Where is animation going?

Just out of interest, where do people think animation is heading today? Im at university (or college as you US residents call it) and i was having an interesting discussion with my professor about this. Im doing an animatic for this module, and i wonder which format to use, 2d or 3d. I mean 3d has come in and its all over, but is it really the future? You look out there, and in all honesty the only people producing top quality 3D animation are Dreamworks and Pixar. Maybe this will change with the current “trend” of 3d producing many more future 3d animators who will turn the industry into 3d only one. But if you look back down the timeline, you notice different styles that have been big, and then gone, for example in the 90’s there was alot of stop motion, but now where is it? Whereas traditional animation has been around for more than 100 years now (albeit in a primative form), and is still seen in successful productions such as futurama, simpsons, etc today. Well if anyone has actually bothered to read all this, what are your thoughts on it? Be good to read what people think, Chris.

I think 2D animation will be around for a long time it’s an art and aa craft with some deep roots. I read a book called stop motion by Susannah Shaw that criticizes animation in the US for being dialogue driven instead of telling the story with the animation it’s self through body language and maybe some music a training tool in stop motion is to take an object like a pen or a book of matches and give it life and tell a story but it is easier to just have 2 characters standing there talking with only there mouths moving so that’s what people do instead of the real art which is creating the illusion of life. from what I read it is taken more seriously as an art form in eastern Europe countries reading that gave me a whole new perspective

Steven

Animation, 2D or otherwise will still be around for a long time because as Steven pointed out, it is an art form.

I do have to agree that the talking head thing is boring. I recently purchased the DVD of “Triplets of Belleville” (sp?) and without understanding one word other than the song, the story spoke volumes. I had no trouble understanding everything. I’ve since figured out how to see the words in English and they didn’t really add anything.

As for stop motion, I think that the only reason it isn’t done too much these days is that it is very time consuming and most studios want something quick and cheap. There are alot of stop motion programs though done mostly by students with applications like Lunchbox.

I do enjoy 3D from the big studios but I still watch a ton of 2D on TV and enjoy it - whether it is good animation or not. Honestly, if the story line hold together, the animation can be totally crappy like South Park is. And I may be stepping on some people’s toes but the Simpsons have been on the air forever and the amimation isn’t the greatest yet it still remains popular.

I think that the internet has opened up a new 2D animation field since most 3D models still take a bit to long to display for those on dial-up.

Even if 2D goes the way of the Dodo over the next couple of decades, there will still be people creating it. Ask my animation partner about plain text adventures on a DOS machine - there are still a ton of people creating and playing them even though the technology is old.

Hi, gang.

I just got the latest Animation World Magazine’s “Spotlight” (a free online newsletter) and saw this interview, which discusses some of the concerns expressed in this post about the future of 2D animation:

http://mag.awn.com/index.phpltype=pageone&article_no=2462#

Not earthshaking info, but interesting.

Best,
-Elwood

I don’t think 2D is going anywhere. These discussions have been going on for years! It’s really a cyclical thing in this country. Everything has it’s peaks and valleys. We do it with diets,…food, clothing, art, automobiles and animation is no different as it falls in the art category. What usually gets something out of the valleys is a quality driven piece that hits just at the right time. We get bored quickly in this country. I always find it humorous to see a big hit cartoon come out (for whatever reason,…art, style, storylines) and then the mass cloning from all of the other studios to follow suit and enjoy the ride. We lap it up and take it and take it and take it,…and then all of a sudden it gets old and then it seems the valley comes back with the decline.

On a personal note,…I feel the story is a MAJOR component of a good cartoon. I put art immediately thereafter. I cannot stand a crappy drawn character. It just irks me as there is no excuse for it. It bothers my eyes and it bothers my brain!!! I think it really needs to tie all in together. I’ve also seen really cool animation, art and stories,…but couldn’t bear to watch it due to terrible voice casting. (Nate’s Newt) What a shame!!! It really needs to all tie in.

People must not confuse simplistic drawings with poor drawings. There is indeed a difference. I can tell immediately if the design and conceptual thinking is there in a cartoon character. I’m working on a toon right now and I have tried to keep the characters as simple as possible with nice clean lines. It has taken quite an effort to do so. I know that the simpler the design,…the more kids can relate to it. The rub comes in when I’m trying to keep the character true to it’s subject matter.

I long for the day when TV series animation can be provided by the small indy as much as the big studios.
It’s getting closer,…but not yet there. Apps like ToonBoomStudio, Flash, CTP, The Tab, Flipbook and LivingCels can only get us there sooner.

I guess my question posed to you all is one concerning the area of 2D animation software. Where do you see it going? Is it time for a HUGE makeover and a retooling as to how animation is done digitally? Can there be anymore improvements in the current approach? Are we just stuck doing the same process but now on a PC rather than paper? Are we really utilizing or taking advantage of the digital age and technological advancements?

td

Hey thanks AWM website link I will definitely be spending some time there, as for the thought that 2D animation is dying just the opposite is happening it is exploding there is more 2D animation being produced today than any time in it’s history and I am sure next year there will be even more as it becomes more and more accessible. when I was a kid there were only 5 channels on television and to produce animation was next to impossible for any one but a studio with a lot of money. I am getting broadcast quality with a ream of paper, scanner 800.00 dollar computer and a 400.00 dollar program. As for the major studios they are going for the money every time after all how many horrible sequels to movies do you see produced just to make a buck. I find that 3D animation is at a very awkward stage the attempt to make something look real but you can’t quite get there the result is something that looks disturbing and distracting. I rented the incredibles and on the second disk were scenes that didn’t make the final cut they were all done in 2D in story board format which is a great way to see if something is working before you commit yourself and I am now doing that with my productions I recommend getting a copy and watching it if you are new to this stuff like me.

TD’s Question:

"I guess my question posed to you all is one concerning the area of 2D animation software. Where do you see it going? Is it time for a HUGE makeover and a retooling as to how animation is done digitally? Can there be anymore improvements in the current approach? Are we just stuck doing the same process but now on a PC rather than paper? Are we really utilizing or taking advantage of the digital age and technological advancements?"

My long-winded response:

Good question, TD. I don’t think many animators–2D or (especially) 3D-- are even coming close to taking advantage of the medium. When I look at the wild, creative chances taken by the very early animators, like Ub Iwerk’s initial art for Disney (Steamboat Willie, etc.), I’m knocked out by their willingness to stretch the characters and situations to the limit. They understood that live-action films were exactly the right medium for showing things pretty much as we perceive them–that is, photographically. Why reinvent the wheel? So they drew horses and dogs with hoses for legs so that they could bend them to the animator’s needs and, in doing so, tossed traditionally drawn figures out the window. Along with safes and sinks and anvils.

Then Disney and Co. decided to incorporate “squash & stretch” and all the other tricks of the animators trade to their craft. I admire what the later animators did along those lines, I mean look at “Dumbo” for incredible drawing! But, in my estimation, animation lost a LOT in doing so. Easily as much as they gained. I just watched the DVD of The Incredibles and I loved the writing and the amazing drawing ability of the animators. Incredible, indeed.

But, aside from the great story and great drawing, where is the innovation? Nearly everything that has happened in commercial animation is about advancing technique. Nothing inherently wrong with that, but why aren’t more chances being taken with the art? I attended my first animation festival last fall–The Ottawa International Animation Festival–and it was a blast. Some nice independent filmmaking happening. Stuff few people will ever see because it ain’t gonna make anyone rich.

To see one example of what I mean, go here:

http://www.arte-tv.com/fr/cinema-fiction/court-circuit/court-metrage/Visionner/400994,CmC=563638.html

The film is “La Piccolo Russia” by Gianluigi Toccafondo. This Realplayer version isn’t high-resolution by any means, but as those things go, it’s pretty good. You should have seen it on the big screen in full glory. It is one hell of an amazing movie and I’m just glad to be able to see it again. If it ever comes out on DVD, I’ll buy it in a heartbeat.

Toccafondo’s 16 minute movie is, to my mind, a little masterpiece. It looks as though he uses some kind of rotoscoping, painting over movie images. Probably old footage merged with a lot of footage he shoots himself. The painted images and the underlying photo images merge and separate, creating a beautifully, flowing narrative film.

It is a dark, haunting story and the art feels very much like the work of the British painter, Francis Bacon or the American illustrator and painter, Marshall Arisman–plus many other influences. The music is equally strange and beautiful. La Piccolo Russian knocked me out the two times I caught it at the festival and still does.

(By the way, if you do check it out, click on “Haut debit” for a high-speed connection. Bas debit means low.)

You may not agree with me that this film is a stretch in animation & I’m not saying that Toccafondo’s approach is a replacement for traditional animation, I’m only putting forth my contention that animators, with all these amazing computer tools at their disposal, have a wonderful opportunity to take animation to new and exciting places and that I think artists like Toccafondo are the ones taking chances and stretching beyond the obvious. Big corporations like Pixar (again, in my estimation) are truly creative only in the area of computerized rendering.

Also, you might want to take a look at the new Aardman website:

http://www.aardman.com/

It has been nominated for a Webby Award in the Movie and Film category and it is a wonderful example of animators trying to break away from the popular, more commercial genres. Aardman, by the way, is the animation house responsible for the great Nick Park stop-motion (claymation) animations, “Chicken Run” and the “Wallace and Gromit” series.

Well, I’ve rambled on too long here. I just wanted to respond to TD’s question and share with Toon Boomers some of the artists who are firing up my creative juices.

I do want to add this: I wish Toon Boom and Flash could find a way to get even better, more refined brushes. I know that vector-based software has limitations for subtle brushwork, compared to bitmap programs like Corel Painter, but wouldn’t it be great to have a brush in Toon Boom that reponded like the oil brush in Painter? I have been an illustrator for some 40 years and, until I began animating a couple of years ago, I used India ink, watercolor and very high-grade watercolor paper and the best Kolinsky sable brushes I could find. Still do for my commercial illustration assignments. So I know traditional materials. Painter comes very close to the feel and look of those mediums.

So, c’mon Toon Boom programmers, how about revisiting the Toon Boom brushes (which are much more refined than those in Macromedia Flash) and make them more flexible and subtle? If that happens, I may even put my trusty Number 7 Kolinsky in storage and create my illustrations as well as my animations using Toon Boom Studio!

Best Wishes,
–Elwood

Great links and great replies Elwood!!

Yep,…I know what you mean about the lack of quality brushes in these 2D animation apps! It drives me NUTS!!
Don’t let the Vector thing fool ya! Brushes that look like real oils and respond like real brushes can and HAS been done in a 2D Vector animation environment! The program was called LivingCels and it took full advantage of what it’s sister app (Expression) has been doing for years!! It’s called skeletal strokes and it is AMAZING!!! If you haven’t tried Expression,…you should! It’s now Free and it is leaps and bounds ahead of all other vector design apps on the market. I had my money in hand when the beta of Living cels came out. I loved the interface and the promise of animation that loked like it just came from a canvas with the softer feel of gently stroked paints and oils made me salivate. Then,…oh yeah,…enter Microsoft. They bought out the Creaturehouse company that created these two apps and that was the end. They released Expression 3 as a free app which was amazing to me and a bummer for those that just plucked 300 bucks for it a month prior. LivingCels was lost!!!

I searched long and hard for a 2D animation package that is VECTOR and has these brush options only to find pititful brushes in Flash and Tab as well as ToonBoomStudio(although better than Flash). This is nothing short of frustrating!

Oh you can find the beautiful brushes in a Mirage or DogWaffle,…but they are not vector and are therefore not lossless so we’re back to sqaure one. I sit and wait. and wait,…and wait…and wait.

These apps can be better! Much better! I say shake up the mix a bit and even change the whole timeline idea a bit. It can never be 100% automated,…nor do I want that. The artist can never be replaced,…but there are plenty of areas that can be better automated and cleaned up to help indys get stuff done even quicker!

Man,…I’m jealous,…I’ve never been to a festival yet!!!

Incredibles? Man,…I saw it 3 tmes and bought the DVD. I’m not a 3D guy,…but I just loved the movie!!

Although a cartoonist/artist first and foremost, I’m also big on writing! I just don’t know what happened to good story telling! It’s so easy for me to pop in a DVD of the DickVanDyke show or Andy Griffith and see what quality comedy writing is all about. You may disagree,…but those shows were so well written that the humor is timeless and effective. Amazingly there was no fallbacks on filfth, vulgarity and trends.

Look at successful cartoons and you will see the same thing. Just because one is producing a cartoon, doesn’t mean you can just throw storytelling out the window. The Flinstones had great stories,…whether HB was your cup of tea or not. Scooby Doo’s early toons we’re great too. My 5 year old still loves them as if they were released this year.

I’ve babbled waaaaay too long.

Todd

Great topic everyone … I really enjoyed reading all of your replies.
Now I’d like to give you a little sneak peek on what’s coming as for
bitmap vectorization at Toon Boom.

Toon Boom Animation is currently developing a stand-alone application
based on our higher end software called Harmony. This software will of course target the
professional animators who need a more advanced set of features.

Now I don’t know much about this software because I’m working more on
Toon Boom Studio than the other products but I know it’s coming and I
know it’s coming big.

So Stay Tooned !!!

As I see it, 3-D animation is the ultimate evolution of what the claymation and puppet animators have been trying to do for decades. The objects, characters, textures, lighting, shadows and movement conform to authentic optical principles. Movement is perfectly smooth, because its
no longer necessary to physically move things by hand and shoot frame by frame. Lighting and and surface qualities are not drawn, but specified.
The results can be amazing but I don’t see it replacing traditional drawn character animation. Imaginative and well designed drawings have an inhernt unique appeal and an evocative power that places them in a totally different category from 3-D rendered images.

Well the evolution never ends or we die, I am quite sure after 3d comes holograms projected into your living room it’s just a matter of time. :o

I believe 2d animation is never going to die. After all its an art form.

Happy Animating!

Kshiraj Telang
Toon Boomator, India
M: (+91) 9871484718

Right now the animation business seems to think the success of 3D animated films is that they are 3D, this assumption is woefully incorrect. It’s about the story. Look at the latest 2D films, with the exception of the emperors new groove, the rest have had crap for story. The 3D feature film is still relatively new to the public. When the newness wears off 2D will be back.

right!
not only this one. ‘the triplets of belleville’ has a beautiful, catching, and funny story, too.
rob

I agree with Rob 100%. The Triplets of Belleville is first rate, one of the best of all time. It has great characters, wonderful drawings (check out the incredible background of the city!), a superb storyline and delightful music. It has it all.

-Elwood

Every animator should own this film and you can get it on Amazon.com for $13.97

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0001IN0MQ/dvdmg/104-4217882-4462305

The DVD also has lots of other features, including an interview with Sylvain Chomet, the creator. A GREAT buy!

An online review of the film:

http://www.dvdmg.com/tripletsofbelleville.shtml

About the making of Triplets of Belleville:

http://cgw.pennnet.com/Articles/Article_Display.cfm?Section=Articles&Subsection=Display&ARTICLE_ID=198458

Woops, forgot that one. GREAT story. BTW> Have you noticed in one scene they are walking upstairs and past the batroom. If you look VERY close you’ll notice there’s something in the potty. (I know it’s strange, but something about the shape of the “crap” caught my eye). I won’t give it away, for those that are now reving up the DVD players. Examine the shape and see if you notice anything about it. It goes by real fast, but when I point it out to others they allways get a good chuckle… ;D

http://www.allocine.fr/film/fichefilm_gen_cfilm=44206.html
time to look the reality into the eyes: ‘les triplettes de belleville’ (i believe this is the right french title) costed 8.55 million euros.

i think this would be a fully another type of a soccer league for us all. or does anybody want to cope with this? do we have big players here?
cheers,
rob

The only thing I wonder about is … how much influence the “ANIME” style is having on the industry. I was at Best-Buy electronics store recently and like the book-stores they have an entire section for this type of animation which is about 90% of the 2D films. I can’t distinguish the difference between these films because the characters all look the same to me. The only comment I have is …on one occassion I was channel surfing late at night ( I have Direc-TV) and saw this Anime style 2D cartoon on one of the non-cartoon channels… I was amazed at the details and how the movement was very very realistic.

I wonder if anybody in this forum has ever used any of the instructional books from ANIME?

I also know that they provide the drawing first then lay down the voice …unlike traditional cartoons.

In a way I am glad Disney does not dominate anymore because it provide avenues for other styles, other artists to get some of the spot-light.

I also agree South Park animation…is crap. But you must admit they have been successfull in breathing life into their characters. In the end I think it’ll fade into oblivion …like Beavis and Butthead … and will be seen as a fad for its era rather than iconic (like Disney)

i dunno exactly about anime, but i see how the mangas dominate the graphic romans market. if you draw a good manga, you’d get a prompt publishing contract. top manga drafts(wo)men are excellently paid and they swim in work.
and i mean the market: the uncountable young people who grow up with those booklets.

so i presume the same people are the anime (which is a ‘moving manga’) consumers. and presumably the same market size…
cheers,
rob

I have written several blog articles on this subject previously. It can easily turn into a “religious” argument depending on to whom you ask the question. So I will only try to add some perspective here and save the strong opinions for others.

Animated content has for the most part divided into segments much as it did in the 1950’s. At that time the division was between “full” animation and “limited” animation. It was primarily economically motivated. TV was an emerging market and there was a major shift toward “limited” animation. “Full” animation was abandoned except for theatrical features and high end TV commercials.

Today the split is between 3D CGI animation and 2D animation. 3D CGI is primarily for theatrical features and high end TV commercials. 2D, mostly “limited” animation is dominant on TV and other media.

There are new factors involved in this latest split. The biggest of which is the technological explosion that has brought animation production to millions who previously could not participate. 3D CGI is a costly, people intensive production environment. 2D is now readily available to the individual creator. Both areas will continue to exist, evolve and thrive. The driving forces will be the unquenchable thirst of the world for more and more content delivered through more and more media channels.

For many creators it will be a choice of one or the other based on their personal taste and situation. 2D will certainly be the choice of most independent small creators and they will never have to worry about a lack of interest in their creations because there will never be enough content to suit all the different emerging avenues of demand. The future of animation is today brighter than ever and the need for entertaining content is and will continue to be the driving force. Part of the entertainment equation is diversification and therefore styles will expand not contract. Creators only need to focus on being entertaining. -JK