The "age-old mask device" in CGI animation (Possible spoilers!)

wiley207

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WARNING: Because this trope describes unmaskings, there may be a few minor spoilers.

A few months back, I had been chatting online with some friends, and while we were talking about "Rock Dog 2", we brought up how the rubber mask device (TV Tropes calls it "Latex Perfection"; me and some friends call it the "age-old mask device" based on a quote from "Arthur") is actually kind of hard to pull off (no pun intended) in CGI animation. It's usually easier to do in 2D animation, hand-drawn or Flash/vector-based. (Especially in many countless "Scooby-Doo" shows and movies!)
In many instances of this trope appearing in a CGI movie or show or whatever, when the character unmasks or puts such a mask on, it either cuts away, or the character turns around or ducks down, or is in silhouette. One example is in the aforementioned "Rock Dog 2", when Linnux ducks down when he's pulling on or tugging off his Lang sheep mask. There's also Balthazar Bratt pulling off his Lucy Wilde mask facing away from the camera in "Despicable Me 3", and a couple of Dick Dastardly's disguises in "Scoob!" (when the female cop strips from her disguise, "she" turns away when removing her mask, and the blonde hair actually disappears for a couple of frames when they switch to Dick Dastardly's head; same with when disguised as Fred, which is why Dick just rips and tosses away the Fred suit in a few frames), though a couple of unmaskings they were able to manage showing on-screen without much problem (such as the Halloween ghost in the opening scene, or at the end). Even in "Zootopia" when a police wolf puts on his sheep disguise to go on an undercover case, if you slow down the scene you'll see they put the wolf head on a headless sheep body model, and then quickly shrink the wolf head model as he's pulling the sheep mask on.
Of course with television or video game or direct-to-video animation, since they don't have the bigger budget of theatrical (intended at least) animated features, they'll need to take the unmasking shortcuts anyway. The 2004 "G.I. Joe: Valor vs. Venom" movie has such an example, when it cuts away to General Hawk as he yanks off the Baroness's old woman mask. Then there's the 2011 "Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time" trailer where "Sly" unmasks in shadow and then steps into the light to reveal Dimitri.
One of my friends who knows a lot about animation did agree that using the mask device in CGI animation is a lot more difficult to do than 2D animation, and deduced that with the "Sly Cooper" one, they just used model-stretching on a cutout of Sly's head model, hence being in silhouette.
Then again, many live-action movies and TV shows (including, of course, the "Mission: Impossible" franchise) tend to utilize CGI for such unmaskings (to the point where there are even tutorials on how to do it on video editing and effects software), though in the past it was common to just cut away from the unmasking person or change the camera angle when switching from the actor either elaborately made up in prosthetics or portraying the disguise of someone else to the unmasked actor, and this is still somewhat common today. It's not that different from the CGI animation masking shortcuts I've brought up. But of course, the rubber mask device initially only existed in cartoons (especially the Looney Tunes shorts) and comics prior to the 1960s, when such masks began to appear in live-action movies and television.

Any comments/questions on my observation?
 

wiley207

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An update, what with DreamWorks's "The Bad Guys" being released. (Definitely a fun movie, and somewhat different from their usual output!) This movie also had an instance of the rubber mask device, done with a little more effort than the prior film examples I mentioned, in which
Professor Marmalade, a guinea pig, disguises himself as an elderly human woman this way to set his villainous plan to frame the Bad Guys in motion. During the unmasking in the flashback scene, the "woman" is only partly obstructed by the bottom of the screen when tugging the old woman mask off, no doubt to make it somewhat easier on the CG models.

A while back I was also reminded of the "Back at the Barnyard" episode "Get Bessy," with Weird Al (appearing as himself) yanking his human mask off to reveal he's an anthropomorphic horse (get it?); when slowing down the scene I can see they did a somewhat passable job at showing a fairly fast on-screen unmasking in CGI animation, given they were working with television animation budgets. And again, this is another slight shortcut, having the unmasking go pretty fast makes it somewhat easier to switch/squash/stretch CG character head models in plain sight for this trope to happen without making it look too cheesy.
Though another episode to use the mask device, "Chain Gang," didn't bother to show any unmasking animation for the reasons I mentioned; we only see the rubber farm animal masks resembling Otis, Pig, Freddy and Peck being worn by the robbers during the getaway scene and later see them empty and being held by the actual animals (disguised in drag as maids) among realizing who the robbers really are.
 

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