Posted by Cameron @ 1:08 pm on July 19th 2009

Uncanny mouth motion

I hate movies that include talking animals. Most egregious are the attempts to force animal mouths to mirror human speech motions. The CGI used in movies like Beverly Hills Chihuahua annoys me even in the short lengths featured in movie trailers. I think the problem stems from an uncanny valley issue. By imbuing animals with the uniquely human trait of mouth motion it screws up the perception of the animal as purely animal. Something just doesn’t sit well with me with this style of animation. I don’t have a problem with purely 2D animals speaking, probably because the mouth motion doesn’t look remotely human in classic animation. I also don’t have as much of an issue with creatures that aren’t animal like speaking. The Geico gecko doesn’t really get on my nerves because it stretches the limits of animalness. But a talking golden retriever or cat rubs me the wrong way nearly every time.

Aside from being a brilliant film, Up deftly avoided this issue. As I was walking out of the theater it occurred to me how cleverly the dog collar gag worked. It allowed the dog to be a fully realized speaking character but didn’t disturb the realism of the dog by attempting to make it partially human.


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