When Animation Looks TOO REAL… | TOP 5 Creepiest Cases of Uncanny Valley in Animation!

Uncanny valley, an artist's worst nightmare (and for some audiences theirs too!) but for those who haven't heard of it will be surprised to know they've likely to have experienced it sometime in their lives.

Basically, the uncanny valley phenomenon is seen (or heard) in humanoid characters, especially robots, where we get an uneasy feeling when looking into their eyes; they're almost realistic enough to be believable but something just makes us uncomfortable.

Here we have listed our top 5 creepiest cases of uncanny valley in animation and why they make us unsettled!

Billy from 'Tin Toy' (Pixar, 1988)

Number 1: Billy, 'Tin Toy'

Tin Toy is a heart-warming animated short by Pixar that you may not have heard of. Released in 1988 it features Billy, a baby whose stiff crawling and emotionless eyes is the sole reason I sleep with the lights on. Early 3D animation tried to follow a realistic approach to human characters and unfortunately made them very unpleasing to look at.

'ReBoot' (Mainframe Entertainment, 1994)

Number 2: 'ReBoot'

A CGI animated series released in the early 90s, ReBoot follows the adventures of Bob, Enzo & Dot Matrix as they work together to protect the computer system of Mainframe. With rigid body poses and emotionless expressions, the characters stare back at you with glazed over eyes. Still, they look more friendly than Billy.

Alita from 'Alita: Battle Angel' (20th Century Fox, 2019)

Number 3: Alita, 'Alita: Battle Angel'

Released in 2019, Alita: Battle Angel is an action movie that features a cyborg named Alita, who once reactivated can't remember any details from her past and sets off in order to find out who she is.

Before it's release, audiences feared the uncanny valley look with the character's oversized eyes and small mouth, and that this would ruin the film. These design choices were based on the original manga, featuring large anime-like eyes that look creepy but this design choice only served to enhance the film, a rare example where uncanny valley did some good!

'Cubix: Robots for Everyone' (4Kids Entertainment, 2001)

Number 4: 'Cubix: Robots for Everyone'

A childhood favourite of mine, Cubix is a Korean CGI cartoon that featured Connor and friends who alongside their robots fight off Dr. K and his evil schemes. Although the character designs are memorable and each one has their own personality, it's all lost through their blank, unresponsive eyes. You can tell a lot about a person through their eyes and unfortunately we lose that human connection with the characters in this series.

'The Polar Express' (Warner Bros. Pictures, 2004)

Number 5: 'The Polar Express'

The Polar Express features a young boy who, alongside other children, embark on an adventure to visit Santa Claus in the North Pole. Although rendered nicely, this movie is remembered for it's inhuman characters, even with the use of motion capture they're regarded as creepy with emotionless eyes.

We hope you enjoyed reading through these top 5 creepiest cases of uncanny valley in animation. It is amazing how far CGI animation has progressed through the years, where many productions now opt for cartoon features over realism; allowing audiences to better engage with characters on-screen!

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