2d animation in a Pixar world

I believe in traditional (2d) animation. But watching Nemo, for a moment I almost believed the hype — that 2d just can’t compete with 3d anymore. To remind myself that it’s not true I looked at the great drawings in the Art of Finding Nemo book, and remembered the fish sequence from the original Fantasia. Both mediums are appropriate for their own stories, and any great idea with strong characters can be embraced by audiences. You only have to look at last year’s successes Lilo & Stitch and Spirited Away as proof. The thing that makes Pixar great is the story artists and the hands-off management, not the render farm.

There will be great 2d films to come, and to be successful they will need to embrace what makes 2d special: drawings. It’s clear that Disney (the company) has never understood what Walt believed in. Jim Hill thinks that many top artists, rather than submit to 3d re-training, may leave to build a new traditional animation company, taking over the art form that Disney pioneered.

“And — since WDFA execs now seem genuinely reluctant to greenlight a new traditionally animated feature — that’s why many Disney Animation vets are now reportedly talking about ‘… pulling a Bluth.'”

Don Bluth, tired of the cheap production process compared to the classic Disney films, left the company and took many senior animators with him. They made The Secret of Nihm, and then the financial successful An American Tail.

Although I don’t know the political climate at the studio, it is clear that there was a division among the animators, and Bluth left many young recruits behind. One of them, Glen Keane, is among the most respected animators in the business. He has supervised the characters Ariel, Beast, Alladin, Pocahontas, Tarzan, and Long John Silver. Now he wants to direct Rapunzel with charcoal animation, or 2d with 3d hair, but the project is being forced into an all-CG production.

Getting back to Jim Hill’s point, would Glen leave rather than make a completely CG film? Maybe not. Ironically, he worked closely with John Lasseter before Lasseter left for Pixar, and then closely with Eric Daniels on the computer/traditional hybrid Long John Silver in Treasure Planet.

Witold Riedel:

“The writers at Pixar are somehow always able to think outside of one age group and so I think that even if Pixar decided to make movies with paper-napkin-puppets exclusively, they would still be able to turn them into wonderful classics. Their storytelling sits at the beginning and in the centre of the process and this really shows.”