Since the late 90’s animation has shifted dramatically from the hand drawn cells of animator studios full of people to the computer generated polygons that now make up the increasingly real creatures and characters we have come to love. Animation is of course an art form that has evolved from drawing, eventually making enough of them and moving them fast enough to create the illusion of motion. CG still requires much skill of course, but the more CG we get, the less traditional animation we have and that in itself is a huge loss.
Younger audiences are now growing up into a time where all the things they watch are created largely on computers, can this create a disconnect between drawing and animating? Though our lean into realism is obvious, why else are we moving down this path where less artists and more computer code is present, and is it a good thing?
Disney Rewrites History
It should be no surprise to anyone that Walt Disney Studios is the biggest powerhouse in the animation industry. From its creations of the most well known animated films such as Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and The Lion King, Disney brought animation to the homes of millions over the years and has been the location of some of the greatest artists and animators of the past few decades. In recent years however Disney has been the number one perpetrator of seemingly doing away with conventional animation and replacing it with computer graphics.
After acquiring Pixar studios in 2006, the amount of CG films has risen and the number of hand drawn-style ones has plummeted, in fact the last 2D style film was Winnie The Pooh back in 2011. Though this may not seem too troubling on its own, what’s more alarming is the company’s internal itch to remake the animations of the past as CG versions. With Beauty and the Beast, Jungle Book, Dumbo and the upcoming Aladdin film overwriting the films of the past, what message is Disney sending to the animators and artists of 2D? Is it no longer planning to make anything in the format that it pioneered? Are hand drawn cartoon somehow inferior to their CG counterparts?
How Much Is Still Art?
Without taking away from those who work with computer animated styles, there is a difference between the amount of artistry in 2D and its modern incarnation. Take a single frame of an animation. One or several artists are responsible for drawing the characters, colouring them and placing them over a background. In CG though the character is often made further down the line, the job here is to simply move the character through a series of poses, with many of the details such as fibers and background elements randomly created by the computer.
Though it is a different craft, and a worthy one, it seems that the level of art is steadily decreasing and animation as we once knew it is slowly getting the boot. Do we really need everything to look hyper real and slick? How will tomorrow’s art galleries work when a generation no longer knows how to draw without a computer?