Andy Serkis has been on a nationwide tour at least since the last ‘Planet of the Apes’ movies trying to win respect for actors who do motion-capture work. It makes sense from his perspective – he’s a great actor, and most of the high-profile work he gets offered happens to be playing animals or mythical creatures, and he works no less hard on those jobs than any other actor. In fact, did you know he had to learn how to “ride a horse like an ape” for this one? It’s true! What an amazing job.
The problem is, the more Andy Serkis tries to take ownership of his performances, the more he minimizes the work of the animators who actually do all the hard stuff. As an animator friend of mine said, “Without the VFX guys, he’s just a British guy in a leotard pretending to be a magical creature.”
From a CartoonBrew article titled “Andy Serkis Does Everything, Animators Do Nothing, Says Andy Serkis”:
In an interview that Serkis did recently, he made one of his most preposterous statements yet: that he ‘authors’ his performances entirely himself, without the creative input of any other artist. According to Serkis, the only thing that the digital artists at Weta do is paint ‘digital makeup’ over his immaculate acting.
The specific part that pissed them off, it seems, was:
“It’s a given that they absolutely copy [the performance] to the letter, to the point in effect what they are doing is painting digital makeup onto actors’ performances.”
Pretty easy to see why the animators are pissed, but at the same time, actors and directors probably aren’t going to be thanking the guy who programmed the sub-surface scattering shaders or whatever, because as much as they probably deserve it, not many people being interviewed about it even understand how it works (I had to copy that job from a quote myself).
As the angry VFX guys point out, Serkis’s quote reflects a desire, if not a reality, that animators be nothing more than digital make-up artists. Which is a problem with motion-capture as a whole. The publicity people will go on and on and on about how much “humanity” Andy Serkis or whoever brought to the performance, because the idea of a human injecting humanity is easy for anyone to understand. But honestly, when’s the last time anyone complained about the acting in a Pixar movie or a Bugs Bunny cartoon? Animators have been giving animated creatures recognizable emotions for 100 years now – that’s why it’s called “animation.” Also, I know Andy Serkis works hard and he’s a great actor, but pretending to be a chimp is not the biggest test of his talents, I promise. I will never not find it hilarious to see a guy thumping his chest and shrieking while everyone stands around talking about what a genius he is.