Trailer for The Last Guardian Trailer for The Last Guardian

Trailer for The Last Guardian

Why is it that the trailers for videogames excite me more than the trailers for any animated feature? Case in point is this trailer for The Last Guardian, a new PS3 title that was previewed at E3. The game is created by Fumito Ueda (Ico, Shadow of the Colossus). Brew reader B. Bolander, who sent me the link, writes: “Everything you see in that trailer–the griffin, the boy–has been animated. Fumito Ueda, the creator of the game and an ex-animator himself, doesn’t do motion capture. Every flick of an ear had to be done by hand, or at least by mouse.” There is more info about the game, including quotes from Ueda, in this article on

  • Marc Gagnon

    Ueda’s games have some of the best art design I’ve ever seen in any medium. They’re just beautiful.

  • I lent my copy of Ico to a friend and ended up letting her keep it as a graduation gift. I kind of wish I hadn’t, because it’s getting harder to find, and its visuals really are stunning.

    The fact that it had an artistic direction and didn’t rely on photo-realism actually prevents the graphics from looking dated almost 10 years later. Some game designers are catching on to this, but many aren’t.

    I’ve always felt like mocap distances me from a game, or makes me creeped out by the unnatural appearance of the characters, yet fanboys still refer to such graphics as “pretty.” I’ve heard them described that way many, many times. I don’t get it.

    It’s like both Chuck Jones and Richard Williams, and probably many other people, have said: animation is about believability, not realism.

  • I’ve been looking for a good enough excuse to spend the 5500 pesos a PS3 costs here in Mexico.

    I think you just gave it to me, Amid.

    What a gorgeous trailer.

    I also think this trailer for Assassin’s Creed 2 is incredibly badass :)

  • tobias

    let me get this straight, you think video game animation is more exciting/better than ANY animated feature animation??? huh…. The animation in this trailer and the gameplay looks incredible, but this is very different than character animation in animated feature films. I personally don’t get all that excited about flicks of ears, hair blowing in the wind, or cloth moving over skin, even if it is done by mouse. I get excited about the characters being well animated to evoke emotion and attitude in a certain specific way….you know GOOD character animation.

  • THIS!
    Both Ico and SOC were awesome games (to my taste). This is looking as beautifully done as the other two. Crossing fingers that playing it will be as wonderful.
    This trailer is certainly a wonderful teaser. Anyone knows when it’s supposed to be released? End of this year? Next year?
    (and that little ear flick IS nice character animation- not every game studio pays attention to details like that)

  • Nick

    Shadow of the Colossus was the last video game I played, and I think that was three years ago. It looks like I’m going to have to get warmed up again for this one.

  • Ahhhh I remember drooling over this a couple weeks ago when I saw the (leaked?) footage. That the creature acts like an overgrown German Shepard puppy won me over immediately.

    Living with an avid gamer, I get to see all kinds of wonderful gaming animation that I sometimes forget is there and take for granted. Amid, I remembering you bringing up Patapon some time back…I had been waiting in earnest for that and it’s such a hilarious and charming 2D side-scroller. Another good franchise is Uncharted, by Naughty Dog studios. It’s very apparent that their history of animating more cartoony characters for games gave them good skills when they had to portray more expressive motion and acting, rather than just rely on straight-stiff mo-cap.

  • other mike

    i was wondering if this would get noticed here.. it’s an amazing trailer, and part of an amazing series of games.. no release date yet, but i’m very much looking forward to it

  • Gobo


  • Jason

    Uh, I don’t think that’s a griffin. Griffins are half lion, half eagle. That thing looks like it’s part hyena, part…turkey….and there are bumps on its head that kind of look like giraffe horns, and um…well, the proper classical term for it would probably be “chimera”. It’s still cool-looking though.

  • Stacey

    I’m so happy to see this trailer linked over to Cartoon Brew! The gaming community is in raptures over it, and it’s fantastic to now be shared with animators!

    I may watch it again. And again. And again. And again. And again. Just too gorgeous for words.

  • I’m really glad you enjoyed it. I felt a bit presumptuous sending the link, but it really is beautifully animated.


    Game’s due out next year some time; no exact date has been given so far. Ueda’s team is basically Sony’s ‘prestige’ studio, so they get all the time and money they need to finish these things, thank goodness.


    The Japanese title of the thing is ‘Toriko, The Giant Man-Eating Eagle’ (no, seriously). Toriko has a triple meaning in Japanese – it can mean ‘prisoner’, ‘cat-bird’, or ‘bird-child’, respectively. The closest thing I could think of to a cat-bird was a griffin.

    I do agree it looks kinda hyena-ish, though.

  • I wish this was a movie, only because I’m not much of a gamer.

    Carter Burwell’s music from Miller’s Crossing was a great fit, even if it did make me think of hats.

  • gsm

    I think I preferred the earlier test footage where the beast’s face looked more like a cat. With whiskers.

  • drmedula

    If you’re more excited by game trailers than movie trailers, it’s probably because you’re sick of cute and cuddly…

  • I’d rather watch this as a film! But I’ll play it as a game too!

  • Amelia

    gsm – I agree. I’m pretty disappointed that they changed it. It was so appealing to me before. I feel like they’ve over complicated the face and the eyes. Aww he was just so cute before. Oh well, I’ll still buy it and play it.

    Here’s the earlier version if anyone is interested:

  • Ridgecity

    I love both previous games by the ICO team, but as I was watching this, it remind me a little too much of this of this other fantasy story:

    I was expecting someone in the presentation would scream Atreyu during the trailer!

  • Doug Drown

    WOW. Why is this a video game and not a movie??

  • SchmuleyG

    Motion capture? maybe not. But the boy is absolutely rotoscoped (at least) in every scene.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’m not sure why the denial

  • Thanks for the Uncharted shout-out Jessica! :) Naughty Dog’s transition to using mocap was painful but we’ve created tools to get what we need from it and then still do a lot of keyframing. All our facial animation is still animated via keyframing as well.

    I’m also looking forward to playing The Last Guardian – I’m a huge fan of Ico & Shadow of the Colossus.

  • SchmuleyG:

    Nope. He isn’t. It’s not denial as much as knowing about this team. They do absolutely incredible human animations without any assists. He IS, however, kinda cell-shaded looking, which makes him appear rotoscoped and a bit glowy/floaty since nothing else around him is. It’s an artistic decision they’ve used in the previous games as well. See the tidbit about the horse in this one – probably the best-animated horse I’ve ever seen in a video game – and the look of Yorda in ICO.

    Ueda tried to use mo-cap in his first game (Ico), but got so frustrated when he couldn’t get the performances he wanted out of them he decided to do it all by hand. And so the team has continued to do. That’s why this stuff is so impressive.

  • TheGunheart

    How can you rotoscope 3D animation? Please don’t tell me you’re the type that actually thinks cellshaded graphics are 2D…

    That said, I’m actually surprised to hear that they don’t use mo-cap for their animation. It always looks so fluid and natural in their games, so I figured they must’ve been cheating some how. Now I have even more respect for them.

  • Hannah

    Ico and Shadow of the Colossus both prove that video games are, and can be, works of art.
    If the Ps3 wasn’t so depressingly expensive, this game would be the first I’d buy for it.

  • SchmuleyG

    Sorry, Brooke. It’s not the cellshading that make this look like rotoscope. It’s the little nuances in the motion that even after 50 years or more and able to spend years on their animation (at 2 to 5 feet a week) Disney animatorswere never able to capture without the use of roto. The subtle weight shifts. The way the fabric falls. The way that contacts on quite solid.
    But if they want to say that they were able to accomplish feats of realistic animation beyond any other animator on a game budget and schedule I guess they must have their reasons.

    Don’t get me wrong…it’s GOOD rotoscope…very good rotoscope, but it is rotoscope….or some form of it.

  • St. McDuck

    Ueda is a brilliant game maker. I didn’t know he was a former animator, but it makes perfect sense if you look at how the characters move in Ico and Shadow of the Colossus.
    I remember reading something similar about Hideo Kojima making the the first Metal Gear Solid. He tried motion capture, but he decided to just let his team animate everything instead, and MGS1 turned out all the better for it.

    I can’t wait for The Last Guardian.

  • TheGunheart

    Schmuley, it can’t be rotoscoped, no matter how much it looks that way. This is 3D animation, whereas Rotoscoping only works for drawing 2D animation.

  • MadRat

    So Ico’s horns fell off and Yorda turned into a… chimera/griffiny-type thing? I really love Fumito Ueda games and the artwork that he put into it. I love how when Ico grabs Yorda’s hand he yanks her along behind him. It really seems like what a kid his age would do and what a girl like Yorda who’d live in a cage would do.

    Now that you mention it Naughty Dog really did do a good job with the animation for Jak & Daxter. I suppose I didn’t put a lot of thought into it. Does that meant it was so well done I never noticed? There were a few scenes where I thought to myself, “Hey, good job, that’s just like a cartoon.” but for some reason I never stop to think to myself, “You know, these guys are really good animators.” I’m thinking it now though.

  • Anna

    hey now, for a game from this studio? They deserve some extra excitement!!

    .. completely heart-breaking that its PS3 only tho ;_;

  • JG

    Mindblowing… Especially when one has in mind just how boggled up in technical difficulties animation for games is. It’s a very technically restrictive medium to work with.

  • majab

    Hm, slavishly following your reference video, without editing for clarity or weight or timing that’s appropriate to the 3D graphics, wouldn’t that be a type of 3D rotoscoping? And I don’t feel that I see that here.

    Josh Scherr — I was also really impressed with the way you guys handled the mocap/animation on Uncharted, good job!
    I sometimes have to edit mocap at work and find it a really unpleasant process, too much noise getting in the way, and in the end often feeling very limited by the original capture. Sounds like you guys found a good approach to deal with it.

  • Thanks Majab – we use your typical animation offset rig for starters, but we also have the ability to extract key poses from the mocap, put them on the animation rig, then animate w/o the mocap driving the rig.

    MadRat – thanks also. The J&D series was a lot of fun to work on. We had some pretty ambitious quotas (each animator was responsible for 20-30 seconds of finished animation per week, including camera layout) but we managed to get some good performances in there. The trick was saving animation time by reusing walk cycles and employing a lot of cutaway shots to someone who wasn’t talking. :)

  • Alessandro

    @TheGunheart: Rotoscoping is not limited to 2D animation. It’s used in 3D animation all the time. Map your reference footage to your camera image plane and match the poses frame by frame.

    This looks great by the way. I agree with SchmuleyG though… some sort of reference footage was used, no question about it. Animators rely on reference all the time… it’s no secret.

  • Ridgecity

    yeah, 3d can be rotoscoped, all software allows this.

  • I think it’s so exciting because it just creates mystery. They don’t tell you why the kid’s with the monster or how he got there or who the bad guys are. They’re showing, not telling, and they’re not showing much. No “in a world where monsters fly. . .” Maybe gamers are more willing to play a game to find out what happens than filmgoers are to trust a movie to eventually please.

  • I notice that we never see the kid in the video whip out a sword and fight those stone men. He throws barrels at them, he sets traps by the looks of things, and runs. I like that. It looks like the gameplay is going to be much more about the exploration, discovery, and adventure than it will be about hacking and slashing. And the whole time everything looks so beautiful.

    I never wanted a PS3 before this. Dang it.

  • Chris J.

    Remember a few months ago when you were surprised at how many hits CartoonBrew gets from Video Game companies? Now you know why. There is some WONDERFUL animation happening in games right now.

  • Preston

    Aside from not having a PS3, the main thing keeping me from playing this game is the fact that the child-bird gryphon chimera will probably die after hours and hours of endearing play. I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

  • This rules a lot, Ico was great too, it’s kind of like being inside a film and controlling it.