is good. Yes there are a few Zombie like characters but that feeling passes. I like how Zemekis kind of evokes the feeling of watching animotronic characters on a Disney ride. Strangely this movie is very remeniscent of Richard Williams version made in the 70’s. It seems like Zemekis used that version as a guideline, even the way Jim Carrey speaks not just as scrooge but all the ghosts, it’s all in the Richard Williams version. The Richard Williams version is beautifully done and of course 2d but Zemekis’ version immerses you completely into the world of this story. It’s more like being there than actually watching a story. Go see it! Happy Chanukah!

  • Ricardo

    Looks like another happy camper for the “$11.00 for two” bin at Wal-Mart !

  • Isn’t that Grendal from Beowulf in that image there?

  • The creepiness of Polar Express had a lot to do with the way the characters moved too. Something seemed right, but not right??

    Kids seemed to like it though, just like they liked Roger Rabbit when it came out.

  • My home town is located in the Uncanny Valley.

  • Scott

    ” the first movie was a classic, the story had a pretty perfect ending,”

    Roger rabbit is hardly a classic, and is a pretty piss-poor movie. The animation is all over the place, and mostly crap. There’s some good stuff, but who cares when the story is such an incredible mess. I’ve not yet been able to find anyone who could tell me what the story of the film was.

    The shorts made after the feature (Roller Coaster Rabbit, in particular) are far better, funnier, and better animated than just about everything in the feature. And unlike the feature, they’re not ugly to look at.

  • Ricardo

    I also hated Who Framed Roger Rabbit ? and I found the shorts just to be okay. Roger Rabbit is just a really annoying character and the gags from both the feature and the shorts were just old Tex Avery sterotypes.

  • With regards to the “uncanny valley” one thing is crystal clear….TRUST. THAT. MONKEY.

  • Scott, too bad my english is not very good cause I could perfectly tell you what Roger Rabbit is about. Go see Space Jam and LT:Back in action for crappy stories. Roger Rabbit had a good script, and it managed to be a looney cartoon and a good cinema noir movie in the same picture, that’s two of my favourite things at the same time.

    And you’re free to not like it, but the movie IS a classic, most people remember and enjoy it.

  • Ricardo

    Actually I will admit the film noir aspect was fine of Roger Rabbit, as well as the cast. However the cartoon characters were nothing more then special effects. Zemeckis’s film took all of the that critical third dimenson of classic cartoons, there emotions were limited and they were basically just slapped on the screen as a collection of sterotypes. This pretty much paved the way for the obnoxious WB TV animation era of the early 90’s.

  • since this article centers on somewhat anecdotal evidence, I thought I’d share what one of my non-animator, man-on-the-street-type friends thought of the latest Zemeckis travesty, courtesy of his facebook status update: “went and saw ‘The Christmas Carol in 3D’ with my wife today. Good movie, AMAZING animation.”
    different strokes for different folks. Seems even something “we enlightened ones” perceive to be ugly can have a happy and satisfied audience.

  • Ricardo, if I were in the mood of being extremely nitpicky about Roger Rabbit, I would agree with you. However, I really enjoyed the film and I still like it. Yes, the animated part wasn’t as brilliant as any golden era cartoon, but it was a nice homage to it. The characters created for the film weren’t as charismatic as Looney Tunes, but they were pretty decent (Benny the cab being my favourite one).

    I’m sure the animation would have been much better if they had done it in the 40s, but it still showed a lot of hard work. Unlike something like Space Jam which seemed like something they put together in a minute just to get easy money.

    Maybe Roger Rabbit is not in the same league of “Dumbo” or “Double Indemnity” but to me it’s at least in the same league of “Back To The Future” or “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”.