VIDEO: Is hand-drawn animation dead?

Joey discusses factors and tastes that contribute to the lack of hand-drawn films in the mainstream market.

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  • Jonathan Campbell

    I’d be very, very surprised if we did not see a mainstream 2-D animated film somewhere down the line.

    Particularly since the Pixar magic has lost some of its sheen in recent years.

    Might not be anytime soon mind you, but I’m pretty sure it will happen.

  • jbwarner86

    As much as I enjoy CGI animation, and as much as I stand by the belief that story and characters take precedence over art style, I do admit that I rather miss mainstream hand drawn features. It’s true, there is something primal and fun about seeing drawings brought to life. But I’m not one of those die-hard fanboys who thinks Disney is somehow betraying their roots by focusing on CGI right now, nor do I think they need to do away with CGI completely and go back to hand-drawn films 100%. Knowing what a fan of innovative technology Walt Disney himself was, I bet he would have really been into computer animation if he’d lived to see it.

    I’d love to see them strike a balance again. But Hollywood is still mired in this mindset that “CGI = profitable, hand-drawn = bomb”. Ironically, because of that mindset leading to a proliferation of CGI films from all the major studios, there’s been virtually no hand-drawn films to come along and disprove that myth. And those that have unfortunately did get trampled by the competition – The Princess and the Frog was a great movie, but man, did Disney ever shoot themselves in the foot when they released it against Avatar.

    You raised a good point about how some CGI movies have styles that might lend themselves better to a 2-D approach. In addition to Mr. Peabody and Sherman, I’d also argue that the Madagascar films have characters that would probably function better in 2-D, and I would have preferred to see Over the Hedge done in a hand-drawn style akin to the look of the comic strip it was based on. Heck, even one of my favorite movies, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, is chock full of designs that might look better hand-drawn. On the other hand, a movie like Wreck-It Ralph pretty much needs to be CGI, taking place in a virtual environment and all, and movies like Up and Brave and Frozen make fantastic use of 3-D space to create breathtakingly beautiful worlds. Both art forms have amazing strengths.

    I’m hoping Hullabaloo does well. Hand-drawn animation is a great art form, and while it still thrives well on television, it’d be great to see it come back to theaters too. But really, all forms of animation fascinate me, and as long as Disney and Pixar and other studios continue to craft fascinating stories with great characters, I’ll continue to see them no matter what the medium.

  • Alexa

    Nicely put, Thank you Joey =)
    And yes I feel like the project Hullabaloo is a great indicator that people still love the medium of hand drawn/2D animation, I certainly do. And that doesn’t mean I don’t love CGI animated features either since I also grew up on Pixar films. But in general 2D just has a way of being more beautiful and fluid than most CG animated films. And I really do hate it when creators just flat out blame 2D animation style for certain films tanking, as seen with Katzenberg’s feeling when it came to Road to El Dorado and Sinbad. Even though I bet Frozen would still have been successful if they decided to make it 2D considering what people love most about that movie is the songs, characters, and story which are all strong aspects to it.
    And yeah it all comes down to preference, I too prefer 2D animation. I just find it more appealing visually.

  • JD

    Wasnt The Tale of the Princess Kaguya a mostly hand drawn release?

    • Joseph Patrick

      It got a really, really, REALLY limited release.

      • Muthsarah

        It’s currently playing where I am, but all the subtitled shows are late at night, across town, in not-the-best-neighborhood-to-be-in-after-dark. Wish I could support it, but I just hate dubbing way too damn much, so it’ll be a rental. ‘Course, I’m still waiting for The Wind Rises to be available to rent, so…ughh…..

        Have you had a chance to see it where you live? I guess everything plays in/around NY.

        • Joseph Patrick

          Actually the only theater I know playing in NYC is the IFC near time square. There’s literally only two theaters I know in Jersey playing it… completely north and south of where I live. Welp.

      • JD

        Yea it was not playing anywhere near me.

  • SithSmurf

    It may only be a matter of time before software is developed that can be used to make animation look similar to hand-drawn. Of course, by that time the people with experience doing actual hand-drawn animation may be unavailable… Not that it’d make everyone happy. Some people prefer records to CDs, after all.

    What’s a record, you ask? No, what’s a CD, you ask? Yeah, yeah. Get off my lawn!

    Me, I don’t really have a preference, hand-drawn vs. CGI, for any given movie. I admit that I’d like to see hand-drawn animation continue for the nostalgia factor, but I also have to admit that it wouldn’t make me more likely to buy a ticket.

    • Muthsarah

      Black and white movies are still made from time to time, and not always for budgetary reasons. Likewise, 2D animation will always be around, it’ll just get rarer and rarer until it eventually takes its place as another conspicuous “stylistic” abnormality. If done well, it’ll still find an audience.

      I just hope the traditions of good 2D animation stick around with them. I recall the story of the production of David Lynch’s “The Elephant Man”. It was always intended to be shot in black and white, but when they were putting it together, they had a hard time finding people who even knew how to shoot a great-looking black and white film, or to find the necessary film stock. They eventually solved that, but finding trained animators will certainly be a hell of a lot harder. I hope there are enough “hipster” 2D animators around to pass on the knowledge to the next generation of animators.

  • Thomas Stockel

    The printer won’t be in Age of Ultron? But won’t Ultron need a whacky sidekick?

    Seriously, a great editorial, Joey.

    • Joseph Patrick

      Unfortunately, he rejected it. He said it had too many strings attached.

  • DeanD

    Great editorial. I personally blame Randy Newman for hand-drawn animation’s decline in prominence. If he had written good catchy songs for The Princess and the Frog, the movie would’ve been the big hit the studio/audience was looking for. But he wrote the most generic and forgettable songs in Disney’s canon, so the film only did adequate business thus giving them a reason to stop hand-drawn work altogether. It’s so sad to me because being an animator was the first thing I ever remember wanting to be based off the beauty of Bluth and Disney’s work while I was growing up. I know it’s more expensive and surely more work, but I sincerely hope the art-form returns and in a big way. I barely watch computer animated films because as beautiful as they can be, they lack authenticity to me.

    • jbwarner86

      I have mixed feelings about Randy Newman’s songs, especially for Disney and Pixar movies. I remember when Toy Story came out, and “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” was just the catchiest, most upbeat thing ever…and then three years later, along comes A Bug’s Life with “The Time of Your Life”, and they didn’t even try to hide that it’s the exact same goddamn song. And then comes Monsters Inc., and sure enough, “If I Didn’t Have You” is the exact same fucking song again…only now it’s a duet, so yay?

      But yeah, The Princess and the Frog was a fun movie, but man, were the songs ever dull as dishwater. “Almost There” and “Friends on the Other Side” are the only ones I really remember, and that’s just because of the awesome visuals that went with them.

  • Dar

    Perhaps Mr.Tedesco should have clarified if he was talking about 2d vs 3d, cell-animation, or just any hand-drawn stuff?

    Because from what I read all of Disney’s 2d “hand-drawn” animations from atleast “Aladdin” on-wards were drawn on computers. so they were 2d and hand-drawn just to cell animation.

    • Joseph Patrick

      Now you’re thinking too hard. “Traditional, hand-drawn, frame by frame mainstream animated movie” would have been an awkward title for this video :P

  • Dennis Fischer

    Hey, Joey, why no mention of ROBIN WRIGHT AT THE CONGRESS, or more simply THE CONGRESS, which is an impressive cell animation film (well, half live action, half cell animation), which was released this year. True, it’s an arthouse movie rather than a mainstream one, but it is filled with interesting ideas that it partially explores through the medium of animation. In addition to Wright, it also has Paul Giamati, Jon Hamm, Harvey Keitel, or in other words, a pretty great cast. Based on Stanislaw Lem’s SF novel The Futurological Congress, it is certainly worth checking out.