Why bridge the Uncanny Valley? Photorealism vs suspension of disbelief in animation

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In recent years, the Uncanny Valley theory has been used to frame critical analysis of hyper­ real character animation in both film and computer games. The theory predicts that, as characters become more human­like in appearance, they run the risk of becoming unsettling to audiences. This dip in acceptability is the Uncanny Valley, and on the other side of this valley are the theoretical human simulants – characters co convincing that they are undistinguishable from real humans. However, the theory ­ which has its origins in robotics – can distract us from one of the primary aims of animation. While some character designers might be concerned with wowing their audiences with photorealistic character appearance and movement, other character animators are more concerned with exploring what it means to be human. Indeed, it can be argued that imagined characters that are unnatural in appearance and movement can in fact be more believably human than those that focus on visual mimicry. This article makes a case for an alternative approach to the Uncanny Valley for judging the aesthetics of human­like animation, with specific focus on the intentions of the animator in presenting characters that reflect human experience rather than replicate human appearance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-22
Number of pages4
JournalMedia Education Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Animation
  • Games
  • Uncanny valley


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