A prominent Pixar animator emailed me last night with the subject header “This is real” and a link to this must-read-to-believe SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE review of MONSTER HOUSE. I don’t know anything about the reviewer, Mick LaSalle, except that I’ll never be able to take another word this guy writes seriously. It’s one thing to have a subjective view of a film – it’s another to be so glaringly ignorant of the art form you’re discussing to completely dismiss one hundred years of accomplishments and proclaim something so obviously inferior as a technological advance. Here is the most egregious part of LaSalle’s review:
Animated films always had the advantage of being able to go anywhere and show anything, to defy the laws of physics and follow the imagination as far as it could go. But they never had the ability to show the human face. There was never any point to a close-up in an animated film — there was never really anything to see. But with the motion-capture process, real actors give their performances with computer sensors attached to their face and body, and that recorded information becomes the template for the computer animation. If an actor is bug-eyed, the character will look bug-eyed. Moreover, if the actor is thinking or is full of doubt, the technology will be able to render subtle qualities of pensiveness or doubt in the animation.
Imagine what Disney might have done with this in the creation of the Seven Dwarfs. Imagine all the things that will be done with this in the future. “Monster House” looks like the ground floor of something important.
So the only question that remains is, Who’s going to break the news to Ollie Johnston, the last of the Nine Old Men, that all those classic Disney features he animated on were a waste of time because he never had the ability to show an emotive human face? Poor guy, if he’d only had motion-capture to help him animate.
UPDATE: Storyboard artist Jenny Lerew weighs in with an eloquent response to Mick LaSalle’s less-than-eloquent review.