Is Hand Drawn Animation Dead?

I just wanted to share this video with all of you from the Cartoon Palooza.  He covers the history of the transition from hand drawn to computer animation.  This is a divisive topic but I will share some of my thoughts after the video.

I’ve said it a number of times I think 2014 has been one of the best years for animation in the last 20 years.  It is thrilling to see so many different voices and visual styles being told.  Everything is out there from Book of Life to The Lego Movie to Big Hero 6. And I’ve liked at least on some level every animated movie I’ve seen this year except for Legends of Oz and The Nut Job. It’s an exciting time to be an animated movie fan and part of the reason we are able to have such variety and creative output is because of computer animation.

It is just a fact that the average studio can put together a computer animated film faster than hand drawn.  Disney just admitted as much when they changed their upcoming release Moana from 2D to CG so it could be finished 2 years sooner.  2 years is a long time for a studio to hold out a film just for artistic integrity that will probably not show as any benefit in the box office (of the top 5 biggest animated films ever at box office only 1, Lion King, is hand drawn).

Cartoon Palooza makes a good point about Tangled but the reason why that film was so expensive was not because of the animation.  It was all the rewrites, reshoots and it being their first 3D film. If a studio can make a movie 3D than they are going to make more profit and computer animation looks better in 3D than hand drawn.

Now we are getting hand drawn movies from the Studio Ghibli team and other smaller studios.  This December we get Song of the Sea which looks stunning.

What I want is good quality movies and if computer animation makes more people jump into the game than I think it is great.  If I was just going on personal preference I’d pick hand drawn but not a strong preference.  I love the artistry of the Pixar films.  Ratatouille, for instance, has some of the most gorgeous backgrounds of any movie I’ve ever seen.  So it just depends on the movie.

ratatouille-paris-pixar-dvdbash

Or how about this scene from Wall-e?  It’s stunning.

Most importantly I just want to be entertained whether it is 2D, 3D, hand drawn or stop motion.  So if CG allows for more than 2 players to be in the game of animation and we get more years like 2014 I am a happy girl.

That said, maybe John Lasseter could set aside a few animators that could work on something over time like a Lilo and Stitch- not a big expensive epic just a simple story with hand drawn animation?  Something that would keep the medium alive?  Or it would be great if studios came to be known for hand drawn like Laika with stop motion animation.  Someone could make it their nitch and at least do well enough to keep the studio profitable.  If they are careful about release dates (which has been brilliantly timed for all the animated movies this year.  Only one stinker at the box office Legends of Oz) than it will probably do quite well.

Maybe a way to go is to use characters from an animated series like reclaiming the Avatar series after what Shyamalan did to it?    That way you would have a natural fan base to tap into? If they can pump out the hand drawn for the shows maybe it wouldn’t be too hard to make them into a movie?

Again, thankfully we do have Studio Ghibli and Cartoon Saloon putting out quality, if not American, hand drawn films.  So it is not a totally dead art.

The way I see it animation has gone through different periods.  We went through the Xerox phase in the 60s and 70s and there were some good one’s (Jungle Book, 101 Dalmatians, Winnie the Pooh) and some bad one’s (Aristocats, Sword in the Stone, Black Cauldron). Now we are in the CG phase and there have been hits and misses but all it takes is that one big movie to hit with hand drawn and people will be back on the bandwagon.  So, no I do not think the medium is dead. Like I said Song of the Sea is coming out this year so it is being made by smaller, foreign studios.  Even a moderate hit will prick the executives ears and they will make hand drawn again. It goes down to supply and demand.

But like I said to me what matters most is being entertained.  I want to see art, music, and a great story in any medium. I hope hand drawn is not dead but I understand why studios don’t want to take the risk. From a business decision it does often make sense, and they are after all businesses first.

 

Addition-

Here’s something I think shows what I am trying to say.  For years we would get 1, maybe 2 animated films a year.  This is the result of hand drawn animation. As glorious as those films could be and could not be it was just not a venture every creative thinker could do.

If we look at the 100 best reviewed films on rotten tomatoes we see the following.  You will notice that in the 90s during the renaissance there was only 1 film that made the list for most of the years.  It wasn’t until 1998 when we got both Antz and Bugs Life that things start to pick up in numbers.  The largest number is 2012 with 9 films that critics at least gave the highest scores too. My point being with computer animation more ideas and projects are able to get greenlit and that’s a good thing.

People are still making traditional animated films.  Even if it is not the big studios there are 2 releases this year so they exist. I can totally see a studio like Liaka emerging with the hand drawn niche. There will be 2 more added to 2014 by the time the reviews come in for Song of the Sea and The Tale of Princess Kaguya to this list . That will mean that 2014 will have as many critically lauded animated movies as the highest year 2012. That’s a good thing for the future of animated films. Plus, all of the animated films in 2014 made money except Legends of Oz. That’s also a good thing. People feel inspired to take creative risks when they know there is a population that wants to see said movies. So if you want hand drawn movies than support the one’s that do come out. It’s as simple as that.

1991 1
1992 1
1993 1
1994 1
1995 1
1996 1
1997 2
1998 4
1999 5
2000 3
2001 6
2002 4
2003 3
2004 2
2005 4
2006 4
2007 4
2008 6
2009 8
2010 7
2011 6
2012 9
2013 3
2014 7

Now you can debate whether critics were duped by certain movies and the blogosphere knows better but the output has without a doubt increased. I like hand drawn but if computer animation means we get more stories and things as beautiful and different as Book of Life or as funny as The Lego Movie than sign me up.

I hope the big studios will make hand drawn animation but I don’t agree that it is dead, and like I said, I think the state of animation is in an amazing place.

But again this is just my opinion but it’s my blog and so I call it like I see it. Feel free to disagree. Just do so politely.