This weekend, we'll witness the evolution of Caesar, the ape revolutionary played by Andy Serkis in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. And next month, we meet Vin Diesel's Groot. But motion-capture has a proud history of innovation and great performances. Here are the 10 greatest mocap characters of all time.
Runner Up: Snow White. The 1937 Disney film used Rotoscoping, a low-tech form of motion-capture, to bring Snow White to life.
10 Sil from Species. The monster designed by H.R. Giger needed a revolutionary custom-made armature to shoot its scenes in performance capture.
9 Nariko and King Bohan in Heavenly Sword. Serkis himself portrays this video game's main antagonist, but the voice and acting of Anna Torv from Fringe is used for the hero, Nariko. Other Ninja Theory games, like Enslaved and Devil May Cry, also feature great mocap performances.
8 Smaug in The Hobbit: The Deslation of Smaug. Benedict Cumberbatch put his all into portraying a fearsome dragon, and managed not to be outdone by Gollum.
7. Davey Jones in the Pirates of the Caribbean films. Bill Nighy is a fantastic actor — but he's almost unrecognizable as this Cthulhu-esque tentacle-face monster, with an amazing presence.
6. Joel and Ellie in The Last Of Us. This post-apocalyptic game took performance-capture to another level, relying on characterization and the bond between the two leads to create a game that's emotional as well as exciting. And check out the alternate ending. See also Jodie in Beyond: Two Souls, played by Ellen Page.
5. The Penguins in Happy Feet. Mad Max director George Miller created a performance that's 70 percent motion-capture, and hired real dancers to create a penguin style of dancing for Mumble and the others.
4. The Na'vi in Avatar. Forget the Avatar backlash — this movie is a masterpiece of motion-capture, and CCH Pounder as Queen Moat and Zoe Saldana as Neytiri completely disappear into these alien blue cat people.
3. Caesar in the Planet of the Apes films. What's amazing about Serkis' performance is how much he conveys with just his face, without having to say a word. Until he finally says, "NO."
2. The Hulk in the Avengers. Mark Ruffalo isn't just the best Bruce Banner, he's also the first Hulk to convey the rage and exuberance of the big green berserker.
1. Gollum in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. We couldn't really put anyone else at number one. Gollum is one of the most important fantasy characters of all time, and it's impossible to think of him without recalling Serkis' schizophrenic, frenetic acting.
And it's not exactly a great "character," but I wanted to put in a plug for the sex fiends from Holy Motors — quite possibly the greatest motion-capture scene of all time.
Thanks to everyone at Kotaku for the input! Other sources: Understanding Motion Capture for Computer Animation and Video Games by Alberto Menache, The Mocap Book: A Practical Guide to the Art of Motion Capture by Ricardo Tobon, and MoCap for Artists: Workflow and Techniques for Motion Capture by Midori Kitagawa, Brian Windsor, Cinefantastique, Animation World and Close-Up Film.