To spite the common assertion that traditional animation is “dead”, the truth is a little more optimistic. Whilst it’s true that we haven’t had a traditionally animated feature length film come out of Hollywood for quite some time (the most recent being Disney’s ‘Winnie the Pooh’ in 2011 and previous to that, Disney’s ‘The Princess and the Frog’ in 2009) the art form is still very much alive and well elsewhere.
Many animated TV shows still use traditional animation, granted, it is often mixed with 2d computer animation techniques in the interest of saving time and money, but the point is it IS being used. “The Simpsons” for example is still pretty much completely traditionally animated “It’s still hand drawn and then it’s digitally inked and painted. And they use computer-y stuff for backgrounds and pseudo 3-D effects” – Matt Groening (read full interview here)
In Europe and Japan traditional animation is thriving. The 2014 film “Song of the Sea” from Irish filmmaker Tomm Moore was even nominated for an Oscar for best animated feature in 2015 and the Japanese animation industry continues to be predominantly focused on traditional animation (anime).
So, when people talk of traditional animation being “dead” what they really mean is “Hollywood feature length traditional animation is dead” however this also may not necessarily be true…
I have recently become aware of two really interesting crowdfunding projects that make me very optimistic about the future of traditional animation on the big screen.
Hullabaloo is a project started by veteran Disney animator James Lopez. Lopez describes Hullabaloo as “a 2D (hand-drawn) animated steampunk film that hopes to help preserve the dying art of 2D animation”. Lopez has gathered a team of both past and present Disney animators to make this a reality. The initial crowdfunding campaign aimed to raise the funds for the team to make 1 hullabaloo short film “We want you to join us in making a short film that will showcase the world of Hullabaloo, which we can show to investors to fund a full length 2D feature.” However, they have surpassed their original target and are now making 4 shorts!
Dragon’s lair was a 1980’s video game directed by animation legend Don Bluth. Now Bluth has teamed up with Gary Goldman to adapt the classic game into a full length traditionally animated feature film! I am particularly excited about this project because Bluth is a huge inspiration of mine. They offer some really cool rewards for contributing too, so I decided to contribute to the project and nabbed myself an animation cell from the film “All dogs go to heaven” signed by Bluth and Goldman, and the “digital student bundle” that includes a selection of animation ebooks and video tutorials!
And finally, I can’t talk about the future of traditional animation and NOT mention Disney’s Oscar winning 2012 short film ‘Paperman’. While technically a CG film, Paperman utilised some traditional animation techniques with groundbreaking new software to give the animation a hand drawn look. Apparently this process is being pursued further at Disney and a Paperman style feature might be on the horizon. You can read more about how Paperman was made here.