Animators find it difficult to bring the realistic human form to life on the screen. Why is this? The author suggests it has to do with the way we tell stories.
by Alva Noë
Warner Brothers Hero Boy — played by Tom Hanks — in The Polar Express
Many an animated character wouldn't seem so unreal and dead if it didn't seem so real and alive! This is a puzzle that has long troubled animators. If you saw Robert Zemeckis' The Polar Express, you know what I'm talking about. Remember the dead eyes of the characters, their zombie-like vacancy? Animators do an excellent job bringing the nonhuman to life on the screen — think of WALL-E, or the enchanted broomsticks in Fantasia, not to mention Mickey Mouse himself — but they falter with the more realistically human. And isn't hard to see why. As Lawrence Weschler, who takes up this topic in the lead essay of his excellent new book Uncanny Valley: Adventures in Narrative, puts it: "When a replicant's almost completely human, the slightest variance, the 1 ...