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Horse Wins Academy Award
 By Winniefield Park   •   4th Mar 2017   •   1,400 views   •   0 comments


Movie awards season has come to an end with the granddaddy of all awards ceremonies, The Oscars. By now, the fuss about the big flub has passed and the casts of Moonlight and La-La Land has finished patting each other on the back. The awards for Best Actors, Actor, and Picture are the big news, but there are many other awards that we never see presented. So few of would know that on February 11, the Academy recognized a horse at their ceremony of Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation.

Actually, the award was for a fake horse. There isnít any hard and fast Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences rule saying real animals canít win an Oscar. But rules do state that nominees have to be actors or actresses, which implies human beings rather than dogs and cats. Scientific and technical awards certificates go to the people who create machines and technologies used in movie-making - they donít get one of those goofy little gold statues.

Fake horses have been used in movies for decades. Usually, they are pitifully obvious, or itís plain that the actor is bouncing up and down on a fur-covered barrel. But they are becoming more life-like and the team, part of Creature Effects, that created the Animatronic Horse Puppet was awarded for their achievements in design, motion analysis, character articulation as well as the realistic rendering of fake hair. The results of their efforts have not only created a more realistic-looking animatronic horse, but the Academy recognized the improvements in actor safety.

Now, if you think youíve seen this horse before, you probably have. The technology was used in the 2003 movie Seabiscuit. It has also been in a many other movies like Revenant, Warhorse, and Narnia. The horses Creature Effects creates are eerily realistic. They appear to take and chew a treat from a personís hand, respond to a pat on the nose, and in many other ways move in an incredibly life-like way. Even an experienced horse person might have a hard time telling the difference between the animatronic and real horse in some movie scenes.

Of course, animatronics benefit horses too. Used in many of the more gory scenes of Warhorse, like when Joey, the main character was caught in the mud and barbed wire, it means that no real horses come to any harm. In that particular scene, the mechanics of the horse were uncomplicated, and the motion came from people beneath moving the puppet. Some of the motion came from remote controllers, similar to those used in remote control planes and vehicles. The horse is so intricately made that even the eyes, nostrils, mouth and ears were controlled for a very realistic effect without resorting to CGI.

In violent scenes, the horses can appear to rear and fall, jump off clips and do things no real horse should be asked to do. And, the reliability of the mechanical remote control horses means that it is safer for the actors and stunt performers. Itís a far cry and a huge improvement from when trip wires and other devices were used on real horses. And for that, I think the folks of Creature Effects deserve a little gold statue.
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