Database for Animation Studies


The Technologically Determined Decade: Robert Zemeckis, Andy Serkis, and the Promotion of Performance Capture

Between 2004 and 2011, Robert Zemeckis directed or produced five films – The Polar Express, Monster House, Beowulf, A Christmas Carol, and Mars Needs Mom – which utilized performance capture technology. Zemeckis and his effects team on The Polar Express refined the existing standards of motion capture to produce the more sophisticated performance capture, which allows for the digitization of an actor’s complete performance. This article charts two competing discourses that surrounded these films: the generally negative critical reception that saw the performance capture aesthetic as uncanny and creepy, and Zemeckis’ own promotion of the technology in industry interviews. Zemeckis’ early work with the technology is contrasted with Andy Serkis’ acclaim as a performance capture star, and how both men have worked as advocates for the technology, foregrounding their claims that performance capture could enhance or even revolutionize film production and, in particular, film acting.

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Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal
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