CGI gets the giggles

Some upcoming comedies look to CGI to deliver yuks

This summer the studios are promising some sophisticated humor. Technologically sophisticated, that is.

While guffaws aren’t generally associated with CGI, some upcoming comedies are looking to CGI to deliver their yuks. From furball fun in “Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties” to shark attack revenge in “My Super Ex-Girlfriend,” CGI gags are getting bigger — and easier to create.

According to Rhythm and Hues’ Chris Baily, animation supervisor on “Garfield,” CGI is closing the gap between the computer-generated and the real, and that changes the gags.

The original 2-D “Garfield” was all slapstick and caricature. With the realism that a third dimension brings, will he still get a laugh?

“We discuss that every day,” Baily says. “We walk back and forth on that line.”

Animators work with directors and writers to flesh out the personalities of their critters and aim for gags based on character over cruelty. So while the original Garfield may have been able to smash a frying pan on Odie’s head for a chuckle, the same shtick with a CGI kitty would come off as much too mean.

Betsy Paterson, R&H visual effects supervisor, says the trick is to extend the realism beyond the vfx.

“It’s always a little bit different than the original cartoon character, because (now) he’s really present in the world,” she says. “You have to round the characters out in terms of their personalities.”

Other CGI tricks are not so fuzzy.

In Ivan Reitman’s “My Super Ex-Girlfriend,” live actors play off of superhero vfx for laughs. For Digital Domain’s Erik Nash, visual effects supervisor on the pic, the technology of CG is the same as usual. Playing them for laughs adds an extra layer.

“You want the audience to laugh along with the effects, as opposed to laugh at them,” he says.

Along with what Nash calls “the typical superhero type of effects,” DD also used CGI to create its own species of shark, which a scorned Uma Thurman unleashes on ex-boyfriend Luke Wilson.

“Today’s audience is so sophisticated that you don’t want them to be aware of the effects,” Nash says. “They need to be as well-integrated and seamless as they would be in ‘Batman’ or ‘Superman.'”

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