As a girl that was always obsessed with animation in all it’s forms even from a young age, I watched and researched it fanatically, I am excited to see where it’s going….
Sorry America though you where my first love in both hand and computer animations (I love both when done right BUT for different reasons) but aside from one production you’ve kind of dropped the ball. It was started in Rescuers Down Under, then we had others where the line was being pushed: Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Anastasia (just to name a few). But it seems like we hit the 2000’s and it’s almost like to make a new series or movie we get one or the other. I get that computer is the future in some respects (heck I was almost a computer artist myself) however to kind of almost toss the concepts of before doesn’t seem too terribly wise. Story too has been slowly being watered down in some respects (but then that could also come from the rather narrow minded concept that if it’s brightly colored and a animation it is only for kids). So here is my proposal:
Computer animation is beautiful in it’s ability to render mechanical items and many things with flat smooth surfaces. It also excels at creating beautiful lines and depth of color that would be impossible or simply a pain by hand. The cameras in computer animation can pull off views and fly through that would be animators personal hell attempting to recreate by hand (even in cinema with drones most can’t move fast enough to dodge a flying body…). Filters and lighting hide a multitude of sins and make for great eye candy (vector based lines add a cleanliness that’s hard to beat). By contrast hand animation makes it a bit easier to breath life into organic creations like animals and people, there is a fluidity of movement that is at once realistic in it’s lack of consistency but also comforting and welcoming.
Japanese animation, in it’s ever interesting mix of tomorrow and yesterday, has taken the ideas of traditional cell animation and is more and more efficiently marrying it with computer animation and what it does well. Gone are the clunky days of Coyboy Bebop’s obviously rendered computer animated space stations or Appleseed’s 3D to 2d animations. By looking at hand animations and attempting to recreate the looks we are starting to see anime’s use more and more of the more modern cinematic shots all because they brought a computer into the scene. Since the country kicks out so many anime series they have had to find more effecient ways of making them. Usually to the tune of hand drawn characters (still done on things like tablets) Inked and colored on computer with backgrounds done the same way. Disney’s Princess and the Frog took from that idea. Digitally painting the backgrounds brought that organic feel but a efficient means of production. In fact this is almost the standard in most anime lately, with few exceptions. Lately we are seeing many fine examples of the wonderful use of the two animation styles working together:
Ghost in a Shell: Stand alone complex.– Just watching this series you actually start to see how Production I.G. (also known for producing Love Hina, Xxxholic and was in charge of the CG for Last Exile) was getting better and better at making hand and computer rendered things shake hands. It was still obvious when you saw something that was never touched by a human pen (Cars, trains etc.) as their movement, while smooth was…artificially so. However with the theme of the show it worked perfectly. The computer coloring was on point and the limited palette was made easier to find so many different shades of black, grey and pale blonds and browns to render the world in.
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal- I remember the original anime and I loved the transformation sequences. But I read the manga too because Naoko Takeuchi had a beautiful watercolor, somewhat faded style of coloring around the eyes. Fast forward to 2015 and they have not only figured out how to make the transformation sequences better but also recreate Takeuchi’s eyes, thanks to the strides in computer coloring. Do not get me started on the new attack rendering…*hugs herself in bliss*
Arslan Senki (TV)- Just watch the first episode. The camera does a fly through that is very notable. Imagine how long it would’ve taken them to render that by hand. Many of the buildings and over head views are computer done as well. I do think that a filter or two would’ve made them mesh a little better with the rest of the animation style but all in all it’s still pretty well done.
The Irregular at Magic High School- Another personal favorite of mine. The magical effects and the rendering of the magic seals was top notch and while not impossible to have rendered entirely by hand the glow effects would not be the same.
The list goes on, really. Each new season I see something new, something slightly better than before and that makes me still excited. That little girl who told her mom she wanted to be a Disney animator (then a Foley artist…and a myriad of other things) gets excited again. Unfortunately outside of the indie scene I’m not feeling the same here. That is not to say I don’t like what’s being done, I loved Brave and at least thought that Frozen was pretty and could appreciate the computing power necessary for both and could clearly see the new programs they had to write for each one and kudos to them for that. I guess what I’m just asking why not continue the path of Princess and the Frog? Why not both?