It started with Final Fantasy, that awful movie starring stone faced characters that creeped out most everyone who made the mistake of entering the theatre. We absorbed another salvo with Polar Express, now we have Monster House and Happy Feet to look forward to. ...continued...
Plain and simple. Motion capture looks absolutely ugly in a fully animated film. Don't get me wrong, the technology has its uses for things like stunt men, crowds of people, or the times that you need absolute realism. Games! Another great use for it. However, when you start using motion capture in an animated movie, especially on cartoon'ish characters, it looks like crap.
Both Final Fantasy and Polar Express had the most zombie like performances I think I have ever seen. Monster House looks slightly better but has the same problems and just looks wrong. The producers for Happy Feet should of just hired a bunch of actors to put on giant rubber costumes, because that is exactly what the CG characters look like.
Audiences know! Maybe they cannot put their finger on it, but something looks off to them. The movement in Polar Express and Final Fantasy got reemed by non-industry reviewers. So they have to be in tune to it.
No animator in their right mind wants to work on a motion capture project. If they do, I'd argue that they probably have no animation skills of their own and shouldn't be labelled as animators to begin with. The only people that want this awful technology used in movies like these are directors that wish they were directing live action instead, producers that are misled that it will save money, and techno-geeks that think it is just cool.
Somebody needs to grab these producers by the neck and let them know that it isn't going to save you money. Polar Express, Final Fantasy, and Monster House have huge budgets. How was the money saved and exactly where did it go? An average CG film may have anywhere from 25-50 animators on it. Let's say you can get rid of all of them. You still have to hire someone to come back and clean the mocap data up. It needs to be done. In a lot of motion capture setups, someone still has to animate the faces. Better hire some of those animators back. If a production really wants to save money, there are other ways to go about it. Motion capture isn't a solution.
----This rant was brought to you by an unamed producer that tried to tell me how much motion capture was going to save them on a proposed CG film. After our conversation it was obvious that this man hates animation and wants to make his production as "live-action" as possible.----
Unfortunately, the money that CG features are making is bringing in a lot of undesirables. We have producers that don't even like animation and we have business men that have never been closer to a movie than a theatre think they can make easy profits. "Motion capture? Wow that is cool. We dont need those overpaid animators anymore. We'll be rich!"