- A viral tweet over the weekend started a debate around the “Avatar” movies and animation.
- The tweet asserts that “Avatar: The Way of Water” should be considered an animated film at the Oscars.
- But Academy’s rules note that motion capture isn’t necessarily an animation technique.
When it comes to its visuals, “Avatar: The Way of Water” has been widely praised.
Vox’s Alissa Wilkinson wrote that the movie “reminds us that blockbusters don’t have to look absolutely terrible.” I, myself, wrote that it makes Marvel movies look amateur. And, last week, it was nominated for best visual effects at this year’s Oscars — an award that the first “Avatar” movie won 13 years ago.
But a semi-viral tweet on Sunday raised the question of whether the film’s impressive visuals are so extreme that they qualify the film as an animated movie — and, thus, if it should be considered as one at the Oscars.
“Avatar is an animated film and should’ve been put in the animated film category,” tweeted artist Matthew Robert Davies, who’s worked on TV shows “Roy” and “The Adventures of Paddington.” “Hyper realism is still animation. Mo-cap is still animation.”
—Matthew Robert Davies (@Matt2Dee) January 29, 2023
The tweet has 2.3 million views, over 7,500 retweets, and over 72,000 likes.
The Oscars’ rules for the animated feature category define an animated movie as “a motion picture in which movement and characters’ performances are created using a frame-by-frame technique.”
The rules notes that to be considered in the category, an animated film “must have a significant number of the major characters animated” and that animation “must figure in no less than 75% of the picture’s running time.”
They go on to state that “motion capture and real-time puppetry are not by themselves animation techniques.”
“The Way of Water” relies heavily on motion capture. Most of the movie’s main characters are filmed using the technique, which Davies refers to “mo-cap.”
Actors donned suits that capture their movements and features to create the photorealistic aliens seen in the movie. Director James Cameron and his crew even developed new methods to film using the technology underwater.
The rules also stipulate that if a movie is “created in a cinematic style that could be mistaken for live action,” then it’s up to the filmmakers to submit their argument for why the film should be considered animated rather than live action.
It would be hard to argue that the “Avatar” movies could not be mistaken for live action.
The motion-capture technology is advanced. Cameron filmed much of “The Way of Water” in a 250,000-gallon tank with current machines to better create the film’s many ocean sequences, and there are prominent human characters in the mix.
Movies that are nominated in the animated feature category this year are more clearly defined as animated films by the rules, which note that stop motion counts as an animation technique. Both “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” and “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” utilize stop motion.