I haven't seen Shrek yet. This despite the fact that lots of people I know have seen it and liked it and recommended it to me. Despite the fact that there are fairy tale elements at work in it and despite the fact that Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot co-wrote the screenplay with a couple other people.
Why haven't I seen it? The animation in the trailer creeped me out.
Stephanie Zacharek's review at salon.com seems to most clearly describe the feeling I got just from watching the trailer:
The hyperrealism of computer animation begs another question: If your goal is to make things look as realistic as possible, why bother with animation at all? One of the great pleasures of animation is the way it distills movement and color and sound into their simplest outlines; at its best, it gives us as much information as we need and no more. Our minds are left free to connect the dots, to fill in the minute spaces between the lines.
"Shrek," on the other hand, gives us too much. And yet with so many tools at their disposal, and with so much skill at their command, the animators of "Shrek" haven't graced us with anything particularly memorable. Walt Disney with his early shorts of singing and dancing bunnies or skeletons; Tim Burton with his Jack Skellington and Sally in "The Nightmare Before Christmas"; Nick Park with his man-and-dog team in "Wallace and Gromit" and his prisoner-fowl in "Chicken Run"; Chuck Jones with just about anything -- there's a long and varied list of individuals who have imbued cartoon characters with bottomless expressiveness without the help of anything as sophisticated as DreamWorks' Express-o-matic (or whatever it's called). Why do we need it now?
Why bother with animation at all? Uh, how about to portray things that don't actually exist? Isn't that the whole point of animation?
The value in computer animation is precisely that the fantastic and the realistic can be tightly integrated. It's why all the big SFX companies use computers for much of the effects today, even when integrating them with live-action shots. While this shouldn't be the raison d'etre of a film, it does make possible many films which couldn't reasonably be filmed successfully in the past. (This is why we might actually get a Lord of the Rings adaptation which doesn't suck.)
Sure, a handful of truly dedicated artists like Nick Park can produce similar effects with older techniques, but how many feature-length films has Park produced? How many have Pixar produced? (And didn't I hear that Chicken Run used computerized post-production to smooth out some animation glitches?)
Of course, whether or not full animation or live shooting with inserted SFX is a superior approach in the long run is either (1) a matter or taste or (2) yet to be determined. There may be space for both. Why deny an artist his chosen palette?
Shrek starts out with the essential ingredient of any film: A solid premise and a fine script. The animation isn't showy (it doesn't linger over its technological break-throughs like Toy Story 2 did), it serves the purpose of the story, and it presents a story which otherwise couldn't have been told in such detail. It's funny and touching.
The animation might not be memorable, but if it were, wouldn't that be a little failure of some sort? It's the film that's worthwhile. Don't miss it.
(P.S.: A Nightmare Before Christmas had memorable animation? What planet is Zacharek living on? It wasn't a bad film, but the animation seemed only a few notches above Filmation standards.)
Posted by: Michael Rawdon at June 11, 2001 12:03 AM