CGI of Animals in Film. I Has Beef.

by chelsea schuyler

Computer Animated Imagery.  Before I even enter the irrefutable evidence of this era’s erosion of embarrassing exploits, some disclaimers, clarification, and ground rules:

  1. I’m here to talk about movies that attempt to portray known living things. Not machines, not backgrounds, not fantasy creatures. I’m talking animals that actually exist or have existed.
  2. All portrayals in movies that are designed for excess campy-ness are
    forgiven due to awesome

    excused. Part of the fun is the innate laughter at something so incredibly unrealistic. The titles alone should disqualify any criticism, like Mansquito or Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus (the preview is priceless)–although their recreation of Debbie Gibson is phenomenal. It looks just like her. Like she would ever sink so…wait….

    forgiven due to poor
  3. All documentaries are excused. Documentaries are given 3 cents per episode and the point is to educate, not impress.
  4. We all have our opinions, mine’s just correct.



no contest

First of all, let’s get something straight. Jurassic Park (’93) wins. Which is backwards, because it is the first movie in film history to use cgi to depict known living things.

oh, kay
nicely done

Beforehand cgi had only progressed from a painful stained glass villain (Young Sherlock Holmes, ‘85) to damn decent water tubes (Abyss, ‘89), to pretty cool liquid metal (Terminator 2, ‘91).


Jurassic Park was originally going to be in stop motion, which is the best stop motion I’ve seen, but nevertheless contains that slightly too heavy gravity thing, and the ever disconcerting suspicion that the animals could spontaneously melt at any time, pouring out onto

AHH!! Get it off me!!

the theater and drowning us all. Not to mention it just reminds me of nightmarish childhoods of Rudolph the Red Nosed shall-not-be-speciated, and other horrifying gnomes and creepiness from the 80s and beyond.  Shudder.

Anyway, the reason Jurassic Park still stands to me as the greatest and most realistic CGI of animals ever made is, I am determined, not just because Spielberg is filthy rich, which no doubt has something to do with it.  BUT he actually brought in paleontologists, and sent field workers out to record various animal behavior, sound, and movement. This to me is the key to seamless animal imagery.  Shocking, the concept of actually looking to Nature to recreate Nature! Also, they created life size actually existing puppet/machines to act in the movie as well.  Genius.  Seamless amazement achieved.  The animals are animals.  Curious, hunters, but not monsters.

again with the evil, always the evil

Unfortunately, it is so CLEARLY obvious that most movie makers do not do their homework.  Really there’s no excuse, it’s coming on JP’s 20th anniversary. We’ve had time to not suck even with lesser budgets. Yet, cgi of animals are still ridiculously overacted, bouncy, badly lit, and display anthropomorphic (human-like) emotions or motives, particularly evility.

obvious man lends a hand

It’s the bouncy overacting that really gets to me. I mean, let’s say you move your arm.  You don’t need electrodes to know that your height does not rise and fall with the motion of your hand; every strand of your hair does not billow in the wave of wind thereafter; your shoulder does not compensate visibly; and you do not feel the need to blink three times along with the effort. You just move your friggin hand. Nothing else happens! This seems like such an obvious problem, evident immediately upon the first watch! Yet computer animists can’t seem to leave it alone.

In the following lecture we’ll get into some examples, please have chapters 6 and 8 read and your 3 line paper on the worst and best examples of cgi you have witnessed on my e-desk by wednesday.


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