Kajko i Kokosz in the Uncanny Valley

kajko i kokosz 3D CGI

One of my favorite comics growing up was Kajko i Kokosz (I’ll have more about the comics and their creator Janusz Christa in my future ‘Comics in Poland’ posts). I just stumbled on a trailer (high def, youtube) for a CGI movie version of the comics. It looks like it’s relatively well made, with some pretty big stars used as voice talent. Unfortunately it suffers from the ‘uncanny valley’ effect.

uncanny valley chart

The uncanny valley effect describes the way positive emotional response to human-like robots (and other entities like zombies, cgi-humans etc.) turns into strong repulsion as their appearance gets closer to our own. The chart above illustrates the effect. This is something that plagues a lot of CGI movies like The Polar Express and Final Fantasy.

kajko 3D CGI evil

Generally the effect is referred to when looking at humans, but I think the effect can also be applied to originally 2 dimensional cartoon characters who become translated into the (virtual) reality of 3D through the magic of computers. Once they are translated into 3 dimensions, all of a sudden the characters have to acquire additional properties like motion, weight, etc. In 3D space they may have to be seen in angles never shown in the 2D space of comics. In Kajko i Kokosz the 3D models try to be extremely faithful to the comics characters, but end up looking very creepy, unnatural…

kajko 3D CGI evil

… and positively evil!

I haven’t actually seen the entire movie, so I’ll reserve judgment as to it’s quality. But if the trailer is anything to go by, the great characters that I (and other kids) grew up on, are not in this movie.

kajko i kokosz comics sequence

But what about the kids who will first see Kajko i Kokosz (or any other character) as a CGI puppets? Will they find the comics versions somehow creepy? Can the Uncanny Valley effect work in reverse? If we grow up surrounded by close approximations of ourselves, will we be shocked by our own mirror image?