January 3rd, 2009

Ann Vole

Beverly Hills Chihuahua

I just watched "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" movie and was pleasantly surprised. There are so many digitally-talking "real" animals in films that are given really stupid lines of dialog that it almost seems a bit strange to see some decent voice acting and well built dialog in a talking-animal film. I would not say that the dialog was "great" but at least it was not the usual "terrible". I also liked the relatively believable dialog as in those lines would be expected from the real dog if dogs had a dog-only language (barks to us) and were in that situation. I hope future talking animal films take the example and try to write good lines and get good voice acting behind things before animating.

I liked the fact that one of the main characters is a pack-rat (and was designed fairly closely to desert woodrats of the southern USA commonly known as pack-rats). One problem though was his body would do weird bending and snaky movements... same as the chipmunk on "Enchanted" did. I figure this must be the fault of some sort of animation software used on both these realistic-looking rodent characters in Disney-made films. I think the software was trying to keep the movement's smooth by segmenting the body into parts then moving the whole thing like a slinky spring. I am going to have to try to see what is common between the people or software or equipment working those two films specifically on the rodent animation or rigging. Of course if I was doing the film, I would have tried to get a real animal to do the movements and then just manipulate the images with a little lip syncing and dangerous situation avoidance. Next stop will be that "Bedtime Stories" film with the guinea pig (and Adam Sandler finding his character's kids making up stories that come true). From what I have seen in previews, the guinea pig suffers from the same snaky motions in his animation. After watching Reepacheep and his mouse-SWAT team many times, I know rodent animation can be done very realistically without losing any of the anthropomorphic dignity that Reepecheep (a knight of Narnia) is loved for having too much of.

Another couple things I liked about Beverly Hills Chihuahua was the thing at the end suggesting the audience do their research on the breed of dog they should get before looking for one to be a live-long pet. and the other thing was the very long list of animal trainers suggesting that they did what I think good scenes with lots of animals on-set, every animal needs a separate trainer/handler to focus on to keep the stress and confusion to a minimum for the animal actors. I would like to replace those handlers/trainers with a computer artificial intelligence program but with the idea that each animal will get individual attention and instant clicker training interactions in a familiar way for the animal even when in a miniature rodent-sized set with dozens or even hundreds of fellow animal actors... all doing their own commands from their own computer AI program.

edit:
The same people (Tippett Studio) worked on Pip (Enchanted chipmunk), Manuel (Beverly Hills Chihuahua packrat), and Bugsy (Bedtime Stories guinea pig) as well as those BlockBuster commercials with the rabbit and guinea pig (Carl and Ray)