‘TMNT’ Director & Producer Say Andy Serkis Deserves an Oscar

Published 9 months ago by

Dawn of the Planet of Apes Andy Serkis Oscar TMNT Director & Producer Say Andy Serkis Deserves an Oscar

Following the success of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Hollywood is once again faced with a challenge: how to fairly reward motion capture performers and digital effects artists for the collaborative effort of bringing CGI characters to life. For years, movie fans have been pushing for the Academy (among other film organizations) to reward performers like Andy Serkis for their acting work. Still, most award shows do not recognize motion-capture in performance - with no category to celebrate the accomplishments of actors who do not appear as flesh and blood on screen.

Yet, as motion-capture performers have pushed the boundaries of what movie and TV viewers can expect from their characters (in terms of relatable emotion), visual effects studios are pushing the boundaries of capture-technology and digital artistry – posing the challenging question: Where Does Andy Serkis End and Animation Begin? Over the past month, we’ve seen a variety of opinions offered-up on the subject from a variety of sources –  including Dawn of the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves as well as actors, producers, effects supervisors, as well as critics – and now Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles helmer Jonathan Liebesman is offering his thoughts on the topic.

Certain longtime TMNT fans remain skeptical of the upcoming reboot but, in spite of controversial/modern redesigns for the titular Turtles, Liebesman is well-equipped to comment on the line between actor and digital effects – since Industrial Light and Magic developed revolutionary motion-capture technology to turn twenty-something human actors into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Nevertheless, during our chat with the director at Comic-Con 2014, Liebesman lays out very clear (albeit personal) definitions with regard to the line between performers and VFX artists.

teenage mutant ninja turtles 2014 michelangelo TMNT Director & Producer Say Andy Serkis Deserves an Oscar

Even though the filmmaker is grateful to the effects teams that helped bring his Turtles to life, the director outright stated that, in his opinion, Andy Serkis deserves an Oscar:

Liebesman: I believe you cannot get a great performance without a great actor and animators are almost there to retarget that performance onto the characters you create. So when they say “Andy Serkis deserves the Oscar,” he does deserve the Oscar. He does an amazing performance. He makes you believe that Caesar is real and so those were the shoulders we were standing on. So we cast the actors that embodied each Turtle – and their performance was translated.

In the same vein, producer Andrew Form expressed support for the artists that turn motion capture performances into believable and emotive digital creations. Yet, the Platinum Dunes filmmaker maintains that quality acting talent is instrumental in establishing a framework – promising those performances shine through the CGI translation process.

Form: Also, people say they see Andy Serkis in Caesar. If you took pictures of the actors next to their Turtle, you’d definitely see their faces in these Turtles. Like he said, Andy Serkis deserves the Oscar, it is their performance. Noel Fisher as Michelangelo, you see him in Michelangelo. You really do, if you look at them side-by-side.

Even the biggest TMNT reboot fans will be unlikely to campaign for Pete Ploszek (Leonardo), Alan Ritchson (Raphael), Noel Fisher (Michelangelo), Jeremy Howard (Donatello), or Danny Woodburn (Splinter) to be awarded for motion capture work in the upcoming film. As a result, some readers will dismiss Liebesman and Form’s comments entirely.

Andy Serkis as Caesar in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes TMNT Director & Producer Say Andy Serkis Deserves an Oscar

That said, just because Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles prioritizes campy action over emotionally charged drama does not mean that these filmmakers aren’t qualified to comment on the fine line between actors and animation. In fact, if Liebesman and Form are confident that their TMNT actors drove performance in their respective on-screen counterparts (tongue-in-cheek mutant heroes), shouldn’t that be even more reason to recognize motion-capture actors that drive performance in evocative and game-changing roles like Caesar? As usual, this isn’t to take anything away from the artists that, as Liebesman asserts, “retarget” motion-capture performances onto digital creations.

There are a lot of opinions on what needs to be done: allow motion-capture artists into traditional performance categories, create a new category for motion-capture performances (that would include both the actor and the visual effects team), among others. Still, there’s no doubt that, whether you side with the actors, the effects companies, or want to see them receive joint recognition, Hollywood is going to need to address the issue – since performers and effects teams are going to keep pushing the debate forward with increasingly powerful on-screen characters.

MORE: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Podcast


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will open in theaters on August 8th, 2014.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is currently playing in 2D and 3D theaters.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for further updates on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.

Follow Ben Kendrick on Twitter @benkendrick
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  1. a new “Motion capture” Oscar should be a group effort award. The ward would go to the actor, and to the SFX team who made the character possible.
    Doesn’t this sound equitable? Neither is complete without the other. Seems to fair to reward them together.

    • Don’t you think the SFX team should just receive the award for Visual Effects instead, or have you just forgotten it existed?

      • There is a Visual Effects award given by the Motion Picture Academy and a whole separate Sci-Tech award ceremony for technology that furthers the making of motion pictures. If some people feel they are not being adequately recognized maybe they should not have gotten into a field where there are dozens of other people working on the same project for a company that will get most, if any of the recognition for the work. You never hear anyone complaining about the hundreds of Korean animators that have worked on traditional animation projects for decades not getting any awards or pats on the back. Animation is grunt work unless you are on top, that has always been the case.

  2. Academy Award for Special Performance in a Motion Picture

    covers voice work (Her), mo-cap (Apes), animal (The Artist), and anything else that doesn’t fit into a normal acting category.

    • +1 This. Totally agree

    • That would be very difficult to judge because you cant judge them all the same way.

    • Yeah, that and Comedy needs it’s own Oscar.

  3. Here’s the thing:

    There aren’t enough mo-cap performances per year to assign a special category. And the Academy doesn’t have time to file through the behind-the-scenes work to see which parts of the performance are Serkis and which parts are just special effects.

  4. Just add two new categories, one for motion capture performance and one for the team who create the actual creatures we see on sreen.

    Or failing that, add the SFX team behind the mocap into the Special Effects category (there is one, right? I always assumed so). Or call it “digital makeup” and put it in with the Make Up category until there’s enough material per year to separate the two.

  5. I know Andy Serkis gets all the mo cap attention (deservedly so) but if we are talking Oscars for DOTPOTA it should be for Toby Kebbels’ portrayal of Koba, imho.

  6. It’s sad nobody on this website seem to respect the idea that a motion capture performance deserves an Oscar nod.

    • I think it’s sad if you think a mo-cap should be considered in the same category as Best Actor.

      • So you’d say no to an actor winning for an animated movie’s voice work then too?

        Mocap is a more physical style of acting than regular acting. Shouldn’t it be recognised?

      • +1

        I agree whole heartedly. Special rec? Sure I think he has ushered in something fantastic.

        Who knows in 15 years maybe they will have the Andy Serkis award for best MoCap performance….

      • I think it’s sad you dont know exactly what it is you are talking about. As a film student who works with actors, performance capture is 100% acting. It it really annoys me and somewhat insulting for people on here to say performance capture isnt the same as “real” acting? It just comes from a lack of understanding the this new tool. I totally believe the performance capture should be in the same category as Best Actor/Actress. People think acting is easy. It’s not.

        And here is the other thing, when people who look at his performance as Caesar side by side next to the raw footage of him in the PC suit and they say, “Ohh it doesn’t look exactly look like the same performance in the raw footage.” We yes that is true becasuse chimps have different muscle structures from humans. So of course it isn’t going to look exactly the same.

        But anyway, give this man an oscar. He deserves it.

        • +1

          I mean, sure, he helped revolutionise the mocap industry but it’s upsetting in a way that people don’t recognise it as “real acting” and still see it as people screwing around in costumes like it was when they had actors and martial artists to mocap the original Mortal Kombat.

          Acting of ANY kind deserves to be recognised.

        • Nobody’s saying that its not acting it definitely is and Andy Serkis is an amazing actor and he definitely deserves an award but its very difficult for him to receive one.His performances are amazing but his performances are enhanced by the visual effects crew they would deserve some recognition also.When an actor loses weight and completely changes his/her appearance such as Charlize Theron in Monster they are usually given an award or nominated because they transformed to where they were unrecognizable.Andy Serkis with the help of performance capture is able to skip the transformation process and just act the role out.Im not trying to take anything away from him or bashing him I’m just saying that the visual effects help his performance.

          • The argument that Serkis is assisted greatly by the post production computer animation process may be valid on one hand, but it still begs the question how much work are some of these directors doing if they are shooting portions of the movie on green screen with some of the actors and the rest of the visuals are added later by the same visual effects people who some think are not getting their due credit.

  7. an oscar for a man who plays monkeys? what a joke, good one ha ha ha. The man deserves nothing

  8. NO NO NO. I’m sick of reading this. After an actor delivers a mo-cap performance, their facial expressions and voice can tweaked in post production. Undeserving of an Oscar. Praise, yes. Oscar? Get a grip.

    • That’s a slippery slope there. Nowadays lots of performances are played with post production. Rerecording lines, digitally adding or erasing things, reshoots could be thrown in there if you want to get anally technical. Where do you draw he line?

  9. A Lot of ignorant people on this thread.

    The man deserves an oscar nod. However, I believe the real question should be, is there enough motion capture work being released to warrant a running for the actual award. Yes, he and others deserve the credit but there isnt enough of these performances to give the category a fluid running. And even if so, then you water down the category, because not the performances would be worthy of acknowledgment. You would just fill the void, and that would just mean Andy would get spoon fed awards.

    People need to think more. And leave the ignorant arguments alone.

    • **not all

  10. Andy serkis is an amazing actor without a doubt but this is a complicated issue.His performances are worthy of some awards but it is difficult to give him one.the character’s motion,voice,mannerism all come from the actor but when your watching the movie you cant tell thats them because of all the visual effects that enhance the performance.Without the visual effects some of the magic would be lost.Their isn’t that much motion capture going on now for it to have it’s own category it would be just like the best Animated Feature Award where we can already tell who will most likely win because some were just nominated to fill a spot and aren’t even worthy of recognition.If Motion capture was put with the category of best actor their would be an outrage because motion capture is a team effort.This is really difficult but i would say that motion capture sadly wont be recognized any time soon.

  11. I know this is off topic but felt it needed to be mentioned on this site:

    Credit to: Way To Blue

    “The highly anticipated movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was the most talked-about upcoming release at Comic-Con, according to social media research from Way To Blue.

    San Diego’s annual convention saw an estimated 1.7 million mentions on social media, with Warner Bros’ superhero crossover posting 248,960 mentions with 24,550 tweets showing an intent-to-view the film when it hits cinemas in 2016.

    Batman v Superman director Zack Snyder brought three of the movie’s stars – Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill and Gal Gadot – to present brief teaser footage and unveil the first picture of the new-look Wonder Woman.

    Gadot’s superheroine posted 149,316 mentions thanks to a online launch of her in costume.

    Game of Thrones was the second most-popular conversation driver with 201,681 mentions ahead of Teen Wolf (195,938) and The Walking Dead (183,424).

    Avengers: Age of Ultron charted at number five with 173,782 mentions and 22,648 expressing an intent-to-view.

    In terms of gender split, 53% of tweeters were women against 47% men. The five most popular hashtags were #SDCC, #SDCC2014, #ComicCon, #OnceUponaTime and #XboxOne.”

    • “I know this is off topic…”

      Than why mention it? All most every second post the last couple of days has been about Comic-Con or upcoming comic book movies and tv shows. Perhaps mention it there? I’m guessing you have and no one cared? The amount of tweets and reposts has nothing to do with how good the corresponding con panel was. Yes, DC had more tweets and reposts. Marvel had the better con presence. Cause as you said, DCs presence there was minimal. Is this going to be The Amazing Spider-Man 2 all over again? Where every ScreenRant story has an off topic post in the comments? It’s ok to like DC over Marvel. I’m a big Marvel fan and even I’m excited about MOS2. But time and place. Let’s leave comments about DCs epic ness to DC articles. Cheers, and a thank you in advance for your co-operation.

    • Seriously dazz. There is an open discussion thread exactly for random posts. Why would you feel the need to post this here? Are you just pasting this on all the threads? People are debating about how mocap has changed the basics of acting, or even redefined it. I don’t understand what was going through your mind to think this was an appropriate place for that comment.

  12. “So when they say “Andy Serkis deserves the Oscar,” he does deserve the Oscar.”

    THE Oscar? Excuse me? You know… as much as I’m not huge on their personal design direction for the Turtles, I have to completely side with them that that is terribly wrong to lump them AND the actors together as if it’s impossible to award separate Oscars for two different areas of work for the characters.

    Once again the effects departments get stepped on by Hollywood. For shame!

  13. I can see the validity of the side that says the effects team and performance capture person should receive an award together but I don’t think I agree. If actors can have crazy prosthetics or makeup that changes their whole appearance and still be considered acting than so should the mocappers. Is that not what the animations are but digital prosthetics? Let serkis’ performance go up against the other nominations for best supporting actor and let the visual effects team be nominated for best visual effects or even costumes. That way the two aren’t mutually exclusive. If the actor does great but the effects are lame the actor still has a chance. If the actor mails it in but the effects look stunning, the crew has a chance.

  14. In my opinion an actor should wait to be recognised for their work not request an accolade because they think they have earnt it. And ok it’s not Andy Serkis to my knowledge that is saying that he deserves a golden globe what have you, but he should be working because he enjoys it!

  15. What next, a best actor Oscar for a cartoon character?? Maybe Peter Griffin should get prime-time Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series?? No, best actor is a live action performance, not a performance that can be altered by computers so easily….. Perhaps there should be a new category that covers actors that perform off camera (cant think of a better way to put it) that would cover Mo-Cap, Voice etc…. Otherwise Serkis would win the Oscar every year.

  16. I still say Hemsworth was snubbed for best actor on Thor the Dark World. Lemme know when action movies start winning major awards and I’ll care about this mo cap business.


  17. Yes it’s amazing that Andy and the rest haven’t received ant awards for there Character.It was amazing as I said to see these guys in this badass form.So yes any Awards these guys and Ladies were amazing.Like to see any one else do this they couldn’t do what Andy’ and Rocket Toby the rest.Part 3 will be badass just like Dawn.Matt Reeves is a great Director.And all involved in making these things is just some thing to experience and hope to work with Andy and the rest again.Just be Positive in remarks no one knows the heat and time and frustrations that goes with making it.