Serkis Folk

Characters created with computer graphics over a motion-captured performance.

Named after the actor Andy Serkis, who was transformed by CGI wizardry into the characters of Gollum (from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit) and King Kong for Peter Jackson's films. The trope name is a spin on the phrase "circus folk".

This can land in the Uncanny Valley if the CGI overlay doesn't quite work, or if it wasn't meant to work.

See also Ink-Suit Actor, Conspicuous CG and Starring Special Effects. Contrast Roger Rabbit Effect, where the character is created with traditional animation.


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  • The 2004 CGI adaptation of Shirow's Appleseed uses significant motion capture for all the characters.

    Films — Animation 
  • Robert Zemeckis has directed three films with all-Serkis Folk casts: The Polar Express, Beowulf (especially Grendel), and A Christmas Carol (2009). He also produced the Serkis Folk-starring Monster House and Mars Needs Moms. At least two of these films feature examples where actors are Serkused to the point where they're unrecognizable. The lead character in Beowulf, depicted as a muscular superhero, was played by a 50-something character actor; in Polar Express, Tom Hanks played several characters, one of which was a young boy. Beowulf also provides a case of Serkusing and Ink-Suit Actor: Angelina Jolie was pregnant when she shot the film, but was able to appear in a nude scene thanks to being (otherwise photo-accurately) Serkused. The same can also (shudder) be said of Anthony Hopkins in the same film.
  • The Adventures of Tintin movies are full of this, directed by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. And Andy Serkis even plays Captain Haddock, making it a literal example.
  • The penguins from Happy Feet, obviously. Mumbles' dance moves were provided by Savion Glover, the lead dancer/choreographer for Broadway's ''Bring In Da Noise, Bring In Da Funk".
  • Final Fantasy The Spirits Within: Everyone. There are even cases of mo-capping for two.
  • Toy Story 3 had some motion capture for the final scene where Buzz and Jessie dance together.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Andy Serkis is the Trope Namer, while providing the page image with his portrayal of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. The team was aware of the Uncanny Valley effect, and used it to their advantage: the character was supposed to look dead-eyed and soulless.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch voiced as well as provided (references for) motion capture for the dragon Smaug in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit. Andy also returned as Gollum in the first film.
  • Star Wars features a number of examples:
    • Jar Jar Binks in The Phantom Menace was the first entirely CGI major character to be blended with live-action actors. Actor Ahmed Best acted on set wearing a Jar Jar hat for the benefit of the other actors, and was superimposed over by the CGI. The actor also wore a perfect replica of Jar Jar's clothes, which, weirdly, were also replaced by C.G.I. This is because they were originally planning on just replacing the actor's head with CGI, and not the rest of the body. This was later changed as it was easier to just make the whole character from scratch, rather than stick a CGI head on existing footage. There are a few shots where Jar Jar's face isn't visible so it was cheaper to go with the live-action Best. After learning that it was easier to create Jar Jar entirely in CGI, George Lucas grumpily said, "So I just spent $10,000 on a costume that I don't need."
    • Most of the non-Human Aliens in the prequels, as well as most of the droids and the clone warriors while in uniform.
    • Andy Serkis himself is slated to play a character that utilizes the motion-capture process in Star Wars 7.
  • Davy Jones (played by a CG Bill Nighy) and the crew of the Flying Dutchman in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and At World's End, in their "monster" forms, with the exception of Bill Turner (Stellan Skarsgård, who was the only one who actually had to wear makeup and prosthetics instead of motion-capture gear). Also, Barbossa and his crew in their moonlit undead forms in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl.
  • Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo from the 2002 live-action movie.
  • The eponymous character of Kangaroo Jack.
  • MirrorMask featured a number of completely CGI characters.
  • Doctor Manhattan in the film adaptation of Watchmen. A combination of the actor's face, and a bodybuilder's physique.
  • For probably the first time in his career, Doug Jones did this in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.note 
  • Sonny and the rest of the I Robot robots, with movements provided by the guy from Strictly Ballroom.
  • The Na'vi (real and Avatars) from James Cameron's Avatar.
  • At least a few of the Conspicuous CGI characters in Immortal.
  • A couple of monsters in Star Trek 2009.
  • Some of the ghosts in the Ghostbusters series are animated this way.
  • All of the alien "prawns" in District 9.
  • The Incredible Hulk in both movies (in the first one, director Ang Lee himself provided the motion capture), and also in The Avengers, with motion capture provided by Banner's actor Mark Ruffalo. Serkis actually worked with Ruffalo on his performance in the sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron.
  • Dobby and Kreacher from Harry Potter (in the seventh film, they even decided to put stand-ins in the set instead of having actors acting with the empty).
  • The third and fourth Terminator movies have skeletonized robots done as this.
  • To avoid the problems with Two-Face's scarring in Batman Forever, the scarring received this treatment in The Dark Knight.
  • Many of the Martians in John Carter (such as the ones played by Willem Dafoe and Samantha Morton) are this.
  • For certain pivotal scenes in Godzilla (2014), Gareth Edwards had Andy Serkis himself hired to control the motions of Godzilla.
  • As opposed to the original films' usage of animatronics, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) uses Motion Capture for the turtles, as well as Splinter and the Shredder's Powered Armor. The turtle’s Mocap suits had the addition of what looked like couch cushions stuck to the back, though.
  • In Guardians of the Galaxy, Vin Diesel performed all the motion capture for his character Groot (whom he also voiced) used in the final version of the film. Another actor was used as a "stopgap" before he was cast, but none of his footage was ultimately used.
  • In order to avoid the look of the character from the past movies, The Fantastic Four has Jamie Bell providing the voice and motion capture work for The Thing. They even brought in his old motion capture coach from The Adventures of Tintin.

    Live-Action TV 


    Video Games 

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue: Season 8 saw Rooster Teeth beginning to use CGI and motion capture along with their usual machinima, courtesy of Monty Oum, the guy who made Haloid and Dead Fantasy.
    • Oum's other Rooster Teeth series, RWBY, also makes heavy use of motion capture for non-action sequences. Some of the voice actors actually provide the mo-cap performances for their own characters.

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s):

CGI Actor