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Serkis Folk

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"See Andy Serkis deliver an Oscar-worthy performance by capturing the graceful movements and emotions of Caesar, and doing his best Christian Bale "Batman" impression, while the cast and crew deliver an even more Oscar-worthy performance by not laughing at a tiny British man in a unitard pretending to be a monkey."

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 story goes that Jackson planned for Gollum to be entirely computer-generated, but was so impressed by Serkis's mannerisms and facial expressions that he decided they just had to capture it somehow. 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, Starring Special Effects, and Rotoscoping. Also, see Digital De Aging, where similar technology is used to take years off of an actor's face. 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 (2007) (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, while in the Christmas Carol, Gary Oldman was able to portray Bob Cratchit and the ghost of Jacob Marley. 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.
  • In addition to Gollum, Andy Serkis portrayed King Kong in 2005 remake (as well as the live-action character Lumpy), and an intelligent chimp named Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (which also feature motion capture gorillas, orangutans and bonobos in addition to chimpanzees). He now specializes in this form of acting, even founding his own studio, The Imaginarium, which provides Motion Capture expertise to film and TV productions.
  • 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. The three trolls, the Great Goblin, Azog and Bolg are also CGI characters created by motion capture. Cumberbatch also appeared as Smaug as a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
  • 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 were also replaced by CGI—they were originally planning on just replacing the actor's head, and not the rest of the body, but it turned out to be 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 all of the clone warriors while in uniform, are CGI.
    • While The Force Awakens largely returns to on-set practical effects, two notable characters are performance-captured: Andy Serkis himself as Supreme Leader Snoke, and Lupita Nyong'o as Maz Kanata. Both characters are too out-of-scale to be portrayed by on-set actors; Snoke's physical proportions are vastly unusual to the point where he couldn't be created practically, while Maz is about the size of Yoda.
    • In Rogue One, two characters from the original trilogy return via this method—Guy Henry donned performance capture gear and did a Peter Cushing impression to play Wilhuff Tarkin and Ingvild Deila did the same for Princess Leia in a scene at the end, with help from archive audio. Subverted for other characters who were recast (Mon Mothma), played by the same actors as before (Bail Organa, Vader's voice) or appear with the help of original trilogy footage off the cutting room floor.
  • 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: The 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.
  • 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. Word of God is that Cameron had the idea for the film for quite a while but knew that technology hadn't quite caught up to his dream. After seeing Andy Serkis as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, he knew that time had come.
  • Alita in Alita: Battle Angel.
  • 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. Funnily enough, Serkis plays Ulysses Klaue, who is not a CG creation. Age of Ultron also has James Spader using this technique to portray the titular villain.
  • This technique was used for Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, with Josh Brolin providing the villain's voice and motion capture. The Children of Thanos (Ebony Maw, Proxima Midnight, Corvus Glaive and Cull Obsidian) were created this way as well.
  • 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.
  • Two-Face's 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.
    • Sean Gunn provided all of the motion capture for Rocket.
  • In order to avoid the look of the character from the past movies, The 2015 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 to help out.
  • Colossus is entirely CG in the Deadpool (2016) movie, which allows for a much more comic-accurate appearance than he had in the previous X-Men films. Lampshaded in the opening credits, where he's billed as "A CGI character." The sequel adds the Juggernaut, another computer-generated character who looks more like his comic counterpart than he did in his last movie appearance.
  • In The Jungle Book (2016), most of the characters aside from Mowgli, are rendered at least partially as a Serkis Person, especially Christopher Walken as King Louie and Bill Murray as Baloo. However, Kaa, voiced by Scarlett Johansson, is not, to avoid the Uncanny Valley.
  • In Power Rangers (2017), Alpha 5 and Zordon are Serkis People, with Bill Hader donning a motion capture suit to play the former (whom he also voices) and Bryan Cranston having his performance filmed to do the latter.
  • The Beast and several of the Enchanted Objects in Beauty and the Beast (2017).

    Live-Action TV 

  • This was used in Michael Jackson's "Ghosts", when Maestro appears as a living skeleton.
  • The members of Coldplay were depicted using this in "Adventure of a Lifetime"'s music video.

    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


Example of: