I just found this little booklet from Siggraph of how they created the mo-cap expressions in Monster House. It is very interesting because they include preliminary drawings (which I had no idea they even did!) and then in between they show the actors and then the final CGI. I have removed the actors so that you can see the direct comparison between drawing and CG recreation.

Here we have the scary neighbor Steve Buscemi character:

I actually think this might be the most succesful of the three characters they show. Though they do miss out on the exagerration of the mouth in the second two images…and check out the eyes in the middle one! He’s much more menacing when we see more of the whites of his eyes. (Also, this drawing is the image they chose as the cover to this little booklet – NOT the CG version.)

Above is the boring girl character. They took some decent (yet rather subtle) expressions and toned them down until she looks like a zombie. She was definitely the one character in the film that I wished had more life to her. Again, check out the eyes – the same problem that plagued the Polar Express. (Ward Jenkins had a great post where he went back and fixed some of the frames from that film in Photoshop. What a difference! Are you listening, Zemeckis/Disney?)

And here is the token obnoxious friend, possibly the worst of the three. Though it does look like something went to the bathroom on his head, at least he doesn’t look evil.

I’ll be honest, I really liked Monster House for what it was. I would have loved to see it fully animated rather than Mo-Cap, but that wasn’t my call. It’s definitely a step in the right direction from Polar Express, but let’s hope they keep refining and improving those expressions! Now, I wonder what it’s Oscar chances are…