Please bear with me, as animation has been on my mind lately and I would like to hear what MUBI has to say on the subject.
The theatrical and television markets are currently dominated by CG or Flash-based features. This has been perhaps THE trend in animated product since mid 2005, as well as the chief focus of any new studio-based development (the latest being Paramount’s creation of its own animation division, starting with their production “Rango”).
But let’s tally up. Traditionally animated short works, both student & professional, are at their all-time zenith in terms of the amount being produced and the accessibility of presentation to a large (and largely interested) online audience. Traditionally animated theatrical works in the past decade, though ridiculously sparse by yesteryear’s standards, perform … decent enough in box office returns, despite their being released directly alongside Twilight and Harry Potter entries, to mention the last two hand-drawn Disney releases. Popular music video production continues to make stylized use of traditional and stop-motion animation, and the experimental/avant-garde zone is crawling with hand-drawn scribbles, forms, and concepts. And of course, Studio Ghibli in Japan still has a very, very entrenched market for its hand-drawn features — with Disney distribution support — a fact which won’t likely change as long as their Miyazaki draws breath.
So while its presence in the theater is almost non-existent, traditional animation does appear to have found a means to continue thriving. One can look to the output of animation schools like GOBELINS in France to be heartened about the potential talent mix which may end up in feature work down the road.
But at the end of all this, do you, as a MUBI film audience, care about the modern ebb and flow of traditional animation? You approach film seriously, and I ask if you feel there’s anything for you to sink your teeth into regarding the form’s modern output. There is the occasional ‘art’ feature thrown into the mix, as with Chomet’s Tati-themed “The Illusionist”. Is that enough? Do such items warrant consideration alongside the live-action master works? Is there any merit in the current crop of CG theatrical features, or is there potential for more complex, “non-blockbuster” oriented features in the future?
I hope this topic isn’t too broad, but I can’t get animation out from under my skin. It’s especially interesting considering a few of Pixar’s golden boys, Brad Bird and Andrew Stanton, are helming upcoming live-action blockbusters “Mission Impossible 4” and “John Carter”, respectively. These will likely be financial successes, and I wonder what future projects will thus be enabled for these two talented individuals. I hear there is still talk from Bird about revitalizing a traditionally-animated “Spirit” picture (based on Will Eisner’s graphic work of the same name), a project that originally fell through in the 1970’s. I also read recently that the Mickey Mouse property gleaned 9 billion dollars worldwide without any feature release in years. Could a return to hand-drawn form be possible for the character, Disney wishing to tie together its legacy form?
I LOVE hand-drawn animation and find there really is no substitute for it. Computer animation continues to lag behind, in terms of the realism of it, though some do it better than others (Pixar).
Still something like The Secret of Kells, well, you just KNOW it’s hand drawn and therefore has a certain grace of movement, subtlety and warmth that is hard to achieve with a machine.
Burn PIXAR to the ground, more traditional hand drawn animation. Three-dimensional animation just hasn’t been unable to match the colors that you can produce in 2D. It doesn’t have the life or vibrancy of hand drawn animation and the animation is never nearly as exciting.
Malik — totally agree with you.
Still there are interesting ways to combine drawing with computers. Tons of stuff on vimeo. For example this (you’ll need to read what she did in the description to understand how this worked):
Another example. And this is the search I did in vimeo under “animation hand drawn.”
Woo, that was really cool.
I certainly concur with the unlimited range offered by hand-drawn animation. I do feel, however, that certain computer elements can lend great support to the work. A good example I feel is in Disney’s “Treasure Planet”, where the flowing, charming illustrative style for Captain Silver is all there in its hand-drawn glory, but his mechanical arm is CG and cel-shaded to match the illustrative style, allowing for highly precise detail/movement while also serving to bring focus to and enhance the alien nature of his various parts.
I think the Pixar’s I’ve seen deserve credit for exceptional visual storytelling. And good use of color. But, yeah, 3D always leaves me cold. And I yearn for more old-school stuff. And for someone to finance Bakshi’s LAST DAYS OF CONEY ISLAND.
I agree with that. Mamoru Oshii is my favorite director and has frequently used CG within his animated films, even if I’m a little iffy about him retrograding the original Ghost in the Shell with it. I prefer it as seasoning as opposed to the main course though. Or the tentacle things in Princess Mononoke where aided by cells for them to be animated fluidly.
I’m glad you posted some video links, as it serves to show some of the rich offerings available online and especially within art-oriented Vimeo.
Here’s a fine example from the Gobelins school:
Well, I’m being a good bit hyperbolic about PIXAR. I do enjoy their work. But they’ve never really done anything for me like any of favorite Disney movies had. And Ben, aren’t you the only vocal Bakshi fan here? :P
Ha! Well I’ll certainly tip my (non-existent, Internet) hat to Bakshi’s “Heavy Traffic” and all those wonderfully agitated characters. I really enjoy the way dialogue just spills out in his films while his scrawled forms vibrate to the even tempo.
‘’Still there are interesting ways to combine drawing with computers.’’
Yes, for sure, but I think even those who don’t like CGI films would agree considering CAPS (Computer Animation Production System used for films like Beauty and the Beast, The Rescuers, etc) and Ghibli films like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke contain CGI and make great use of it. I love the way Ghibli does those rolling by foliage shots that happen from time to time — amazing.
I’ve actually fallen in love with the look of a well-executed CGI + hand-drawn film. Voices of a Distant Star happens to be one of my all-time favorites in both animated-films alone and films overall.
I feel like a loner considering that I do enjoy traditional animation, CGI animation, stop motion animation and apparently am the only person like that who really thinks Pixar makes mediocre movies. The first act of Wall-E was great and I truly think Day & Night is the best thing they have done so far, which is ironic considering its traditional animation style, but I think overall they’ve made fairly unimpressive films.
I still end up seeing them all with my sister because they’re not bad, unless one remembers the glory days of Disney or sees that long awaited theatrical release of a Ghibli film in America (2012 for Arriety, really?!).
Still, give me Fragile Machine over Wall-E any day.
Does anybody else have recommendations for more interesting CGI films that have gone under the radar?
Also the new Winnie the Pooh movie wasn’t bad (except for the short runtime and Christopher Robin sounding like a 4 year old girl). The animation during Pooh’s honey withdrawal was great!
Indeed, computerized art as a support to prop up the hand-drawn core. You know I’m thinking of the tragic 30+ year development of Williams’ “The Thief and the Cobbler” and how his ravishing illustrative and detail-heavy work could’ve been greatly aided by use of CG element or streamlining. (Of course, the hand-drawn detail is ASTOUNDING to behold, but three decades is still three decades and enough time to animate yourself into obsolescence where timely production periods are involved).
Thanks for bringing “Voices of a Distant Star” and “Fragile Machine” to my attention. I hadn’t heard of either before and the former reminded me of the background visuals from “The Place Promised In Our Early Days”:
As far as CGI films which have slipped underneath the radar, director Michel Ocelot has a distinguished 2D history but he made one work in 2006, “Azur y Asmar”, which brought a new depth to his horizontal compositional style.
Ah yes, the Thief and the Cobbler is AMAZING. My sister and I just recently watched the Recobbled Edition. It’s such a shame what happened with that beautiful movie.
Makoto Shinkai is the animator responsible for The Place Promised in Our Early Days as well as Voices of a Distant Star. ;)
Have you seen the artbook ‘The Sky of the Longing for Memories’ consisting of backgrounds from his movies? Such amazingly detailed work!
It’s funny you mention Michel Ocelot as I just got Kirkou and the Sorceress from Netflix and downloaded Azur and Asmar! Now you’ve got me excited to watch them!
I only saw the…messed up cut of The Thief and the Cobbler, but parts of it still amazed me. I’ll make a note to see the Recobbled Edition.
Kirkou and the Sorceress is THE SHIT! Saw it at a film festival years ago. Highly recommended.
Well that’s just excellent on the Shinkai connection! :)
Do check out Ocelot’s “Princes and Princesses”, too! It styles itself after the “The Adventures of Prince Achmed” from the 1920’s and a great piece of animation history.
I just think that Computer Animated films have not reached their full potential…..but I have faith they will…..unless we just end up with shrek 83 and toy story 37
For me Rango was a step in the right direction.
According to the author of “The Pixar Touch”, the core idea instigating some thirty years of computer animation development was the desire at the outset for a feature-length title. That work became “Toy Story”, however you want to take that, but that idea was the impetus for much of what transpired through the 70’s and 80’s as they nudged the technology towards that goal. I wonder if there is, somewhere presently, another ‘core idea’ which will remain in gestation for perhaps decades before suddenly changing the way the game is played in a future film environment.
Do you draw Odi?
Certainly the finest parts of Kung Fu Panda 2 were the hand drawn sequences….
Malik — yes, I do! :)
I think Pixar films work better in 3d CGI, but really great hand drawn animation does have a beauty and grace of movement that 3d animation hasn’t matched.
All films should use the medium they are best designed for.
At least in the US it’s hard to get widespread distribution of animation films that aren’t intended for kids. Even American adult anime fans tend to prefer to anime that’s intended for 13 year old Japanese kids. For some reason, animation intended for adults is rarely taken seriously.
(Hey, actually. Next year…Animation Cup?)