Is A New, All-Animated “Garfield Movie” a Nail in the Coffin for CGI/Live-Action Hybrids? – Animation Scoop

Is A New, All-Animated “Garfield Movie” a Nail in the Coffin for CGI/Live-Action Hybrids?

The announcement that comic strip star Garfield is to return to the big screen in fully animated form is rather surprising given that his previous outings were mostly live-action hybrids. Does this news mean that there is a nail being (finally) driven into that style of film?

Garfield is well-known for his animated outings. The original TV show featuring Lorenzo Music as the eponymous cat is fondly remembered and still holds up quite well today. The live-action feature films starring Bill Murray as the character in CGI form are, uh, held in somewhat lower esteem and pretty much everyone agrees that don’t hold up near as well either.

garfield150CGI/live-action hybrid films became fanatically popular as a cheap method to combine the cost efficiency of live-action with the trendy and popular appeal of CGI animation. Initially a novelty, the style evoked the ever-popular Who Framed Roger Rabbit! and proved rather popular at the box office. Pretty quickly though, standards began to slip, and before we all knew it, the style had become a rash that put a blemish not only on cinema screens, but just about everyone’s fond memories of their cartoon heroes too.

Garfield was one of those initial batch of toons which were given the treatment, but whose quality was markedly lower than expectations. The widely panned first film did well enough to warrant a second outing before the series was shelved and all-CGI direct to DVD sequels were released instead.

With this latest announcement, it would seem that Garfield is being given another chance to appear on the big screen, and the choice of full animation is interesting. While cost may not have been a factor in this decision, it’s possible that quality and longevity are. Animation (even in CGI form) has remarkable longevity that live-action film can only envy. While not quite as popular now as when they were released, early CGI films continue to appear fresher than live-action films from the same time. In any case, the long-standing practice of choosing hybrid films as the default option appears to be (thankfully) over.

Which, if true, is all the more intriguing because CGI costs have never been lower, and integrating live-action and animation has ironically never been more popular. Practically every film being given a wide release these days incorporates animated effects, and the vast majority of the blockbuster ‘tentpole’ films maximise the technology for visual awe.

garfield-cgThis begs the question as to whether animation technology has advanced to the point where it just doesn’t make quite as much sense to make a hybrid film if a fully animated one is only marginally more expensive. If true, we may finally be witnessing the demise of one of the most reviled genres of movie ever seen.

Animated characters never deserved to be treated as such in the first place, and whenever the dreaded term was applied to a production, you could almost hear the collective groan of everyone who cherished them. If a character that has formally renounced the technology in favour of actual animation, then it needs to be applauded as a move in the right direction. Animated characters and cartoons in general are a style distinct from live-action, and while the latter can cross over successfully into the latter, the reverse is hardly every true. Blending the two together can create superb magic as Roger Rabbit clearly demonstrated, but when the same high standards are not adhered to, the results are deplorable.

An all-animated Garfield film is a positive development and our only hope now is that the necessary artistic efforts and production resources are applied to create a film that honours the character’s long legacy and love of lasagna.

Charles Kenny

Charles Kenny

Being tall, Irish and a civil engineer by trade, Charles stands out in the animation crowd, hence his position as the Animation Anomaly.
Charles Kenny
Share
Both comments and pings are currently closed.
  • I see what you’re saying about if it’s probably over, as taking the idea of a feature film of a comic strip/cartoon character is challenge enough. It is not as easy to create a world where they are believable and breathing, in relation to their live action counterparts (which made Roger Rabbit a great film to behold, even compared to today’s films).

    The problem with the fusion is that the same amount of care and passion is not brought on board as Roger Rabbit’s performance (Richard Williams really set the bar high, and with good reason – he’s a pioneer of animation). Even though more live action films fuse with animated characters (new Ghostbusters, sci fi films like Avatar, fantasy films, etc.) for the final product, it’s just not as believable as it used to be.

    Also, we have no word yet if the possibly sequel to Space Jam (with LeBron James) will be cgi, or hand drawn.