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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

no rats were harmed — or motion-captured — in the making of ‘Ratatouille’

It seems sorta odd and mysteriously retro, in an animation era that’s all about technology and using artificial means to create photorealistic imagery without photography, but here it is. Sit through the credits of the new Pixar CGI toon Ratatouille, and near the end you’ll see this:

Our Quality Assurance Guarantee:
100% Genuine Animation!
No motion capture or any other
performance shortcuts were used in
the production of this film.

I found that kinda charming at first glance, and then I started wondering: What the hell is going on here? Is there some sort of behind-the-scenes war going on between the various schools of animation? Old-school animation has all but disappeared from the big screen — every animated movie released so far this year has been digitally animated, and it looks like the rest of them will be too. (The Simpsons Movie is the only one I’m not sure about, although clearly some of it is CGI.) Disney closed its last studio for hand-drawn animation two years ago

But wait! Just this past February, Disney announced it was reversing course and would be getting back into the business of traditional animation. And everyone and their grandmother is totally psyched for James Cameron’s Avatar, which is being touted as a new revolution in animation in that not only will it be entirely motion-captured but 3-D as well. (Ain’t It Cool has the most recent rumors on the film’s technology.)

Which leaves the fully digital but fully “animated” Pixar folks smack in the middle.

Is this announcement in the Ratatouille credits some sort of hedge against the next step in the evolution of animation — or a backslide — that will put even more animators out of work? Or is it just a little joke, to get us thinking about the possibility of a poor little rat dressed up in spandex and covered with electronic sensors?

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