Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Where are all the Traditional Hand Drawn Animated films ? (and why study traditional animation?)

When people make the claim: "There are no traditional animation jobs" or "2D is dead" you should realize that what they mostly mean is that the model of big-budget feature length 2D Animation that flourished for a time in the U.S. film industry from roughly 1985 - 1999 and then finally crashed and burned in the years between 2000 - 2003 (for a variety of reasons, both economic and artistic, too complicated to go into here) is no longer viable.

Yes, perhaps that particular model of traditional animation production is "dead" (or maybe "just resting, pining for the fjords") and is not likely to come back the way it was in the 1990's. There will continue to be hand-drawn animated features , but those will probably be for a niche market , smaller indie films, not necessarily major feature animated films like 'Beauty & the Beast' , 'Aladdin', 'The Lion King' , or even slightly smaller scale films like 'Lilo & Stitch'. It's possible that there could be a break-out hand drawn animated hit again on that scale , but it doesn't seem likely, at least not in the short run. (but never say never ... things couldn't have been much more "dead" than in 1985 - '86 when a couple of films came out that I think changed everything: The Great Mouse Detective and An American Tail . Momentum picked up after those , leading to Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Little Mermaid and beyond ...)

BUT that is not the only viable model of traditional hand-drawn animation production , and it never was the norm. Hand-drawn animation doesn't need to be "saved" or make a "comeback" , because it never really went away. I think there will continue to be smaller scale feature films like "The Secret of Kells" or "The Illusionist" , as well as more truly independent micro productions (one-person , creator driven features or features made by a very small crew) such as "My Dog Tulip" , "Sita Sings the Blues" , "Idiots & Angels" and Nick Cross's forthcoming "Black Sunrise"

There is so much hand-drawn animation still being done for advertisements , short films, games, and web applications (including iPhone/iPad and other tablet apps). And whether it's drawn with pencil on paper or using a Cintiq tablet in an app like TVP Animation , the traditional drawing-based skill sets are still essential to telling a story through images.

Here are a few projects I've seen recently which remind me of how hand-drawn animation is being used in the real world outside of mainstream "Hollywood" features:

Story Corps latest oral history animated piece , "Miss Devine" :

Clever animated advertisements animated by Jason Doll :

Music video animated by Anthony F. Schepperd for Blockhead's 'The Music Scene'.

"The Music Scene" from Anthony Francisco Schepperd on Vimeo.

TIJI Television Network "Colours" :

These are just a few randomly chosen examples from among many. IF you can think beyond "When I graduate I've got to go to work at a giant studio like Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks/BlueSky/CartoonNetwork/Nickelodeon " [not that there's anything wrong with that] you can find a world of opportunity out there for animation. (in particular the hand-drawn variety) .


  1. You're right about this, and I think, that hand drawn animation never dies, because it is one of the most special and expressive technique to make a film with, and make art. And it will be, no matter, how science and technology develops. That is just like with music and instruments.
    However your examples... I dont like them.. I think, a moovie can be succesful only if makers can take their time, spend enough money, energy an care to do a GOOD film! I know it depends on so many things, but a film or moovie can be good or bad. And a good film requires some things. So the question is not technical. Only that there has to be a maker who CAN do a GOOD film - in this case with hand drawn animation...

  2. Story is King! If you look at the best animation, whether it is from a large studio or a one-person indie effort, they all have one thing in common: a compelling story. It might be a full-length giant, or a one-minute short. The animation might be what Williams called "fulsome Fantasia" style or naif (am I spelling that correctly?) -- it doesn't matter as long as the story works and the animation works to support the story. The only thing which could doom a good story might be awful animation, but, since most Saturday morning animated series have the most awful limited animation AND no story, it is hard to say if even that would zap the work. Has anyone seen a terribly-animated great story which worked?