Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Uncanny Valley

While trolling through this online animation site I found this article:

(Sorry I couldn't make link to it, the computer I'm on doesn't seem to want to put the "Link" option on for me, grrr).

Anyway, it's a really cool, easy to read article regarding the theories of this guy called Mori who was working in the 1970's on psycological experiments about how people respond emotionally to robots. Bear in mind that this guy was doing all this before the advent of CGI, and what he essentially discovered was that humans only empathise with a certain degree of "anthropomorphism," which is the preference of imbuing non-human things with human characteristics, like talking animals or toasters with arms and legs.

So the article details how films like "Polar Express" are actually disturbing because of their realism, emotionally humans hit the "uncanny valley" where we no longer emotionally connect with such characters because they are not cartoony enough. Instead, they are too human like, but also not quite human enough, so they give the appearance of being doll-like and we find it difficult to give them a positive emotional response. Rather, characters like those in "The Incredibles," which are more cartoon-like, becuase of their ability to be "stunting bodies" and their often disproportionate bodies, become much easier to empathise with. So it's kind of interesting that companies like Walt Disney are trying harder and harder to achieve this humanism and realism within their animated characters, which is precisely what we as proper humans negatively respond to on an emotional level!

Funny how sometimes what you think you want, you really don't. I suppose the premise is, that if we can see ourselves in the animation we will be able to identify and thus connect emotionally with the characters, similar to tactics employed by live action Hollywood films, but it turns out that it just freaks us out!



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