Is digital animation killing cel style animation?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Todd_Brown, Mar 23, 2002.

  1. Todd_Brown

    Todd_Brown Second Unit

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    With the success of both Toy Story movies, Monster's Inc. , and now Ice Age , are we seeing the end of traditional cel animation? Disney's Return to Neverland combined both, but what is the long term future of cel animation? I prefer cel to digital, its seems more warm. I'm sure it costs more to do a feature length film in cel vs. computer drawn. What do you think?
    Todd
     
  2. Bill Slack

    Bill Slack Supporting Actor

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    Well, I think quite a bit of 'cell animation' is already being done digitally. I think that you'll see nearly all of it go that way in the future. I don't think CG animation will replace cell-style animation though.

    Rendered CG is is usually going to be more expensive than cel-style.
     
  3. James_M

    James_M Stunt Coordinator

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    If audiences keep flocking to CGI and not cel, cel will surely become very endangered in the US. I like both cel and CGI but I care more about the story than the medium. If it happens, it'd probably only happen in the US and not in Japan though.
     
  4. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

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    It's just a changing of the animation process. The first animated films were in black and white and drawn on paper. Then came "cells" which also were hand drawn. In the early 60s Disney used Xerox technology to duplicate cells, rather then re-drawing each one over and over. Then came computer animation. Instead of drawing on paper or plastic cells the animator draws on a screen. Same process as before just a new way. The animator still studies the movements of animals and people even though a computer is used. Live action is still used as a reference many times. A computer is dumb, it needs HUMAN input. As long as artists are involved in this input animation will remain unique.
     
  5. Guy_K

    Guy_K Second Unit

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    You also have to take into consideration the quality of the films being released in both formats. These days with traditional cel style animation we're getting sub-par stories such as Return to Neverland, Disney sequels, and Atlantis. In the early - mid 90's, we were getting great cel style animated films such as Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, Aladdin, Hunchback of Notre Dame. Scripts of those films would probably be done digitally today. In digital animation we're getting great films from Pixar every couple of years. I would bet that if Ice Age, Monsters Inc, and Shrek were animated films done the traditional way, they would still be just as successful.
     
  6. Ray Chuang

    Ray Chuang Screenwriter

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    I think the days of hand-drawn color cels for animation are coming to an end. The reason is simple: it's a very time-consuming process.

    Indeed, even the more traditional Disney animated feature nowadays relies very heavily on computers. In the case of Atlantis: The Lost Empire, the rough and initial cleanup character animation are still done by hand, but background animation, coloring, and lighting effects are all done with the aid of computer paintbox systems and animation integration systems such as Disney's own Computer Aided Production System (CAPS). That's why the final product is all-digital, and they use a special system to print each final frame of film on the negative. Indeed, I believe the master every Disney animated feature since Beauty and the Beast is on digital tape or disc.

    In Japan, most animation is done with computer assistance since 1999, because Fujifilm--the company that made the transparent film used in animation cels in Japan--phased out production of the film in 1998.
     
  7. Todd_Brown

    Todd_Brown Second Unit

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  8. Morgan Jolley

    Morgan Jolley Lead Actor

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    Probably the most interesting thing about this year's Oscars is that the very first year that the Best Animated Film category is used, all the nominees are CG movies, while animation is mostly hand-drawn cel animation.

    I think that there is room for both. The reason why CG movies have been more successful or accepted more is because when the studios set out to make a CG movie, they know how expensive it is, and because of the price tag, they NEED to make a good movie from it, so they make sure that the CG movies they make are good. Cel animation isn't as expensive, so the quality doesn't have such a high standard.

    If they start making good cel animated movies (which they haven't been doing recently), then they will get more acclaim.
     
  9. Alex Spindler

    Alex Spindler Producer

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    I think it is likely that there will be an eventual swing back to cell animation in the future as kind of a 'back to its roots' approach, but those will be rare. The best you can hope for would be the hybrid cell/CG movies (which many of you are listing as the 'good' cell movies). Now that the studios have invested in good CG animation farms, they won't be as expensive as before.

    Face it, if Disney was making Snow White today, at best you'd be looking at a hybrid movie like Beauty and the Beast but more likely you'd have a CG movie. When they get better at their CG movies, they'll be just as warm as the cell animation.

    I appreciate CG animation, but it is still very much in it's infancy compared to cell animation. Give it time.
     
  10. Artur Meinild

    Artur Meinild Screenwriter

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    I don't think cell-style will go away for some time. To my knowledge, Disney is still going to release 1 cell animated movie each year, and as long as they do that, I think Fox, Dreamworks and the other studios will follow...
     
  11. Francois Caron

    Francois Caron Cinematographer

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    Cell animation doesn't need to disappear completly. In fact, a computer is the perfect environment for drawing traditional cell style animation. You can control the selection and blending of colors much more accuratly than if you tried to mix the stuff yourself. Simple shading and lighting effects can easily be added to any character and environment without affecting the original models. Multi-plane effects can be created virtually without the need for a multi-plane set-up.

    An excellent example of these possibilities can be found in the movie "The Iron Giant". The robot itself was obviously a CGI character, but it was "drawn" to look like a traditional cell animation drawing. Only the smoothness of the movements reveals it's origins. In fact, much of the movie was created inside a computer, but was intentionally drawn in a very simple style to give the movie it's distinct character. As a result, traditional cell animation is now being extended to levels that were simply impossible to achieve by hand only a few short years ago.

    Once the fad of creating ONLY realistically looking cyber characters starts to diminish, we'll see a return of traditional style animation, but all of it will be created from within a computer. And it'll look better than ever.
     
  12. Morgan Jolley

    Morgan Jolley Lead Actor

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    Some companies will hand draw the cells for animated productions without color, then digitally add it in and animate the film in the computer. Pretty easy to do and can also save time.
     
  13. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    Kodak is going to stop making acetate cells sometime in the next 2 years. The animation industry is almost all doing ink and paint in the computer now. It's cheaper, and you can have as many colors as you want.

    Too bad, I love collecting cels
     
  14. Michael St. Clair

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    The 'ink and paint' being digital and the lack of cels doesn't bother me.

    I don't see pencil drawings for the 'traditional' films going anywhere. 99% of artists just can't draw with a puck the way they can with a pencil.

    So, no, I don't see digital animation killing pencil drawn animation. Cels is a different story, but cels are not what makes animation 'hand drawn'.
     
  15. Francois Caron

    Francois Caron Cinematographer

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    I agree. Although the final animation will now be drawn inside a computer, pencil tests will still be done by hand simply because it's the easiest and fastest way to do it. Even storyboards are still done by hand.
     
  16. Ray Chuang

    Ray Chuang Screenwriter

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  17. Francois Caron

    Francois Caron Cinematographer

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    All I'm hoping is that this digital technology helps in improving the development of the characters and storyline as well as improving the overall quality of the backgrounds and lighting effects. I'd hate to see a major studio start pumping out a bunch of badly made cartoons on the cheap.
     
  18. David Rogers

    David Rogers Supporting Actor

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    I prefer CG over 'traditional' animation, personally.

    My reasons: the reality CG images retain and continue to improve on every year, yet also with CG you keep the fantasy elements that make it animation.

    Toy Story doesn't work as a live-action piece, IMO. Even if you spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the costuming and sets, it would still come out looking like actors in costumes on sets. You'd need photo-real CG to clean it up to look like what it should look like; a bunch of children's toys that come to life. I definitely don't agree Toy Story would work as cel-animation, not at all. It would be just another cartoon then, not the piece of wonder it is now. Even with the same script it wouldn't have the impact as cel-animation it does as CG.

    I think the best of hand art is simply amazing; I've seen "simple" pencil drawings that made me stop in the middle of the hallway and just stare in amazed disbelief. Most cel-animated movies, IMO, didn't do very good when it comes to the quality of the art. It all looked like what it was; cranked out cels. I like Iron Giant quite well, but the style of art make it look like utter crap. It's very unattractive, there's no sense of beauty in the art, no aesthetic for me to enjoy. Don Bluth is the only traditional animator whose work I've ever enjoyed as art; other animated films I like are because I enjoy the script (like Aladdin). Dreamworks' Prince of Egypt, now that had some absolutely AMAZING art in it, the only non-Bluth animated film I can think of enjoying purely for the art.

    CG has a different style of art and animation, but personally it comes out looking so much better. Cleaner, crisper, more vibrant and strong. The animations are more realistic, the models more detailed; would a cel-animated Toy Story have bothered to model the push-buttons on Buzz Lightyear's chest, or the blinking lights on his wingtips, or the look of the closed helmet around his head with shadows and reflections? Toy Story works for me, in part, because the suspension of disbelief is so effortless when I watch it; the story is simply magical, and nothing on the screen ever intrudes in my illusion. In cel-animation, I always know I'm watching a series of hand drawings; it just doesn't have the same impact for me at all.
     
  19. Edwin-S

    Edwin-S Producer
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    ? Toy Story works for me, in part, because the suspension of disbelief is so effortless when I watch it; the story is simply magical, and nothing on the screen ever intrudes in my illusion. In cel-animation, I always know I'm watching a series of hand drawings; it just doesn't have the same impact for me at all.

    ------------------------------------------------------------

    I find it is just the opposite for me. I like TOY STORY and have no problem with CG animated films, which have their place in the medium. Artistically, however, I find a lot of purely CG animated films to be sterile and mechanical. I have not seen one CG animated film that comes anywhere near the artistry of a film like "Bambi" or "Pinocchio". "Bambi", in particular, runs a gamut of art styles from the near realistic to the abstract. I have never seen a range like that in any CG movie. The rainstorm scene in "Bambi" made an impact on me and it was cel animated. It was an amazing piece of artistic work, showing the physics of running water through the eyes and pencils of artists, not computer algorithms from the mouse of some programmer like the hair movement on Sully from "Monsters inc.". I'm not knocking the technical brilliance of all that moving hair, in fact, it would have been extremely expensive and difficult to create that effect any other way but it is artistically reduced, in my eyes, when a machine is doing most of the work.

    I can suspend my disbelief with good cel animation just as much as with CG films. Maybe more so because good cel features still seem more organic than pure CG work. Case in point.....the trailer to DreamWorks new Cel/hybrid feature "Spirit" that ran in front of "Ice Age" actually interested me more than the feature film did.
     
  20. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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