Universal Pictures has released a first look at Cats, its theatrical adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s long-running stage musical. In a behind-the-scenes piece, director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Misérables, The Danish Girl) says the film uses “digital fur technology to create the most perfect covering of fur.”
Our hope is that this does not turn out to be another situation like The Lion King or anything involving Andy Serkis where live-action filmmakers diminish the vital role that animation artists serve in their filmmaking. And while it’s too early to say exactly what the production process is on Cats, if there’s anything we learned from the new Lion King, film studios will be evasive about their techniques to hide the fact that a film is animated.
Looking at the Cats trailer, there seems to be a lot more going on than “digital fur.” We’ve all seen enough motion capture by now to know that a lot of the bodies in this trailer (and perhaps all) are mo-capped. And if they’re being mo-capped, there’s no way to achieve this standard of motion without animators. (A sidenote: If it doesn’t look right, and frankly a lot of people feel that it doesn’t, it may be because using animators to transform live performance into animation is not necessarily the best use of an animator, but that’s an aesthetic choice made by the creators, not the animators.)