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I don’t know if you remember the various appearances by Dickie Fox in Jerry Maguire, the criminologist in The Rocky Horror Picture Show or Bruce Springsteen popping up in High Fidelity but those were those were the first two things to cross my mind when I read a new MTV article on Steven Soderbergh‘s Moneyball. The film is a fictional narrative based upon a non-fiction book and recounts how the Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane, as played by Brad Pitt, pioneers a new management system based upon an understanding of statistics.

This is where the toon comes in, because the book depends on the wisdom of Bill James, a stats master who provided the underlying knowledge and theory to make Beane’s plan viable, and rather than cast an actor as James in the film, Soderbergh has decided to have him animated.

Now, I don’t think Toon Bill is going to be walking about interacting with other characters, singing on stage at the Ink and Paint club and playing soccer with jungle animals. It seems instead that James is going to pop up in shots of his own, as a kind of interstitial, a statistical break, and probably addressing the camera directly. That’s just my assumption though, so here’s Soderbergh to help you draw your own conclusions:

We have this sort of oracle character that appears throughout and declaims various issues and he’s essentially supposed to be Bill James. He’s your host in a way…. The background will be real but the person who is supposed to be him will be animated.

“Essentially supposed to be Bill James” may mean that the character is more figurative, but it certainly sounds like they’re going for a human and not, say, a paperclip.

Will Soderbergh do the right thing and actually get this character properly animated? Like pleases-toon-buffs properly animated? I sincerely hope so.

All previous reports on the matter of Moneyball suggested a rather realist approach, with several non-professionals being cast as themselves and actual footage from the relevant season being licensed for inclusion. That begs the question – why have a toon oracle cropping up and chatting at us from time to time at all then?

It needs a gimmick. It needs something to make it not Masterpiece Theatre. His writer voice is so big, I thought to literalize it is going to actually harm it. I need to make his voice funny and when he comes on you’re happy to see it.

I guess these baseball stats could be boring, but I think I’d rather see live action here. Maybe Soderbergh is a touch worried about people thinking he’s ripping off the Dickie Fox idea?

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