Actor and CGI superstar Andy Serkis will direct a new version of George Orwell’s 1945 novella Animal Farm, a dark and poignant political satire centred on a hierarchy of farmyard animals. Serkis will use ‘an amalgamation of filming styles,’ including motion capture, to retell the story with a focus on the ‘family audience’.

Over the past decade or so Serkis has gradually become almost a household name, in spite of hardly ever showing his face in front of the camera. He is most renowned for his motion capture roles, for which he spends most of his time on set trussed up in rather unflattering ‘mocap’ suits, and is then hidden behind carefully co-ordinated animated characters. His CGI CV is looking rather full these days; under his belt are roles such as Captain Haddock in The Adventures of Tintin, ape lord Caesar in The Rise of the Planet of the Apes, King Kong in Peter Jackson’s remake of the same name, and of course Gollum in The Lord of the Rings.

Serkis is currently fulfilling the role of Second Unit Director on Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, but took some time out to speak with The Hollywood Reporter about his plans for Animal Farm:

“I think we found a rather fresh way of looking at it…It is definitely using performance capture, but we are using an amalgamation of filming styles to create the environments… (There is) quite a wide canvas as to how much and how far we can take performance capture with quadrupeds and how much we will be using facial (capture). We are not discounting the use of keyframe animation or puppeteering parts of animals. We are in an experimental phase; it’s terribly exciting.”

Serkis also outlined his plans for adapting the story of Animal Farm, suggesting that it will not be quite as dark as previous film versions: “We’re keeping it fable-istic and (aimed at) a family audience. We are not going to handle the politics in a heavy-handed fashion. It is going to be emotionally centered in a way that I don’t think has been seen before…We are examining this in a new light.”

Serkis’ Animal Farm is to be produced by a London-based performance capture studio called The Imaginarium, which Serkis co-founded with producer Jonathan Cavendish. Serkis has not ruled out the possibility that he will also perform in the film, whether as himself or as a motion capture creation: “It might well be that I do, but nothing is set in stone yet…At the moment I’m very fixed on the creation of the characters and world from a directorial point of view.”

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  1. Paul Hutchinson

    I loved the animated version of this story when I was a kid. It was so well done and such a fantastic story, but of course at the time I had not realised the metaphors behind it. I think Serkis could do a great job with this, ensuring Orwell’s story is enjoyed and remembered by a new generation too.