pocatar pocatar

Cameron Bitter Because Oscars Snubbed Animated Characters

(Pocatar image by Chad Regan)

An article from today’s Hollywood Reporter says that Avatar producer Jon Landau labeled the Oscars “a disappointment” after none of the film’s animated characters were nominated for an acting award. He also said they need to change the term “motion capture photography” to “emotion capture” to fool people into thinking it’s something else. Meanwhile, Cameron stated recently that, “People confuse what we have done with animation. It’s nothing like animation. The creator here is the actor, not the unseen hand of an animator.” It’s always amusing how indignant mainstream Hollywood becomes whenever they get a taste of what it’s like to be treated as one of the industry’s second-class animation citizens.

SEE ALSO: Two Animated Films Nominated for Best Picture Oscar

(Thanks, Tohoscope)

  • Daniel J. Drazen

    Sorry, James, it was mo-cap when Michael Jackson used it in the misbegotten “Dangerous” video and it’s still mo-cap.

  • fishmorgjp

    “Emotion capture”… isn’t that cute?

  • I thought the memo was to call it “Performance Capture” I must be behind on my pointless redefinitions.

    Maybe Cameron should recognize the “unseen hands” of all the people it took to turn that mo-cap data into an actual performance and see if they can get an Oscar too.

  • It was MoCap in all of the Robert Zemeckis pictures. It wasn’t animation then and it still isn’t. Jon Landau & Cameron are right. But then George Clooney and Meryl Streep didn’t get nomintated for THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX, nor were they even considered.

  • George

    HA! I like “emo-cap” better, somebody could surely do something hilarious with that term.

    In any case, regardless of what anyone wants to calls it, the performances in Avatar were not worthy of actor noms, so perhaps James should have been complaining while he was directing. That being said, if James wanted actor noms so badly, perhaps he should have done a live action movie, the dolt.

    Maybe the Academy should introduce a “Best Voice Actor/Actress/Supporting Roles” Category? That way the all those big name voice actors can feel appreciated, and all those hard working animators who breathe life by painstakingly creating, developing, and animating those characters to enhance those voice performances can continue to go unknown…Or maybe I shouldn’t give the Academy any more bad ideas…

  • why is that “Pocatar” image so much more pleasant to look at than either the original pocohontas design or the Avatar character designs?
    why is the combination more appealing the sum of its parts?

  • How greedy can you get? They might want to talk to the animation filmmakers whose films are excluded from the “better” nominations ALL THE TIME before ignoring how they’re already in good position to win the Best Picture nomination.

  • I think that if you had to say Avatar was either ‘live-action’ or ‘animated’, I would have to go with live action. Yes there is a compelling amount of work done on the film by animators… But a performance was created by live actors and translated as purely as possible into CG builds. Cameron wants Pandora to be ‘real’ and an actor driven film. He is going for ‘real’ over ‘believable’ which is what animators strive for. I consider animation something that is crafted. That includes CG work of course. I don’t really consider rotoscoping to be as animated as a keyframed piece. You can start with rotoscoping or motion capture and get at least a partial animated performance from there, but those are mediums that rely heavily on a performance done by a live actor. It’s not as hand crafted by an animator. It’s about who is creating the performance of the character.

    I don’t really want to say Avatar is animated or live action. I think it has a lot of both mediums and it doesn’t deserve segregation. Animation shouldn’t necessarily be a category of it’s own. It’s good that the category exists so that animation can be recognised and respected, but the medium of a film isn’t a quality determining factor. Films should be looked as as films. If a director is trying to put animated characters into a live action world and doesn’t consider the piece to be an animated film, then the film shouldn’t be competing in the animation category.

    It’s still a shame that Cameron seems to be writing off his animation team, but I understand what he is trying to say to the public.

    How would people feel about a ‘comedy’ category, and a ‘drama’ category, etc.?

  • I think Micheal said it best. End of story.

    ‘Emo-cap’ is pretty spot on. I had no idea coming into this profession how many whiners the film and animation industry houses.

  • Peter F

    Wait, I just listened to an interview with Cameron where he was crowing about how much of the actor’s performance was carried over to their CG avatars — he was saying he hoped to include as much as possible on the DVD of their original performances before the CG artists ran them through the computer software…

    I guess I don’t get what he wants us to think of the CG characters in his movie.

  • To be quite honest, none of the actors were memorable enough to be considered an Oscar nomination. So for him or his producer to complain seems pointless to me. It was expected for them to be nominated in the categories that would make since…but expecting any of the actors to be nominated? Nah, the performance wasn’t memorable enough to where a nomination is considered.

    And kudos on the image of Pocahontas with Avatar fusion. That is just awesome! LOL :)

  • Lucas

    Oh, I love the idea of emotion capture! I picture an actor, covered in sensors, just thinking of things that make them happy or sad or angry, and then the computer feedings off of those human emotions to drive the actions of a CG AI. When they’re happy, the AI skips and dances! When they’re sad, it slumps and weeps. Couldn’t act or tell a story with emotion capture really, but it’d be a cute toy for a few minutes.

    Ultimately, mo cap is a fun toy for rich actors to play with that ends up taking the joy of motion study and performance creation away from the animators and forces them to be slavish technicians, basically leaving only the tedious aspects of animation to them with none of the creative rewards.

  • Dave O.

    I’m sure the actors’ and directors’ unions would strongly disagree with Mr. Cameron…for now.

    The technology behind this movie is a paradigm shifter. I’ll bet that within our lifetimes, we’ll see a prominent actors’ award go to a mocap performance.

  • corey

    Those guys should go ’emotion-capture’ for 80 cents a frame, not even get your name in the credits & try to scrape a living.


  • Hey, if Cameron wants blue cat people to get nominated I say they ought to allow Carl from Up to be nominated, too. Or Coraline or Mister Fox.

  • Mike

    There was a time (Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast) when Disney grouped the credits by character, the voice actor and directing animator were paired and the rest of the team, animators and assistants, were all included as one. Now that’s how credit should be awarded for animation acting.

  • squirrel

    The Mo-cap debate is a CB mainstay. I’m not gonna get into it this time…

  • MichaelDair

    If the actors are acting why should they not be recognized?
    The same goes for the animators as well, they certainly make
    acting and action decisions that must present themselves in a “believable” fashion up on the screen.

    This is a problem that Voice Actors address every day.

    Maybe there should be another category for actors in animation.

  • Spike

    I just read this in an article about Avatar’s post oscar nomination backlash:

    “Nigel Orrillard, the leader of the MA Film course at the International Film School Wales, said: “It is disappointing to see so many non-live action films being up for Best Picture.””

  • wait? isn’t motion capture basically just 3d rotoscoping? if rotoscope is considered an animation technique then mocap is too. just a lazy one.

  • Jenny Lerew

    I’m confused by the comment of the “leader of the MA film course at Int’l Film School Wales”-he’s “disappointed” about “non-live films”.

    As far as I understand it, “Best Picture” means only that a particular film was determined by Academy membership to have been exceptional as a feature-length achievement.

    Not as a record of a live stage performance, not as a musical concert experience, not as a fashion show or big-budget extravaganza, but as a film, period. That’s why “Up” is in amongst the 10 other nominees.

    Where did anyone get the impression that there are specific “qualifications” for a movie people love that make it “matter more” or “more real”, and therefore more “deserving” of an Oscar? Newsflash: film’s ALL made up of tiny bits of photography, none(or virtually none) of it is “real”, and without doubt many an editor has been responsible for what we think are “performances” from “live” actors.

    While I can understand why an actor would be disappointed to lose the chance to be seen on screen in animation although they give great performances. I can’t, however, understand why a film director (or film instructor) can’t acknowledge the results of an animated release as being tantamount in importance to live action work. The success of an animated film is measured in the same way as a live action one: if the audience responds to it. It’s ALL FILM.
    A film is a film is a film.

  • Greg Ehrbar

    The big question is whether the Television Academy should award a retroactive Emmy to Margaret Kerry — not for modeling Tinker Bell, but for her superb “Emo-Synchro-Capture-Vox” performances on “Clutch Cargo.” Was that animation or not?

  • Waahh! I didn’t get enough nominations! I want more more MORE!! Waahh!!

    Hoo, boy. I am SO rooting against this guy at the Oscars. Unfortunately, Hollywood is pushing 3D movies hard, so I expect them to promote Avatar as the Greatest Movie Ever. Whatever. Throwing Dances With Wolves and Ferngully into a blender and passing it off as a milkshake doesn’t cut it. Not with me.

  • I’m a little confused by these call-outs. This site has reams of posts dissecting motion capture, and begrudgingly conceding that it technically is animation (see here, here, and here). It’s clear that if allowed to, you would not consider it animation. Yet now when one of these motion capture films is actually popular on a critical level, you’re all for it being considered animation, and chastising the film’s director for not considering it so.

    Personally I think anything by James Cameron is a waste of time to even think about. Mo-capped or not.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    They buttered their bread, now they’ll have to sleep on it I say.

  • Chris S

    MichaelDair, right on.

    I’m glad there is such a big stink over nominations. I’m excited to see the controversy actually addressed by mainstream figures, maybe something will actually change!

  • Chris S

    But I think instead of “best actor in animation”, how about “best animated character” with equal credit for the voice/motion actor and animator(s).


  • Give him that Oscar
    but, he must promise to us that he will never makes next two parts of avatar

    and if he makes that two parts of avatar.Can be shorter than 2 hours?


    All this broo ha ha because a 500 million dollar investment resulted in a 2 Billion dollar return. In reality the only thing this film should be recognized for is pushing the envelope in technical achievement, but there’s no way Cameron’s going to go up there and accept a technical award (He wouldn’t anyway I guess-don’t the chief FX people go up and accept those?)

  • Donald C.

    How utterly arrogant.

  • wendy

    The reason they weren’t nominated for an acting award really comes down to the fact that the acting wasn’t that great. The Animation and the FX on the other hand is what made the film. That and of course James’ vision. He really did an amazing job but the real Kudos goes to WETA….. again. Well done guys.

  • Hal

    Despite my ramblings reagrding the AVATAR AS ANIMATED FEATURE thread of discussion on CB, I have to say that Pocahontas/NaVi mashup is near perfect – give the Raccoon some gills and we’re there.

  • Ron

    People get so hung up on labels. A long time ago, I had an art teacher tell me that because I was a cartoonist, I was therefore not an “artist”. That was fine with me. If drawing cartoons meant I didn’t get a certain label, so be it. As long as I still got to do what I loved.
    That said, I can see why Mr. Cameron didn’t want the film to be categorized as animation. It’s quite possibly because he didn’t want to be treated as a second class citizen in Hollywood – which I’m sure are prejudices that he feels himself. It has more to do with award shows and public perceptions than anything else. Clearly Mr. Cameron has respect for the possibilities and abilities of animation, regardless of whether or not he admits. Otherwise he wouldn’t keep using it in his films.
    I’d love to see someone dig up any comments he may have made about the stop-motion animation in “Terminator”. That was pretty awesome character animation as I recall- very low tech by today’s standards but that robot at the end of the movie looked and moved so much like Schwarzenegger that you believed it was him.
    Regardless of what it’s called, I would LOVE to have the creative and technological freedom at my fingertips to make a film using Avatar’s techniques. I bet most of the commentators on this list would agree with me… even the die- hard 2D entusiasts- which I am as well.
    While we’re all grousing about whether or not it’s animation. we seem to be missing the bigger picture: that this new way of film-making has opened up a whole new world of possibilties for animators, live action directors, actors, puppetteers and anyone else who wants to embrace this new technology, play with it and make it theirs. That’s what I want to do and I’ll bet a lot of animators, cartoonists and other ‘artists” agree with me regardless of whether this counts as “animation” or not.

  • Avatar is a cartoon. It’s more of a cartoon than Alvin and the Chipmunks Squeakuel. Live action motion/acting reference for animators is something we’ve been doing forever. Motion capture is an animation technique, and compared to other animation techniques like rotoscoping it’s hardly innovative.

    James can run away from it all he wants but it’s still a cartoon!

  • I now hate James Cameron.

    He has no idea what he’s talking about.

  • Chaya

    Well the acting in Avatar was terrible nonetheless and the film didn’t even deserve best picture nomination. What a highly overrated standard popcorn flick

  • Tim Hodge

    Interestingly enough, (if I remember correctly) when Titanic was being filmed, Cameron caught flack from SAG for using non-union performers for the motion capture of the extras. His argument was that since the actors weren’t being used on-screen, just their performance, it didn’t count.

  • If Cameron “has no idea what he’s talking about”, then I’m sure impressed by how much he knows about making a movie with those very tecniques.

  • creepy

    Don’t like Cameron, and never have. He has no respect for the ANIMATION that the film represents. Even if his storytelling stinks the animators did a good job fixing the motion capture.

  • Pete

    You guys are just as sensitive as Cameron.

    I tend to think people are threatened by these new techniques which cut out the animator (so to speak) from the equation. Don’t worry there will always be a place for the animator.

    This is something different and I think it’s justified for Cameron to want to specify that. It’s quite literally creating avatar’s for actors’ performances.

  • Hmmm….. It is all new and there need to be new names and parameters for judging. No matter what Cameron says, it is a mix of live action, animation, and mocap. Mocap’d facial expressions can never look “real” unless they are animated…. Body language is too subtle to be “captured” unless it’s live action. I thought Avatar was a fun, exciting film and I agree with Ron that it has opened up new possibilities.
    It does bother me that Cameron neglects to mention the actual animators on the crew….He pretends like these flying creatures magically appeared…From wire frames, to fully rendered CG animals. Hmmm….Selfish. People LOVE to see behind the scenes footage and it’s as if he’s hiding the sweat shop where the animators lived…. Weird behavior.

  • badjoojoo

    Films that are created primarily with motion capture or rotoscoping, even if enhanced with the work of animators, shouldn’t fall under the category of animated film…but rather should fall in the category of special effects film. Avatar, King Kong, Scanner Darkly, Polar Express, Where the Wild Thing Are, Lord of the Rings…these are effects movies, not animated movies. They’re really more like marionette, puppet, makeup or animatronic effects…they just use digital technology as their delivery system rather than analog. Animation builds its illusion of life from the ground up, rather than just enhancing a live action performance. Its not a put down of the animators’ contribution to those effects; animators have played a part in creating visual effects from the very beginning. But let’s get the catagories straight; for it to be an animated film, you start with a blank canvas and create from there, effects are there to enhance already existing footage.

  • david

    this makes me so angry. I gotta go do some emotion capturing. i mean drawing.

  • joe

    Hey James,you`re not king of the world anymore.

  • Charlie Judkins

    Forget best actor, why the hell is this steaming turd of a film even up for best picture???

  • SNIFF! Pulling out the world’s tiniest violin. Brahms anyone?

  • While I like to think of the work behind this film as being fundamentally good, it is certainly interesting to see the reactionary stance taken by mainstream Hollywood folk when they feel the pain of largely-ignored animators! Boo, hiss!

  • For all of Cameron’s complaining about this, all of his movies before Avatar have earned three acting Oscar nominations but lots and lots of them for special effects and sound and editing. I might be crazy, but maybe the Academy isn’t snubbing the acting in Avatar just because the characters are animated.

  • Manning

    Ignoring the “live action/animation” debate, can anyone seriously argue that there was an oscar-worthy acting performance anywhere in Avatar? Not knocking the actors (who are all very competent) but the script was just dire in places.

    I quote: ” The skypeople have sent us a message. That they can take whatever they want, and no one can stop them. But we will send them a message. (edit) …we will show the sky people, that they cannot take whatever they want. That this… this is our land!”

    Not since Battlefield Earth have I heard such tripe.

    I’m not an Avatar basher. I love the film, I’ve seen it three times and I hope it cleans up the technical oscars. However I love it in the same way I love rollercoasters.

  • David Breneman

    Didn’t Paramount release a cartoon where Popeye received an Oscar from an animated Bob Hope? If they want their characters to get an Oscar, why not just do it that way?

  • Brian Brantley

    If we’re moving the conversation in here, I’ll post what was meant for the other thread as well.

    I think Jon Landau is ridiculous for assuming Avatar was cheated in the acting categories. It also didn’t receive a best Original Screenplay nomination. I wouldn’t think you’re getting many nominations for acting if the screenplay isn’t Oscar calibre – unless you pull off something similar to Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean. No actor in Avatar deserved a nomination, though Neytiri was awfully well done.

    As far as continuing the animated film argument. Amid, he’s not claiming that at all, that there’s no animation in the film.


    “The thing people need to understand is that is not – it’s an animation process, but it’s about taking 100% of what the actors did and preserving that into the final performance of the computer generated character. So this an actor driven process.”

    “The animators have to be very good observers of human behavior. I mean, our system is semi- automated. you know, we put this rig on the actor’s face that records what they’re doing, records it very accurately. But still it takes the human in the loop, the animator, to see when somehow the technology is failing us in capturing that.”

    You guys seem to take offense every time he says “this is not an animated film”. It strikes me as incredibly over sensitive. You’re also putting words in Cameron’s mouth, that he never said. He just doesn’t share the opinion that this is an animated film. I don’t see what is wrong with that.

  • I kind of like the “Unseen Hand” designation. Sounds like a secret society. Maybe we can rename the 839 and all get spooky Illuminati/Masonic belt buckles.

    Who’s with me?

  • I’m up for an Unseen Hand secret society. Then we can put secret subliminal messages in everything we make to bring people to our cause. Long live the new flesh and all that.

    What do I have to do to join? It’s not a drawing test, is it? Because I’ll fail that.

  • @Mesterius

    I meant about animation. He has no idea that an animator IS an actor, not some “unseen hand.” Sorry for not being specific enough.

    I just found his quote insulting.

  • Steve Gattuso

    I’m just going to keep laughing at the picture and ignore the debate.

  • Cameron needs to STFU… what a big baby! I have already decided to avoid ‘Avatar’ at all costs based on two things: 1) the trailers I’ve seen, both live action and ani are really awful, and 2) every single review I’ve read said the plot and story are rote and insipid, but the spec-efs are astounding.

    Sorry… not enough meat for me. Even the flat ani of ‘Watership Down’ was lifted by an excellent storyline and well-developed characters. When I want to see truly inspiring animation/story/characters, I’ll watch ‘The Triplettes of Belleville’ again and again, never tiring of that amazing piece of work… and they don’t even speak English in the film!

    Cameron got his many awards for ‘Titanic’, one of the worst movies I have ever seen, and he’ll likely win BP for ‘Avatar’, but he won’t get any of my hard-earned sheckels.

  • Christopher Cook

    David Breneman: Nope, that cartoon was a salute to Popeye’s 20th anniversary in cartoons. Hope presented him with a trophy cup, with Jimmu Durante, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis along for the props.

    Bugs Bunny bucked for an Oscar in “What’s Cooking, Doc?” (only to get beat out by James Cagney).

  • Ladybug

    The acting sucked. That’s why it was not nominated.
    Also – embrace your animators you whiny, over pompous brat.

  • Marc Baker

    Imagine what his reaction would be if ‘Avatar’ gets shown on ‘Cartoon Network’. I’m sure it would be 10 times what it already is, but i’m gonna shut up now. Don’t want to give the morons in Atlanta any ideas, now would I?

  • I don’t know if you’ve ever seen mo-cap before it’s given to an animator to fix and clean up but it’s pretty unwatchable and broken. As creativeless as it may be, it’s become a day job for most animators out there. At night they run home to their pencils and lightboxes like a dirty secret.

  • Johnno

    I don’t think many of you understand what Cameron is saying. He’s not asking for nominations in teh field of animation, he’s saying that the performances of the CG characters you see in Avatar are exactly the performances of real actors, and despite that there is a CG visage overtop, they ought tob e considered for nomanations in live action film acting. And he’s right! By all means we should be open to realizing the actual work of an actor because that’s precisely what we’re seeing in Avatar. Whether you think that the performance merits a best actor award or nomination over another is a different conversations. Cameron’s tech perfectly shows the efforts of real acting despite. No different than an actor wearing heavy makeup.

    ANimators aren’t gonna lose their jobs over this. There will always be CARTOON characters for them to animate as well as CG creatures and things that cannot be mo-capped or performance capped. If the CG characters closely resemble humans then I don’t see why mo/performance/emo cap is some illegitimate thing. It’s an amazing tool when used correctly and wisely!

  • John Eyley

    If anyone has been dudded for recognition of their acting/performance capture it was Andy Serkis (LOTR).

    We’re talking about gray areas now, aren’t we? Where the lines are blurred between the use of animators’ skills and actors’ performances. BUT we (um, the Academy) have to find a way to recognize an actor’s and/or animator’s brilliance when the final screen character is a comination of the two?

    OTOH – A useful definition of animation is ‘frame-by-frame’ intervention in constructing a film. IMHO, Gollum is one of the highest forms of animation in modern times – a combo of brilliant acting on Andy’s part and supreme micro-animation on the Weta team’s part.

  • Brianimator

    They AREN’T animated characters. That’s Cameron’s whole point. Please get a clue.

  • NoTimeForThat

    “Well the acting in Avatar was terrible nonetheless and the film didn’t even deserve best picture nomination. What a highly overrated standard popcorn flick”

    If that much.

    It was pretty much a garbage film, with little to no redeeming factors. The only reason it made so much money was due to it’s ridiculous hype and paid-for controversy, commisioned to CNN and their “news story” about the film’s “psychological effects”

    It’s about as equally deserving of a “best picture” nomination as that dreadful Transformers 2 movie was. And when you’re film is equal of that with a movie filled with racist morphing moped bikes, giant wrecking ball testicles and bot brownie jokes, your film has problems. No matter how much money it made.

    Twilight and New Moon are also spoken highly of by lobotomized 14-year old girls who also turned it into a financial success, but those are still widely regarded as Z-grade cinematic trash.

    Although a razzie. That, I would say it is in line for. If it wasn’t already going to be awarded to Dragonball Evolution, Chun-Li or Twilight.

    But Oscar? Avatar deserves an Oscar about as much as Tiger Woods deserves his wife.

  • MoBu

    Amid, personally I feel Zoe deserved a nod. As the argument has been made already, the Oscars should only recognize the performance of an actor in a best acting category, and Zoe’s was commendable. The reason characters in an otherwise traditionally-recognized animated film don’t get recognized is because it isn’t the actor’s performance coming through, it’s a collaboration of the animator moving from and enhancing that original performance. The animator played an integral part in Avatar, but who’s ultimate goal was to absolutely translate the exact performance given by the actor. This is what Jim and John are trying to get across with the Academy. It’s the same battle when they tried to illustrate with Andy Serkis’ performance, and it’s the same battle that’s going to be fought for several more of these movies to come. And since we’re all visual people here, this is what I’m referring to:


  • David Breneman

    “Johnno” writes: He’s not asking for nominations in teh field of animation, he’s saying that the performances of the CG characters you see in Avatar are exactly the performances of real actors, and despite that there is a CG visage overtop, they ought tob e considered for nomanations in live action film acting.

    But if that’s the case, why not nominate foley artists?

  • googly woogly

    If the animators REALLY didn’t touch up the performance then INDEED it is NOT animation but (digital) makeup effect.
    Man! Zoe was so awesome that it was easily one of her scenes that sold the ENTIRE film to me, yes entire gazillion dollar thing with just one scene!!

  • Steve Burstein

    Wouldn’t what Landau wants fudge the catagories?

  • SonicForge

    Avatar is really the future in how we will look at movies. You look at a Broadway musical like Cats or the Lion king. Are you going to call them on the carpet because they use makeup and costumes to enhance their performance. All avatar in contrast is really just digital makeup. The performance is every bit the actor and gone really is the need to hours of makeup and set changes and the performance can focus on the actor. This isn’t really blue screen like we are used to seeing. I see huge potential for this but convincing Hollywood otherwise remains to be seen. If hurt locker was done in motion capture which in all respect it would be possible. When you then say that it was animated and not real acting? People are just not used to seeing actors used in this light. As the technology advances this is going to become more and more an issue.