Monday, September 5, 2011

Animation Progress- Alice in Wonderland

The first time I saw Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, I had a hard time liking anything about the movie. Since 3D was being offered, I sprung for the more expensive ticket, which ending up just giving me a headache which detracted from the entire movie experience. When I saw the movie in theaters a second time (this time in 2D), I fell in love.

Unlike many films that have come before it, I felt that Alice in Wonderland did a fantastic, if not flawless job of integrating human actors into an animated world. There was never a scene in the film where the human characters looked out of place or as if they had been photoshop-ed into a clearly make-believe set. The character of the Red Queen is supposed to have a very large head. Obviously, the actress' head was no larger than the average person's, but the way this effect was presented made it easy to believe that while she is still a human, her head was absurdly large. Similar to the Harry Potter films where Hagrid (a half-giant) is shown as such, if we stop to think about the actors, we know they are average size, but the technology used for the movie never makes us doubt that they are a giant, or a queen with a giant head.

It is clear that as time goes on the technology for blending the computerized world and real world is improving. If you think about past movies that have tried to incorporate one into the other, I'm sure you can come up with some pretty bad examples. For example, while the Harry Potter crew did a great job with Hagrid, in the first movies I felt the scenes of Harry riding his broom during Quidditch matches (where his broom is possessed and he's bumping into the stands) where so painfully computerized I laughed out loud. The movie would have been better if that scene was left out than using a cartoony, Harry (who could have easily passed as a character taken out of The Polar Express, not a human actor). Moments like that break the illusion that what the audience is watching is real... if not in our world than in some other world. When we become aware that we're actually watching a movie, it loses that magical something.

Compare Toy Soldiers to the more recent Avatar and it is clear that we are making major strides in technology improvement. Here's a clip to see the Alice in Wonderland "Progress Reel," which I found to be really interesting, never have been inside an (almost entirely) green screen room. I think we all can still find amazement in behind-the-scenes clips like these despite the fact this is what we go to school for.

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