Real Animation Acting

MONSTER HOUSE vs. Bugs Acting

Thad Komorowski has posted three examples of animation acting – one each from Disney, WB and MGM – all created without the aid of rotoscoping or performance capture. The foolishness of commentaries by critics like Mick LaSalle and James Lipton becomes only more evident when they are presented with actual examples of the animation medium’s expressive potential. LaSalle believes that the animated film has 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.” Really, Mr. LaSalle? I think Rod Scribner and Bob McKimson proved you wrong about sixty years ago, as evidenced in the clip from TORTOISE WINS BY A HARE. James Lipton thinks that Robert Downey rotoscoped is a better performance than anything an animator could create. Perhaps he should look at Ken Muse’s anguished animation of Tom in HEAVENLY PUSS. We haven’t even begun to examine all the stellar animation in feature films, but even in these short films, the inanity of LaSalle and Lipton’s opinions are exposed.


  • Kenn McDonald

    Let’s stir the fire a little bit here. Just for the sake of conversation.

    I think you have a different definition of a good performance that James Lipton and Mick LaSalle. The animation you sighted as your examples are great pieces of animation acting, but they are exactly that, animation acting. Over the top and extremely stylized. It’s something that has bothered me for years about a lot of animation. The performance shortcut. The standard pose. The animation take. If I never have to animate a character doing a mild take again, I won’t miss it. There’s a lot of great animation out there, but very little comes to the level of a great performance by an actor. A great scene, yes. And outstanding sequence, occasionally. But a truly great, nuanced performance that ranges across an entire film is something else. It’s rare for actors to pull this off and so much depends on the direction and editing. For a team in individual animators to do this with a single character would be a stellar achievement. It would require a team of truly brilliant animators lead by a supervisor who is not only fantastic animator, but also an academy award winning calibre actor. I don’t know too many of those.

    All that said I think Lipton and LaSalle are full of hooey. Animation reaches people on a completely different and very visceral level that can rarely be matched in live action. It really comes down to what kind of experience turns you on. Lipton’s not likely to be moved by an animated performance no matter how accomplished. It’s not what he’s looking for and he’s going to make proclamations about it because he’s a critic and that’s what they do. But no classic performance by Marlon Brando at the the top of his game is going to engage an audience of families in a movie theater the way Mater does in Cars.

    And that just fine with me.