I think it's a fun show and have watched the animation in detail trying to determine if it was mocap or taken from video reference.
Interesting. I think it's safe to say that the goal for many Cg animators is to achieve a kind of 'hyper-real' sense of motion. I'll call it exaggerated naturalism. It seems obvious that this has been the prevailing trend in CG films for the last 15 years. Some films have done a better job of hitting that bar. None has done it consistently, but most aim for it (although occasional exceptions do exist).
When I see the work of a Henson puppeteer transposed onto a CG character, I see this exaggerated naturalism nearly perfected. It is exaggerated because a puppeteer has a keen sense of how to stage and present a performance in a way that reads clearly, pushes things a bit and is entertaining to watch. But due to the fact that it is mo-cap all the elusive goodies of natural motion -- things like barely noticeable weight shifts, subtle footwork, living holds, micro gestures, a sense of muscularity in action, a sense of physical presence (ie: weight), etc.-- these all come along for free. Meanwhile, to achieve something that even comes close to this many animators are relying on working from video reference of themselves acting out the scene. The basis of the performance and motion are highly derived from the video source material (we'll take up the artistic flaws of this approach in another post). But even if the animator is skilled enough to capture the nuances of the motion convincingly (based on a lot of scenes I see in films that is a mighty big "if"), it is an extremely time intensive task. This poses an interesting question: If the end result of animation taken from video reference is similar to well performed motion-capture, then why have animators animate from video reference? Why not just hire seasoned, trained stage performers to do the job in suits? The goal is naturalistic motion, right? (or an exaggerated variant thereof). Not only is it faster, but the physical performer can do many takes before lunch, providing the director with choices as well as the opportunity to improve on the performance quickly. Contrast this against having a highly skilled hand key CG animator do one take of similar quality (if they're really good) in about a week. Or longer, as is often the case. And I think it's a valid argument to say that if exaggerated naturalism is indeed the goal, then the resulting motion from the puppeteer is qualitatively superior. I've seen many a scene in high budget CG animated films from the biggest studios that would have been MUCH better had they been mo-capped by a Henson body puppeteer. Seriously. The goal of the scenes was to have a human(ish) character move in a slightly exaggerated, yet still highly naturalistic manner, doing some physical action. In every CG film there are any number of scenes where the animator was not able to meet that goal half as well as a Henson puppeteer could have. And the times they did match that goal with equal success, they did so at 50-100x the time investment.
In the past a major argument against mo-cap was that it didn't match stylistically to the types of motion and performances needed in animation. There was a time when that was a valid argument. But life is never static. As time has passed animators themselves have kept creeping ever closer to the very style of motion that mo-cap actually does better! Thus when you consider the continued improvements in mo-cap technology, plus improvements in understanding what kind of performance is needed for mo-cap to work, combined with mainstream CG animators' blind march toward an exaggerated naturalistic style of motion- that 'style-gap' has narrowed. Before much longer it will have narrowed to the point of insignificance.
This is why I think the current popular trend for exaggerated naturalism among CG animators is creatively a dead end street. Where you want to end up, a puppeteer already lives. The technology will only get better and the physical performers will only become more savvy as to how to use the medium. Time will not march backward just to appease our predilections. The question you might ask yourself is this: Do I want to be relevant as a performance artist, or do I just want to work on Hollywood 'animated' films? I firmly believe that if a CG animator wants to remain relevant as a performance artist in the years to come (relevancy as a performance artist is not the same as being employable in the animation business, by the way) they're going to need to develop a style of animation that cannot be achieved any other way than to hand key it. It may sound crazy now, but the time will come when I really do believe I will be proven correct.