Robert Minkoff discusses motion capture
What are your thoughts on Robert Zemeckis’ motion-capture, since you worked on the Roger Rabbit shorts?
Rob Minkoff: If you look at Avatar, which was done using many of the same techniques, it’s much more successful, aesthetically. it’s not a failure of the technology, the aesthetic is a human-driven thing, and I think that the choices that were made, aesthetically, on those (Robert Zemeckis) films, were not pleasing to me. It’s how the technology is applied. There was a thing done at the Academy theater about live-action and animation and how the lines are being blurred in films today. In fact, I believe the Robert Zemeckis films were having trouble being qualified for animated categories, because it was motion-capture. When they showed an example of how they did the films, they showed Tom Hanks. Robert Zemeckis’ instructions were to not lose Tom Hanks’ performance, to capture it. They showed shots of Tom Hanks’ performance, side-by-side with the animation, the motion-capture version of it, and every ounce of that performance was lost. You see Tom Hanks and say ‘That was great. What he did was great.’ Then you look at the motion-capture and it’s like they didn’t have any of it. Even though Robert didn’t want anyone to alter or lose the performance, that happened. I actually enjoyed the filmmaking of Beowulf. I enjoyed the way the camera was used, I enjoyed the way the story was told, but the characters themselves, felt hideous. You’re looking at Anthony Hopkins, but it was like that part in Silence of the Lambs, where the guy dresses up in somebody else’s skin, that’s what it felt like to me. It’s just not alive. The thing you’re trying to create in animation or in any film, really, is this illusion of life. Truthfully, filmmakers are like Doctor Frankenstein, because you’re making life out of bits and pieces and parts and you’re sewing them all together. When you’re done with it, you don’t know if it’s going to look like the Frankenstein monster, which looks like a bunch of horrible parts sewn together, of if it’s going to look like something organic and beautiful and alive. Everyone wants it to look like it’s organic and beautiful and alive, but sometimes it looks like a hideous monster.