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New Movie Represents Leap In Animation

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RALEIGH — The movie 'Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within' is based on a computer game and is set later in this century. The truly fantastic thing about the movie is that every image was created on computers.

The film is pure science fiction, full of action and, critics say, a pretty good story. And, according to Walt Burgwyn, one of the digital artists who happens to makes his home in North Carolina, it is a benchmark of technical achievement.

"I was in charge of making the characters move. I handled the facial animation (and the) body animation," said Burgwyn.

Realism is amazing in this production. Computer generated characters look and move like real people. The challenge for the digital artist is creating lifelike characters digitally.

"It's different from trying to animate a bug or even a dinosaur, because the audience doesn't really know how these characters move or how they act. But with a human, everybody's a critic," said Burgwyn.

Burgwyn animated the character Neil, voiced by Steve Buscemi.

"He's the guy who drives the jeep and the spaceship. I think he's the best character, the most fun," he said.

Other big-name talent voice the animated characters: Ming-Na, Alec Baldwin, James Woods and Donald Sutherland.

Although he knows "Final Fantasy'' is good, Burgwyn questions whether actors will ever be replaced.

"No matter how good it gets, it's just always going to be animation," he said.

Burgwyn says since work for "Final Fantasy" was completed about a year ago, animation techniques have improved and future productions can be even more realistic.


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