By Sarah Sluis
A standard part of ending credits on a movie is the American Humane Association's seal of approval: "No animals were harmed during the making of this movie." Since Rise of the Planet of the Apes uses CG monkeys, it's unclear if the AHA even had to give the movie its seal of approval. Yet PETA is giving an award to this Fox pictures. The animal-loving organization's strategy is trying to encourage the use of CG animals, so they've made a special fuss and given the movie a "Proggy" award (that's progress + award). I wouldn't be rolling my eyes so much, except I doubt that the movie would have used live-action apes anyway. The first movie was famous for having humans in ape suits with makeup. Even the 2001 remake of the 1968 film used makeup, not CG. The only primates being helped out by the CG are the human actors who no longer have to sweat in ape suits.
The things is, most of the time there isn't really a choice about whether a production goes with CG or live-action. If it's possible to film animals in live-action, like with domesticated animals, most productions choose that route. Should Lassie be CG? No. Should Mr. Popper's Penguins use CG animals? Probably. Talking animal films/TV shows used to be achieved by training horses to randomly flex their mouths, and it actually looked pretty good. Oh man, did I love watching "Mister Ed" on Nick at Nite. Instead of creating CG horses, the technology is used to employ weirder, non-trainable animals like the guinea pigs in G-Force. Movies like Beverly Hills Chihuahua will still use real dogs (maybe with CG lips) because audiences know it is possible to shoot a film like that live-action, and they demand it.
However, I also admire PETA for going the positive route. The organization gets most of its press attention from its protests, like the one it did for this summer's Zookeeper after a giraffe died shortly after filming. By singling out movies that do a better job, they can be associated with the maintenance of good practices instead of constantly having to act as a police officer.