My former employers, MPC, have been busy with the photorealistic version of The Lion King for Disney. And, it seems, the film version of the popular musical, Cats.

I do think, however, that motion capture (or performance capture – whatever you like to call it) is perhaps not the way forward for the film version of Cats. We’ve ending up with some kind of weird cat/human hybrid. A werecat, as it were. A style significantly more unsettling than the original stage performance costumes. Sometimes it’s better to get the audience to rely on their imagination rather than spoon feed the buggers with CG monstrosities.

Now, movies made from stage musicals are a good thing. Going to the cinema is (usually) cheaper than a stage performance. It should get more eyes and ears on the show than you’d normally do in the West End or Broadway. But for me, there have been many stage to film versions which have entirely dismissed the intimacy of the stage and thrown the big book of epic at the film, only to have failed miserably. Joel Schumacher’s The Phantom of the Opera was a massive disappointment as a film. But it is magnificent on stage.

Given the reactions to the trailer, it’s difficult to say how well the movie version of Cats will be received when it’s released.

The family cat, Lupin, for comparison. He can’t sing. He can’t dance. He doesn’t require a whole team of VFX artists or computers to bring him to life. But he can certainly eat. Lupin: The Movie. Not coming to cinemas near you. Not unless you tempt him with food.

Lupin disapproves of werecats.

Disney continues to throw money at their live-action adaptations of all their classic animated films, and Aladdin is the latest. Unfortunately, judging from this special preview, they might have mucked things up a little.

Now, it’s important to note just how terrible trailers and “special previews” can be. It’s really difficult to gauge how good a film is going to be unless you actually go and see it. Having worked in VFX where it was often all hands to the pumps during trailer time to get work completed so it can be used, I can wholeheartedly sympathise with those working on this film. But alas, Will Smith’s genie just feels .. dead. And blue. Like a dead smurf.

As an example of deceptive trailers, back in 2014, the live action version of Paddington suffered horribly when he first made an appearance on the internet. He looked terrible. He looked.. creepy. Memes were generated in abundance. But people (including myself) absolutely loved the film. I’d even go and say that it’s some of Framestore’s finest work. The second film too is wonderful. I’d never thought I’d say that, but it’s true. Go see Paddington and Paddington 2 (available on Prime Video).

Blue people in film & TV #10323 РTobias Funké, Arrested Development

For those of us that remember, ILM did a marvellous job with The Mask, taking Jim Carrey’s character and bending and twisting him into all sorts of madcap characters. Then “Son of the Mask” came along, and it is, without doubt, the worst visual effects I have ever seen in a movie. One can only hope that with Aladdin, ILM have erred on the side of Jim Carrey rather than the sequel.

Blue people in film & TV #23213 – Papa Smurf

The rest of the VFX in the Aladdin special preview feels “meh”, like it could have been done by any vendor. Jafarr seems strangely far less malevolent than he was in the original animated film too. Nothing to me in this special preview or the trailer before that makes me think they have done anything special with this other than to plonk live action people amongst animation of a different type. Seems a massive waste of money to me.

The only two live-action Disney remakes that I have been impressed with so far have been:

In the end, however, does it make any difference? This is just a family film aimed at younger kids. And younger kids will watch anything. In fact, Disney could have saved substantial amounts of money and have had the entire film shot with glove puppets, or brightly covered twigs. The kids don’t care. As long as it’s bright, moves around a lot and makes noise, they’re entertained. They’re the ones not going to write up reviews of the film.

.. and along with it, state of the art visual effects. The Box of Delights was an adaptation by the BBC of John Masefield’s children’s novel, The Box Of Delights, a sequel to The Midnight Folk.

What made it particularly special was that it was the most expensive children’s show at the time. In order to accommodate the many fantastical elements of the story, the BBC’s visual effects department invested heavily in new technologies (mainly Quantel) and even borrowed equipment from other TV shows in order to meet the complexities of the effects.

This BBC Pebble Mill interview with Robin Lobb, who was responsible for The Box of Delight’s video effects. Also, it features an interview with Devin Stanfield (who plays lead character Kay Harker) and Alan Seymour, who adapted the story for TV.

It’s fascinating to watch the original TV show (which I have on DVD) and look at the effects which seem so primitive now but were state of the art at the time. According to Robin in the above interview, they had to remove some elements from the original story because even the visual effects back then couldn’t cope with it. Now, of course, this wouldn’t be a problem.

When you look at what we had to contend with on the Harry Potter film series in comparison, The Box of Delights is the true spiritual precursor of epic fantasy films and TV series – certainly it’s one of the most beloved.