So it turns out some of the crowd scenes in Boxtrolls are filled with CG characters, you can read more about it here -

http://cinefex.com/blog/boxtrolls/

I'm sure not everyone will be pleased about this, but I have to say I don't mind so much.  In fact its kind of a relief to know, I couldn't image how long it would take to do something like that ball room dance scene in stopmotion and what it would do to your head as an animator having to figure that out!

CG's not going to go away, so it should be embraced and used as a tool to aid us.  It seems they only used it when necessary and they got the pipeline set up properly, so everyone reports to the same animation director.

I still prefer the purer stop motion films like "Mr Fox" or the Aardman movies, but I'm glad someone's experimenting and pushing boundaries.

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I thought the use of 3d in Frankenweenie was very well integrated. I didn't even think about it. As long as I'm not focusing on the 3d animation like a laser during the film, I'm ok with it.

Crowd duplication is fairly common in any movie. It's far cheaper even in live action film to simply populate a city with CG models as opposed to hiring a thousand extras, or in the case of Boxtrolls making hundreds of handmade puppets. By this day in age digital effects has gotten to the point of nearly seamlessly bridging any gaps between what is possible or feasible for production and the environment it's being placed in. So, seeing CG in a stop motion animated film is not surprising and does not have to a direct threat towards stop motion animation. Any animated film and most live action film will at some point in production integrate CG elements into the film. I completely agree with the pleasing aesthetic of a visual effects free film. Although even Nightmare Before Christmas included composited effects. Granted it used traditional animation, which is just a slightly different approach to the same process as stop motion, but it's difficult for any film (especially set in a fantastical world) to not include some amount of effects.

My feeling is that if it's necessary for budgetary or feasibility and is properly done and integrated well, then I think it's allowable.

It didn't bother me. If anything, it made me feel better that some of the crowd characters were CG. Watching that ballroom scene, I was like, "how am I ever going to do anything like that? I suck!" And then to hear "oh, those were computer-generated characters", it was like a big "ohhhhh" and then relaxation, because the animators couldn't do that in stop motion either.

Yeah, I'm with you on that one Don!  If anyone ever asks me to make a room full of people dance like what they saw on Boxtrolls I won't feel to bad saying no can do.

I think that's a good way of looking at it Ethan, they've approached it like a live action movie would use visual effects.  It is pretty scary that if CG can recreate stopmotion so well, but that shouldn't be a surprise - that's basically what they did with the lego movie.  

Jack I'm not sure which bits of Frankenweenie where CG, I guess I wondered if the cat transformation had a bit of help, but nothing else springs to mind.  Conversely when I saw Paranorman I thought that the bits where the young witches head was glitching and blurring was a CG effect, it was nice to find out they'd made a stretched head - gave a great effect.

I guess most of the audience don't actually care, but it is good when people use their imagination before just turning to a computer to do it - and then if they do need use CG effects they use them creatively too.

I was planning a crowd scene with all puppets, but re-dressing the same ones and compositing them in layers.  That way I cold animate a manageable half-dozen or so at a time, and make 8 puppets look like 40.  But there were still limits to how much I could do that way, and really, using cgi for background extras probably makes more sense if you can pull it off.  My cgi doesn't hold up unless it's tiny in the distance (maybe) but I couldn't pick it when I saw Boxtrolls.  So I can't really object.  

I thought the scene was done the way Nick outlined, with puppets composited into layers. The fact that there are some CG characters is...I guess...okay. But then I'm another Fantastic Mr. Fox fan, so I'm biased anyway toward old-school stuff. But like Ethan said, if that's what it took to get the job done, so be it. 

Still think those replacement faces are funky, though. :(

To be honest I felt like the replacement faces were more noticeable in The Boxtrolls than they were in Paranorman. Maybe that's just me? I was always impressed by how much effort they and other studios put into replacement faces, but despite their best efforts I would much rather see a well animated mechanical face like the Paranorman zombies or the puppets in Corpse Bride..

grecodan said:

I thought the scene was done the way Nick outlined, with puppets composited into layers. The fact that there are some CG characters is...I guess...okay. But then I'm another Fantastic Mr. Fox fan, so I'm biased anyway toward old-school stuff. But like Ethan said, if that's what it took to get the job done, so be it. 

Still think those replacement faces are funky, though. :(


I agree. There were some shots where it was very obvious what was going on with the faces. Compared with the smoothness of the body animation, it was a bit jarring. Although I do think it was partially the design of the characters. Lord Portley-Rind's face, in particular, seemed very stiff, despite his wonderful mustache,* so when it did move it really drew attention.

*And I wonder if some of those mustache twirls were developed as a response to his stiffness?


Ethan Bartholomae said:

To be honest I felt like the replacement faces were more noticeable in The Boxtrolls than they were in Paranorman. Maybe that's just me? I was always impressed by how much effort they and other studios put into replacement faces, but despite their best efforts I would much rather see a well animated mechanical face like the Paranorman zombies or the puppets in Corpse Bride..

I had a very similar reaction to the replacement faces in Boxtrolls, there were times where it even took me completely out of the action because I was thinking "how did they let THAT slip by?" But I have a theory that they did it intentionally to highlight the fact that this is in fact a stop motion film...I know a lot of laypeople that thought Paranorman was a fully CG movie because it was so smooth and polished... Maybe they didn't want people thinking that about Boxtrolls? Ha.

Anyone in the Los Angeles area might be interested in this Box Trolls event:

Book Signing

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