View Full Version : Polar Express

11-12-2003, 06:10 PM

I totally forgot that Tom Hanks' new film was going to be CG. I thought you guys might get a kick out of this. I have to say the trailer is pretty impressive... Certainly better animating than some precursers, but clearly not THERE yet. What do you think? Also, anyone have the dirt on how and with what this is being made? I'm sure it's easily found but I'm lazy tonight and don't feel like searching.

11-12-2003, 06:17 PM
Cool! Looks really good(CG wise at least).

Always good to see more CG features in the works.


11-12-2003, 09:05 PM
The environments look good but the characters faces seem a little lifeless but the animation is good. Probably motion capture.
I will see it anyway when it comes out but after I see the Incredibles. :D


11-12-2003, 09:41 PM
Yeah, I'm sure most of the character animation is motion capture. Ahhh, how nice it would be to have that at your disposal. :p

The shot of the Hanks character jumping out of bed was really impressive.


11-12-2003, 09:42 PM
Don't like the characters. It looks to "Final Fantasyish". The first 2/3s of it reminds me of an old episode of Amazing Stories. Everything outside of the characters looks pretty nice though.

11-12-2003, 10:41 PM
It's a kids story. I'm sure the kids will love it.

11-13-2003, 12:59 AM
There's a fantastic audio-only version of the Polar Express, read by William Hurt. Nothing against Tom Hanks, but it's going to have to really be something to top the WH performance...

11-13-2003, 08:24 AM
after a quick look at the trailer it look like to become a modern classic, and although people may say the animation is this or that as hrgiger says
"It's a kids story. I'm sure the kids will love it."

I'd thought they would be better releasing it near Christmas though? An of course it maybe released November 2004 but in the UK that will mean July 2005:D
One for the DVD me thinks :)

11-13-2003, 09:16 AM
Well I can't say I agree about Twister, but Jurassic Park is indeed a film the surprizes me to this day. They really nailed those dinosaurs. Who knows why. I think most of it is the team making the FX not so much the software being used.

11-13-2003, 09:36 AM
Jurrassic Park is simply amazing. Watching it to this day the dino's are flawless. I consider it possibly the greatest use of CG in a movie.

I have to disagree with you, Oliver, for the most part. I think CG can be used to tell a story just as well as any other style. And I will enjoy a movie done well regardless of which one it uses.


11-13-2003, 09:47 AM
I think the main reason why CGI effects are so "easy" to spot nowdays is simply that there's so much more of it. In something like LOTR, when you notice there's something wrong in a shot or two, it also means there's hundreds of shots that you didn't notice.

So, it's mainly a matter of quantity / available time.

11-13-2003, 11:21 AM
King Kong (1930) still got his magic too.

11-13-2003, 11:21 AM
I dont understand how knowing somthing is computer generated ruins
a movie?

11-13-2003, 11:29 AM
I'll reiterate. It's a kids movie.

Frankly the only reason I'd go to see it would be for the visuals. Or just for the fact that I like Tom Hanks.

The reason they stopped from making Princess Fiona in Shrek too realistic was just because they didn't think that it meshed well with Shrek and some of the other more cartoony characters. Not because they didn't think they coud do it or because they might think it would look to fake in another 5 years. Everything in Polar Express that I've seen thus far looks like they are attempting for more realism, so perhaps they're trying to make the humans realistic as well.

Pixar just plain tells good stories. I think they could really slack off in the visual department for a movie, not that I ever think they would, and they would still have a box office success. They make characters that people care about.

You shouldn't even bring Final Fantasy into this. First off, basing a movie off of a game is almost a certain bomb at the box office right away. It's sort of like casting Madonna in your movie. *kiss of death*. Secondly, they didn't make the movie because they had a great story to tell, they just wanted to push the boundries of what was possible as far as CG realism. Not a very good reason to make a movie if you ask me. Again, I went to see it for the visuals and I could have cared less if the characters never said a word for the whole movie (it actually might have been a better movie that way...)

Polar Express is a classic holiday story that many know and love. And if they manage to tell the story well, It will succeed no matter what format it's in and I don't think it being CG will change that or take away from the story.

EDIT: I also think Jurrassic Park stands the test of time. Twister on the other hand.... Let me just remind you of the cow floating by their car....that was the worst thing I've seen in CG visuals since Clash of the Titans.

11-13-2003, 11:29 AM
gum shoe brings up a good point. In many movies the special effects were not meant to trick the viewer into thinking they were real. King Kong is a perfect example. No one was supposed to think that there was really a giant ape there, but despite the state of special effects, they went ahead and made it anyway. And it was and still is a great movie.
Personally I view CG characters the same way I view any actor. Anthony Hopkins may not have been Thomas Harris' vision of Hannibal Lecter, but we can all agree that he did a damn fine job portraying him. And so the same goes for "fake" creations. Gollum, as wonderful as he is, at no point tricked me into thinking they actually cast a heroin addict for the role, but it doesn't matter because it worked so well.
The problem comes when the director gets gluttonous and goes too far, leaving the audience thinking, why am I watching this? If it doesn't have to be CG then it probably shouldn't be.
My two cents.

EDIT: hrgiger you wrote:
Everything in Polar Express that I've seen thus far looks like they are attempting for more realism, so perhaps they're trying to make the humans realistic as well.

You may very well be right, but looking over my copy of the book, my first thought was that they were trying to capture the same artistic style used in those images, regardless of reality.

11-13-2003, 02:23 PM
Originally posted by Oliver
Nevertheless the point is - CG, or better VFX, is easier to spot nowadays, right? That's the thing I don't like. Ruins a movie now and than (NOT LOTR! Not LOTR? ... We'll see. "The Lost World" (1925) still got his magic). OK, now I got it. Thanks, guys :)


VFX is harder and harder to spot where it is intended to be not seen. Close to impossible in many cases.

Stuff like creatures and space scenes is obvious - it HAS to be a VFX of some sort, so you're tuned into finding the mistakes.

What i mean is that there's the "invisible" stuff like sets, cars, stunts, houses, animals, you know, stuff that exists, or could exist in real life.

It's CGI much more often than you'd expect. The point is, when that stuff is done well you don't notice it AT ALL, and thus don't even TRY to spot mistakes or VFX clues.

This said, i agree with you on not showing stuff: i.e. on empire stikes back, where they added that ice creature in the special edition, they totally ruined the tension in that scene - same principle applies to many other cases.

The first "Alien" movie was scary as hell and a great movie. The second was just somewhat watchable, and not scary at all. The difference?? They overexploited the alien in the 2nd. It's the unknown that makes people tick - if you CAN show something in a movie, it doesn't mean you SHOULD.

11-13-2003, 02:32 PM
Originally posted by Halsu

The first "Alien" movie was scary as hell and a great movie. The second was just somewhat watchable, and not scary at all.

I'll grant you the first Alien movie was scary and a great movie. However, saying Alien 2 was just somewhat watchable is bordering on blasphemy! Aliens is one of the best sci-fi films ever made!

11-13-2003, 02:40 PM
I didn't like Matrix either. I'm weird that way.

Sorry ;-)

Here's two commercials i worked on... the first has some obvious CGI, but also some a bit less obvious.

Lumene (http://www.akmp-program.fi/Lumene/Lumene_spotti_mix_V1.mpg)

Same goes with this

F1 opening for MTV3 Finland (http://www.akmp-program.fi/www/Video/F1_open.mpg)

Spot the unobvious CGI parts ;-)

These are far from perfect, but they've fooled most of the viewers: mostly because they didn't expect CGI.

11-13-2003, 03:59 PM
Hmm, I don't see the similarities to Final Fantasy. The characters look very stylized to me.

I'm a big fan of Robert Zemekis and it's great to see that he's branching out to full-on CG. Now if only David Fincher would make a CG film. :)

11-13-2003, 09:18 PM
Interesting discussion going on here. =)

Originally posted by Oliver
And I will enjoy a movie done well regardless of which one it uses.

I disagree. The way you tell a story adds so much to the overall experience. There are ways to tell a story wrong. I just don't see the reason for Polar Express to be totally CG. That look of the PE trailer - I don't like it. If the movie supports it - I'll love it.

That actually agrees with what I had said pretty well. All I said is that if a movie is made well I will enjoy it. The way the story is told is directly related to whether it was done well or not, so from my point of view we actually agreed on that too. :cool:

Final Fantasy was a mistake. I agree that it was made for completely the wrong reasons, however it looked rather stunning. Not completely photoreal, but a lot of it was sure close. ;)

Now that renderingfarm has brought it up, looking again they really have captured the feel of the original artwork very well. I'm completely behind them for their choice to do this in CG, and am confident it will turn out well. We'll see though! =P


11-14-2003, 07:20 AM
Well. vfx in movie industry had always the intention of giving life to the impossible, showing things wich are impossible to exist,
or situations wich are difficult if not impossible in reality. Never forget that every movie is fiction. A story is fiction as well, also because we could describe
the same situation with different words and have a different story on the same subject.
now, showing impossible things , creatures and situations, can be done in different ways. I think that there can be an artistic way,
very subjective and with the possibility to go far from realism(lets think to Meliès movies, or Bunuel ) and a more integrated realistic way of thinking, integrating Vfx
more with the footage, making them quite unnoticeable (Forrest Gump is a good example here)
So, no matter wich technique you can use to show impossible or difficult things on the screen, Animatronics, compositions,
2D animations of sfx, matte paintings, and CG, the important thing is to assemble the image you want to see.

The interesting thing of 3D, is also that you can produce different kinda rendering, from 2D to different degrees of 3D, till
photorealism. in the case of creatures, I find that the better use of 3D, even photorealistic, is to build imposssible
to exist(but believable) creatures. in the case of FF,humans were made with 3D as well, but the question is :are they impossible to exist?
no, the're merely human, so, even there's nothing wrong to make them in 3D, that's not an interesting use of it. much more interesting are
Jurassic Park dinosaurs or Gollum, wich doesn't exist for real.

the quality of believable creatures of every kind is going to increase in time surely, even after LOTR and was the intention
just in King Kong and Harryhousen movies, wich got the technique many steps further with an high technical level, and
a good artistic sense as well. the technique and materials at that time didn't allow to get better results for sure. that's way things like go motion and
animatronics were created and this is valid also for 3D imagery.

Finally, 3D is good even from a more artistic approach to visualize also not photorealistic things nor cartoony at all
slowly, a new kinda look and design, more typical of 3D and solo artist related has born and its growing.
its not a matter of a translation of the other languages like 2D animation and cartoons or movie like creatures in 3D,
even if you van use it this way, but a more 3D related imagery for this new medium. we are not arrived completely yet, but when a product will be fully appreciated BECAUSE its in 3D, then we will be at a good artistic level.