The Polar Express

Features, Shorts, Live-Action and Direct-To-Video
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The Polar Express

Post by GeorgeC » October 29th, 2004, 3:34 am

I mean seriously, it freaks me out. It's just unnatural-looking and video gamish.

It may not be Robert Zemeckis' worst film, but it's certainly I think it's one of his UGLIEST-looking films.

I get a subscription to Newsweek (for free!) and I read an article about the technology used to make this film. It's basically an advanced form of motion-capture, and believe me, actors ought to be scared of this stuff. You can basically hire one person to do multiple parts, stretch and compress data points to age/regress the actor's physical appearance, and then dub dialogue with different actors' voices.

There's no need to build sets. You just tape on acting marks in a green screen room and have the actor move around and hit "his marks" when he's supposed to. Sure, it'd be more convenient to the actor to build sets and use real props, but that'd be more expensive! ( <== Which is the whole point of this technology -- to develop it further so you don't have to hire teamsters to build sets and act as prop masters!)

Yes, it's not quite that simple yet and there's a lot of staging that needs to be done and the caliber and imagination of the actor has the biggest impact on the quality of the final product, but still --

This is the stuff that union (SAG, craftsmen, set decorators, make-up artists) nightmares are made of!

I don't see how this film is going to make its money back until it comes out on home video, but it's going to have an impact on filmmaking as much as the the box-office bomb "Sky Captain" will.

I mean, 22 years ago Tron came and went without making much of an impact, right?

WRONG! It convinced John Lasseter to ditch 2-D animation for CGI, Disney went into further CGI experiments starting with "The Great Mouse Detective" and evolved their CAPs system with Pixar, and then we ultimately got Toy Story.

And that's just the traditional animation side of it for starters. Never mind the fact that fewer physical plywood/plastic models are made and that a bunch of the spaceships and other vehicles you see onscreen are polygon models... In addition to the fact that less gasoline is used to start "movie fires" and many movie fires are actually particle effect animations...

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Post by David » October 29th, 2004, 3:56 am

I could not agree more!

I can't understand the point in using CGI to make a movie which is so life like! If you want to make a movie that looks life like, the just make it live action! It seems completely unnecessary and pointless to me to even bother making it CGI. I go on, because i abhor this movie, but my sopabox is getting a little worn out from me standing on it all the time!

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Post by James » October 29th, 2004, 10:22 am


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Post by Macaluso » October 29th, 2004, 10:55 am

For once, I agree with you GeorgeC.

That movie looks like s**t.

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Post by Ben » October 29th, 2004, 1:35 pm

I have to agree that, while I am a HUGE BZ fan, this LOOKS like a baaaaad movie.

I've been screaming about this for the best part of a year now. Glad some people are starting to agree! :)

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Post by PatrickvD » October 29th, 2004, 2:00 pm

I think it looks scary... small children are gonna freak out in the theater. I was watching Home On The Range the other day, though not one of Disney's greatest films in terms of story, those designs are amazing. Far more appealing to me than the creepy Polar Express. Did they really ditch traditional animation for stuff like this??

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Post by Lindsay » October 29th, 2004, 11:14 pm

They've invested so much in this film financially, too. I sincerely hope (because of the aforementioned "creepy" factor) that it bombs big-time. I will laugh, long and hard. :twisted:

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Post by Ben » October 30th, 2004, 9:12 am

PatrickvD wrote:I think it looks scary... Did they really ditch traditional animation for stuff like this??
'fraid so.


I picked apart the very first teaser trailer for an article at DVD Toons about a year ago. The piece looks at the Oscar candidates for this past year, but slide down to the bottom and you can read my words of warning on The Polar Express:
http://www.dvdtoons.com/features/58

At the time, I was fairly ridiculed and told to "wait and see", but as release date gets closer, it's not looking a whole lote better. "The absolute pinacle of what can be done" were Tom Hanks' words of effect when this was announced.

So, how come it doesn't look better than Final Fantasy, a film that's now five years old?

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2d

Post by ShyViolet » October 30th, 2004, 10:03 pm

:?:
If this film does really, really badly, if people have a just plain awful reaction to it, could it spark a return to traditional animation? :P Just possibly? Audiences might be like: "All right, enough is enough with CGI. Let's see something else." This could mark a shift back to 2d films, fairy tales, traditional stories. You never know. :roll:
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designs

Post by ShyViolet » October 30th, 2004, 10:09 pm

Oh and personally, I liked Tom Hanks' character, but the little boy looks awful. Also, I don't know if this is true or not, but does Santa turn out to be this evil-Nazi-like guy in the film????? I read it on AICN. He turns out to be the villain! :!:
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Re: Polar Express is a CREEPY-LOOKING MOVIE!

Post by athena » October 30th, 2004, 11:31 pm

GeorgeC wrote:This is the stuff that union (SAG, craftsmen, set decorators, make-up artists) nightmares are made of!
Honestly, I'm not worried.
Polar Express will flop exactly the same way that Final Fantasy did... probably faster since at least the Final Fantasy stills had a better aesthetic, even if the animation itself looked so terrible.
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Re: designs

Post by GeorgeC » October 31st, 2004, 12:25 am

ShyViolet wrote:I read it on AICN.

Be very, very careful about what you read on AICN. They're not great fact-checkers and are often scooped by other movie sites.

The understatement of the year ==> They have been known to be a bit off on their rumor-mongering!

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Re: Polar Express is a CREEPY-LOOKING MOVIE!

Post by GeorgeC » October 31st, 2004, 12:43 am

athena wrote:
GeorgeC wrote:This is the stuff that union (SAG, craftsmen, set decorators, make-up artists) nightmares are made of!
Honestly, I'm not worried.
Polar Express will flop exactly the same way that Final Fantasy did... probably faster since at least the Final Fantasy stills had a better aesthetic, even if the animation itself looked so terrible.

You're not looking at the bigger picture here.

Sure, the film may flop, but the technology will stay around and definitely be fine-tuned for future films.

The studios are not going to stop paying the top stars $20 million to be in their movies so they're going to cut production costs in other places. That's the whole point of a lot of animation and special effects technology now. They will employ fewer of the behind-the-scenes people (set constructors, prop guys, camera people, etc.) as the technology progresses. They will also undoubtedly employ fewer actors and, yes, animators.

Entirely bad? Maybe not UNLESS your occupation gets eliminated by the new technology. Better films? Questionable.

With all the "advances" in CGI, why is it that a CGI werewolf transformation looks LESS real than the werewolf tranformations in a 23-year-old film like An American Werewolf in London?

Those AWL transformations used traditional make-up effects and casts of body parts that could grow and they certainly looked a heck of a lot better than werewolf CGI transformations in Ginger Snaps or the lAmerican Werewolf in Paris movie.

The big mistake Hollywood makes with technology is that the executives tend to think that people and their crafts are disposable because the new technology will "do the work for them." Once you lose people and old skills, it can take a generation of more for that knowledge to be regained if it ever comes back. Sometimes, the old ways look a lot better on film and the audience does appreciate that. I don't know how many times I've read people complain about how fake most CGI effects look on film.

People who are observant have noticed that CGI characters generally aren't as well-designed and don't animate as well as hand-drawn animation characters. Sure, there are people who are good CGI animators but there are far fewer really good CGI animators than there were excellent traditional animators. A lot of that skilled labor and the knowledge it had was lost when the traditional feature production was closed down (for good, at the moment) at every studio in Hollywood.

Everybody's got to eat, yeah, but the entertainment in the movies is poorer when the decision-makers get chintzy on the most fundamental bits of movie-making because they believe a computer will do every job better than a trained hand...

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Re: Polar Express is a CREEPY-LOOKING MOVIE!

Post by MusicFan » October 31st, 2004, 10:50 am

athena wrote:
GeorgeC wrote:This is the stuff that union (SAG, craftsmen, set decorators, make-up artists) nightmares are made of!
Honestly, I'm not worried.
Polar Express will flop exactly the same way that Final Fantasy did... probably faster since at least the Final Fantasy stills had a better aesthetic, even if the animation itself looked so terrible.
I liked Final Fantasy.....

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Re: Polar Express is a CREEPY-LOOKING MOVIE!

Post by Macaluso » October 31st, 2004, 11:34 am

MusicFan wrote:
athena wrote:
GeorgeC wrote:This is the stuff that union (SAG, craftsmen, set decorators, make-up artists) nightmares are made of!
Honestly, I'm not worried.
Polar Express will flop exactly the same way that Final Fantasy did... probably faster since at least the Final Fantasy stills had a better aesthetic, even if the animation itself looked so terrible.
I liked Final Fantasy.....
Final Fantasy had awesome animation, no doubt.

But the movie absolutly godawful. It was like spitting in the face off all the final fantasy fans over the years.

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