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There has been much hubbub in the animation community lately around actor Andy Serkis’s continuing assertion that he is the sole author of mocap-based characters like Gollum from Lord of the Rings, and that animators merely provide “digital makeup”, and play no creative role whatsoever in those performances. My friends who worked on those movies have always told me privately that this is far from the truth. Now Randall William Cook, Director of Animation on all three “Lord of the Rings” movies, has finally come out in public with a detailed explanation of how Gollum’s performance was actually created.

Here are Mr. Cook’s thoughts, reproduced with his permission:

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Andy Serkis has been throwing the term “Digital Makeup” around again, and causing some pretty fervid reactions as a result. He has his detractors and defenders, among them animators and motion capture editors, people who have met Andy and found him a nice bloke, people who are interested in the art of animation or the in art of acting or in both. But so far I have seen nothing from anybody who was in the trenches and actually worked on Gollum, so I suppose it’s time I weighed in on the matter.

My name’s Randall William Cook, and I was the Director of Animation on the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy.

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Politicians spin. It’s a fact of life. But nobody spins quite like the Bush administration. I’ve gotten used to the feeling that whenever I hear Bush or one of his cronies speak, I’m going to hear nothing but lies and manipulative language. I’ve listened to George “Don’t Think of an Elephant” Lakoff, and dug his ideas. I’ve heard Frank “Words that Work” Luntz speak on the radio, and wanted to spit in his face. I feel like I understand what spin is, and can tell when I’m hearing it. My spin-dar is pretty sensitive at this point.

It’s one thing to know you’re hearing spin. Knowing how to counter it is a whole different story. A fellow named Jeffrey Feldman has written a terrific article that unpacks those adjectives, so to speak. It’s an incisive analysis of Bush’s recent press conference about the US Attorney firing scandal. Feldman identifies the five deliberately misleading buzzwords that were the real purpose of the press conference, and provides accurate alternatives for journalists to use when covering the story. The attorneys didn’t resign, they were fired. Gonzales didn’t give an incomplete explanation, he lied.

This analysis is timely. We need one of these for every statement this administration makes. And mainstream media need to start showing a bit more skepticism towards the choice of words they get fed in these press conferences. Do not repeat his words, folks!

Bush Used Press Conference to Force PR Buzzwords into the Debate