Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Disney Ends Its Hand-Drawn Animation Production

I don't know if Walt is spinning in his grave or not over the end of cel animation, but it is a shame to see it go away. I just hope that Disney doesn't go overboard with 3-D animation. I still like my 2-D animation, even if it's switched over to being animated on a computer instead of using thousands of painted slides.

A lot of newer Japanese animation is rendered in what I call "the halfway." Backgrounds are computer graphics, but the characters and foreground pieces are still based off of hand-drawn models. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex on Cartoon Network is a great example of this. Watch the way the vehicles move, look at the textures of the insect-like Fuchikoma robots, and you'll see that they're CG. Now watch the people. They're still hand-drawn, and it blends together seamlessly unless you study it very carefully. The 1998 series "Cowboy Bebop" also uses the mix of hand-drawn and CG effects to create its "Space Western" atmosphere. This is "the halfway:" a place where an animator uses human insight for the important parts of the story, and leaves the details to something that can hyperfocus on those details, his computer.

Mind you, this won't become the standard for a few more years. Shows like Samurai Champloo still use the hand-drawn style, even when they're drawn on a Wacom tablet instead of paper.

Still, though, when the Rolls-Royce of animation studios drops its traditional production line, you wonder what the future of animation is going to be.

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