We may have seen the last days of hand-drawn animation. It’s not going to come from DreamWorks Animation (all of their 2D endeavors flopped), BlueSky, or Sony Pictures Animation. The last refuge was Disney, who had released the hand-drawn Winnie the Pooh in 2011. But that looks like the end of Disney’s 2D animation for the foreseeable future. According to /Film, at “Walt Disney Company shareholder’s meeting, CEO Bob Iger revealed none of Disney’s animation companies, which includes Disney Animation, Pixar and Disney Toons, are currently developing, or have plans to develop, any 2D, hand drawn animation for the big screen. He’s not ruling it out, but the current slate—which probably stretches 3-4 years—has none of it.”
Hit the jump for my thoughts on this sad state of affairs.
There’s a quote from either Disneywar or The Men Who Would Be King, and I believe it’s from Jeffrey Katzenberg (of all people). The quote is (and I may be paraphrasing), “Hand-drawn animation is like writing a letter; CGI animation is like writing an e-mail.” (Obviously, he said this when DreamWorks Animation was still pursuing hand-drawn animation) Both get the message across, but CGI animation has rarely achieved an intimacy that hand-drawn animation has achieved. That’s not to dismiss the hard work of CGI animators, but there’s a human factor that feels increasingly lost among today’s animated films. The technology may be limitless, but the way it approaches art styles feels limited.
Part of the problem is that so many CGI films have the edges rounded off to appeal to the widest family audience available. There’s hardly anything dark or threatening about them. Pixar used to push the emotional boundaries, but they’ve considerably softened over their last two pictures (and I don’t know if Monsters University will break that unfortunate trend). There’s nothing inherently wrong with CGI movies, and I wish 9 had a better story because it’s a good looking flick. But even that movie doesn’t have the charm of hand-drawn animation.
Of course, I’m old-fashioned. Kids today are being conditioned to appreciate the shiny, CGI-animated, 3D films that are being put in front of them. All I can do is encourage parents to show the classic 2D films that Disney used to bring us, and it’s a shame the studio is leaving that tradition behind. I understand the move from a business perspective. Their last 2D films, The Princess and the Frog and Winnie the Pooh, flopped. The studio isn’t in the art business, so it’s up to parents to broaden their kids’ horizons. I wish there were room at the multiplex for 2D and 3D films, but the audiences aren’t turning out for the hand-drawn stuff. Disney Animation Studios may want to get rid of Steamboat Willie in their banner before it starts confusing kids.