My kids love Tintin comics by Herge, so I was unable to suppress my desire to watch the trailer of the new Tintin film (despite the fact I haven’t gone to the movies in nearly eight years). If you’re interested it’s here:
What surprised me is that the animation in Tintin seemed to me to fall into what is called the Uncanny Valley.
The Uncanny Valley refers to the widespread belief that when computer graphics, robots, or other representations of people look and act almost, but not quite, like the real thing, people are creeped out. Apparently some genuine research has been done in this area, and many experts in CGI and robotics try hard to avoid stumbling into the Uncanny Valley in order to avoid turning off potential viewers.
As technology advances, this becomes more and more difficult. Just when does the image flip from being disgusting and become convincing? And how are we supposed to respond to such simulacra?
[Indeed, this is a favorite theme in science fiction. For example, both the classic book I, Robot by Asimov and the Ridley Scott movie Blade Runner (based on Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) directly address this conundrum. In one fictional world, androids are prohibited from having a convincing human appearance altogether; in the other, such robots exist, but are forbidden from living on Earth.]
Now let’s get back to the new Tintin adaptation. I watched the trailer (and I should repeat that I actually don’t watch movies in theaters and rarely at home unless Jewish), and I immediately responded—Ugh!
I’m not sure why the producers opted for an image capture CGI as opposed to live action (there actually are already animated adaptations of the Tintin comics, so I’m not so shocked that they opted out of another animated version), but I had a visceral reaction against what I saw. I’m wondering if other viewers will have similar reactions. With more and more exposure to video game graphics and the like, maybe the Uncanny Valley will lose it’s effect on people who see a lot of CGI.