Posted on Monday, March 23rd, 2009 by Peter Sciretta
You’ve probably seen reporters talking to animated characters in the past. The process usually involves the reporter asking prescripted questions while looking at an empty chair which has a pre rendered cartoon character is inserted into the frame. I’ve always found the result rather boring because of the canned answers, which were never really too funny. /Film reader and E Online correspondent Craig Macrae sent me an email, forwarding me to his interview with Rhino the hamster from Disney’s computer animated film Bolt. What’s different about this interview is that it was actually conducted in real time with Mark Walton, the animator turned voice of Rhino.
I can only assume that Disney developed a computer program that acts as a real-time digital puppet for the character, and software that matches the hamster’s lip movements to the real-time responses from Walton. The result is far from perfect, but cool none the less. I can only imagine how real something like this will look 10 years from now.
Macrae claims that Disney handed him the tape five minutes after the video was recorded. I’m sure someone from Disney was behind the scenes making sure to edit anything out of the conversation that might not gel well with the company’s brand. And it does appear that Walton threw a few pre scripted jokes into the mix as well. It also seems to me that Disney should (or maybe is planning to?) use this technology in their theme parks to allow visitors to interact with select Disney characters and purchase the resulting video for some overpriced sum of money. (Update: readers in the comments have pointed actually already out that Disney uses similar technology on the Finding Nemo and Monster Inc attractions…) Watch the video after the jump.