8 Hilariously Failed Attempts to Use CGI in Political Ads

#4. Mark Kirk Transforms

This one isn't very complex. Apparently there is a cardboard cutout of Mark Kirk, Senatorial candidate, in front of the Capitol Building. This cutout transforms into a robot and starts smashing shit up.

By "transform," I mean the robot pieces randomly appear over the cardboard cutout. It doesn't even look like the cutout is in the same universe as the robot, it just looks like a layer someone forgot to turn off.

Next, there is a lot of gratuitous smoke. There is smoke when he smashes parking barriers, there is smoke when he claps his hands together, whatever.


And lens flare!

All that smoke makes sense when you realize this is the worst designed robot ever made, and I'm saying this as a kid who had to play with Go-bots. Considering that in the course of this commercial, the robot doesn't even have to transform from any original shape, there's no reason it should have any weird-shaped arms or legs left over from when it was a car or plane. But it does anyway.

The maker of this ad claims: "This 3D animated ad was produced animated, rendered and audio-mixed in three days." I'm not sure if that's supposed to be a boast or apology but I know which it should be.

#3. Meg Whitman Is a Deformed Jerk

The main thrust of this ad is that Meg Whitman is a jerk, which is true:

It's a little difficult to pay attention to that message, however, when LOOK AT THAT FACE. IS THAT SUPPOSED TO BE THE GUY FROM MASK?

Yeah, I was talking about the 1985 movie, not the Jim Carrey movie.

Although that sort of works too. Anyway, the point is that this is clearly supposed to be a caricature, of the kind everyone totally accepts in political cartoons. Unfortunately this is 3D, and thanks to the Uncanny Valley effect, things that look cartoony and funny in 2D can look horrifying and wrong in 3D (this is also known as the Polar Express Zombie Effect).

Here's a political cartoon of Meg Whitman.

Distorted and unflattering, but not to the level that sends you running for your chainsaw and making bargains with God. You get the intended message, "You should hate/boo this person," and not, "You should fear/start a foundation for this person."

If you're wondering how close that caricature is to Whitman, the answer is, "not very".

Actually, now that I'm over the initial terror, I'm getting Ron Howard more than anything.

#2. The Badly Animated Rat vs the Badly Animated Ox

A lot of people don't realize how versatile computer animation is. Not only can you make terrible videos in 3D, but also in 2D. In this prime example, John Oxendine is running for governor of Georgia against "King Roy The Rat":

I don't know much about his opponent - he may literally be a rat - but I don't care. I would still vote for that rat, thanks to this ad.

John Oxendine is represented in this abomination by an ox that stands uselessly in front of scenes of disaster and does nothing.

This is the guy the ad is supporting, mind you.

In 1993 I did a project for English class using computer animation (it was a report on Richard Wright if you care). It was terrible, because at the time there was no good home software for computer animation, just this piece of shit. The first Toy Story wouldn't even come out until 1995. My classmate Don Hertzfeldt blew me out of the water with his hand-drawn animation, and continues to do so today, curse him. In retrospect, I had created one of the most boring, poorly-drawn, poorly-edited presentations in high school history.

It was about 5 times better than this ad.

#1. CG Ron Paul

CG is really handy for cases where the thing you want to show is too expensive, or dangerous, or doesn't exist - like dinosaurs, explosions, spaceships, other planets, or alien robots. Or Ron Paul.

Possibly one aim of this ad was to make people believe Ron Paul was so much in demand that he didn't have time to appear in an ad.

I don't think anyone bought it.

So I threw this around the old workplace and we came up with two possibilities why Ron Paul "needed" to be Polar Expressorized for this ad. Theory one was that you can't put the real Ron Paul underwater.

Which is very valid. Ron Paul is well-known to be water soluble. But this is evading the question of why Ron Paul needs to be underwater in the first place. The ad has a narrative that involves flood waters receding from America in general, but I can't think of any reason why Ron Paul needs to actually be in that water. He's not doing anything about it, he's just standing in it.

The other theory about the necessity of a CG Ron Paul is regarding the final shot. In a spin-out shot, they show him speaking to a large crowd that has gathered to see him, and damn if they were going to be able to pull that off without special effects.

I myself would have gone about it by saying, "Let's get you on the greenscreen, Ron, and we'll bring in a digital crowd," but I congratulate these guys for thinking out of the box and doing it the other way around. "Let's get footage of a real crowd cheering at nobody and we'll build a fake Ron Paul there."


For more about the dark underbelly of CGI effects, check out CGI Boobs: 7 Special Effects The Stars Want to Keep Secret and The 5 Miserable VFX Jobs That Make Movies Possible.

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