The big cats of “The Lion King” were applauded by the critics for their photorealism – even as the rest of the film was chastised for its soullessness. Nevertheless, that movie made a whole bunch of coin.
Six months later another film about computer-generated cats, the film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical “Cats,” arrived with much pre-release hysteria, terrible reviews and a dismal $57 million worldwide gross.
The film famously shot live-action actors acting in enlarged environments, and then added a whole bunch of CG animated fur and cat characteristics along with some post-production gloss. Naturally it’s the weirdness of the character’s look that has come under the most fire with some blaming rushed effects.
Oscar-winning “The Lion King” and “The Jungle Book” VFX supervisor Rob Legato spoke with Variety recently and says don’t blame the visual effects artists:
“Personally I don’t think [the film’s problems] were anything to do with the visual effects. The work that they did, that the artists created, was extraordinary. It’s the aesthetic. Do you like the aesthetic? Do you buy the scene? What happened was that the visual effects worked perfectly well in my opinion, but no one wanted to see that – or they didn’t like the aesthetic. And so the singing and dancing and the costumes and all that stuff – as beautifully pulled off as it is – doesn’t excite the audience.”
Legato adds while digital technology is advancing in terms of realism of effects, that alone can’t rescue a flawed approach to a project: “The techniques [you use] can’t do it. All movies are fake. There’s nothing real in them, and the illusion of that world that you’re building is created by the sum total of everything – not just one item in that.” Several other VFX experts in the piece seem to agree with him.
“Cats” is expected to hit home video sometime in April.