Happy Feet mocap supervisors support Andy Serkis for Academy Award

17 October, 2011 by Sam Dallas

Happy Feet motion capture supervisors Francois Laroche and Greg Allen have thrown their support behind actor Andy Serkis’ bid to be eligible for an Academy Award.

Serkis, best known for his ‘mocap’ (or performance-capture) acting in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong, says he should be eligible – as a motion capture actor – to be nominated for a Best Supporting Actor gong come next February for his portrayal of Caesar in sci-fi flick Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

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Francois Laroche, who worked with Serkis on The Lord of the Rings trilogy, says "he deserves our industry’s highest honours”.

“Motion capture is seen by many as non-creative in an industry where creatives rule the roost,” says Laroche, who is currently working on Happy Feet Two at Sydney’s Dr D. Studios.

“When you get a powerful actor like Andy Serkis defending mocap, it turns the creative pecking order on its head. An actor defending mocap is menacing to them – it’s like waving a big creative stick.

“The tradition of Shakespeare trumps the tradition of Disney. People respond aggressively to that, as if their lives are threatened, and they’re willing to throw any kind of argument in its way. The arguments don’t quite add up though.”

Laroche says Serkis did something new with Rise of the Planet of the Apes and that the art of filmmaking needed more of that.

Happy Feet Two motion capture supervisor Greg Allen says Serkis is so committed to his craft that rules about what technique was used to create a performance was so “petty” and “limiting” in a field that is still growing.

“We worked with Andy Serkis on Lord of the Rings,” Allen starts.

“The first time he got in a suit we were doing some Gollum testing and we asked him to just be Gollum. He looked at himself in Giant’s ‘Realtime’ software and started slowly driving the creature – within a minute he was writhing around on the floor as if being tortured.

“It was so compelling that nobody wanted to yell ‘cut’, so we didn’t, and he ended up completely exhausted doing a seven-minute take.”

Allen, Laroche and their team at Dr D Studios are currently working on delivering Happy Feet Two before the end of the month. The actors behind the animated sequel to the 2006 hit also won’t be eligible for an Oscar next year.

Serkis has previously defended his 'mo-cap' performances in interviews with the UK's The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian.

Immediately after, comments flooded VFX blogs and forums, debating the hot topic.

One post said: “If you deserve to be considered for an Academy Award nomination for acting in regards to your performance motion capture, then every animator who has ever animated a character in any movie deserves consideration as well”.

It doesn’t look like the Academy – an actor-dominated body – will change their minds anytime soon. It has been suggested instead that a special category be introduced to recognise mocap acting.

Check out IF Magazine’s visit to Dr D Studios in the October/November issue, now on newsstands.

What are your thoughts on the motion capture debate? Tell IF below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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