Last July we posted the amended Oscar rules that stated motion capture would no longer be eligible for the best animated feature Oscar. The rule changes pose a challenge for Steven Spielberg who may want his upcoming film The Adventures of Tintin to be considered for an animation Oscar. In an op-ed piece in last weekend’s LA Times, Steven Paul Leiva, the animation producer of Space Jam, argued that motion capture doesn’t qualify as animation and suggested the Academy should disqualify Tintin.
As much as I personally dislike the aesthetic effects of motion capture films, I feel that both the Academy and Leiva are dead wrong on the matter. However ugly and unappealing a Robert Zemeckis film or the upcoming Tintin might be, they are still animation in my book, as is Happy Feet and even James Cameron’s Avatar.
In motion capture, more often than not there is an animator behind the scenes building and evolving those performances. The argument, therefore, becomes a mechanical question of how much of the performance was created with recorded movement and how much by an animator. Lest we forget that the exact same question could also be posed for Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which had heavy rotoscoping on some of its human characters. The Disney studio’s later animated features like Alice in Wonderland and Sleeping Beauty were almost entirely filmed in live-action before being animated too, with often heavy reliance on rotoscoping for the final movement.