Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Random musing: 2D or 3D animation?

First off, I want to apologize for last week's post. It was messy, whiny, and born more out of frustration than anything else. And in future, I will try to avoid such posts.

But anyway, the subject we are going to talking about today is animation, so before we go on, I should preface this post with a disclaimer: namely that I am NOT an animator, and I'm never likely to be. And everything I'm about to say here is based on research, observation and my own opinion. So take what I'm saying here with a grain of salt. So if you're an animator reading this, then please don't freak out.

Recently, former Disney animator and filmmaker, Don Bluth, had a successful crowdfunding campaign to make a film based off his 1983 arcade game, Dragon's Lair (see video on the right), a film that he's been trying to get made well before it saw life as a game, but it just never happened for some reason or another. Now obviously, the money raised from the campaign isn't enough to get an entire movie made, but it was never meant to be. It was meant to fund a sizzle reel to show to potential investors. But the big draw with this potential film is this: Bluth wants to do this film with traditional hand-drawn 2D animation. Which is GREAT. Hollywood is so obsessed with CGI/3D animation that seeing a traditionally animated film would be like breathing air from the highest tier of heaven.
But it also begs the question...why would a traditional 2D animated film be such a breath of fresh air? Why, exactly, did Hollywood abandon hand-drawn 2D animation, in favor of overused CGI (Computer Generated Image) that keeps looking more and more dated as time goes on?

How traditional animation works.
Well, according to a friend of mine who studies animation, the reason is that "2D animation is no longer viable...it takes less work to make it with 3D animation and there are things you can do with 3D animation that you can't with 2D animation." I'm paraphrasing by the way. Now, if we were talking about animating with animation cels, which is the technique that Walt Disney perfected when he made Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, then I could see my friend's point. Because that is very labor intensive and cartoons/films made this way can cost a lot of money and take a lot of time to produce. But what my friend's argument does not address, through all the times we have talked about it, is this....nobody uses animation cels anymore. Why is this? Well...

1 computer. 
+ Drawing Tablet (or a really good mouse) X Photoshop (or something similar) .
+ animation software = 2D ANIMATION IS STILL VIABLE.   

....That's why. Guys, there is computer hardware and software available right now that can do what took Walt Disney three years of work and over $1 million in the 1930's, in about two weeks for practically nothing. Alright, alright, that's obviously an exaggeration. But the point here is that hand drawn 2D animation is not only still viable, it's now more possible than ever to do. The tools to make it have just changed. We stopped using Animation Cels because we simply didn't need them anymore. And if you need more proof, just look overseas at Japan, South Korea, Europe and even India (among other places), where 2D animation is still being produced using the same kind of technology that I just showed you above.

The answer is money. Pure and simple.
This leads nicely to the next point, and the real reason, as I see it, as to why 2D animation isn't done by Hollywood much anymore. Namely, it's got NOTHING to do with whether 2D animation is still viable or even profitable, and it has everything to do with economics. Supposedly, American animators get paid $125 USD/hour, whereas animators in, say, India, get paid the equivalent of $25 USD/an hour. And that an animated feature film in America can cost up to $175 million USD or more to produce. Where in India, the cost would be up to $25 Million USD.  I say 'supposedly' because I got this information off of Wikipedia, so who the hell knows what their source was. But for the sake of argument, let's say that it is accurate. I bring it up because 90% of animation projects these days, from both sides of this argument, are being outsourced to companies from the aforementioned countries.

While I can appreciate that money plays a huge role in the production of entertainment, it also flies in the face of common sense when applied to this topic. It's common knowledge that as technology improves, things get easier and cheaper to produce. It's as true with computers, as it is with animation. And, according to all my sources, all of these foreign animation companies are using the best animation equipment that money can buy. Pretty much the same kind of equipment that Hollywood uses...hmmm, that's very odd.

Maybe there is a factor here that I'm missing, but it looks to me like Hollywood is perfectly content to ***ck 2D animators out of work, and completely ignore the people who are willing to give them their money to see more 2D animation.

Now look, I'm not saying that animation done with computers is easy to do, Nor am I saying that a lot of hard work and time doesn't go into animation in general. I know for a fact that it does. All I'm saying is that the whole "2D animation isn't viable" argument is a crock of bull shit. And I can hear some of the complaints now, "But if it's done with computers, then it's not real traditional animation," and "You're ****cking retarded if you think that 2D animation is better than 3D animation." Then to the former I say; Guys, if it looks like a duck, talks a duck, feels like a duck, and the only difference is that the duck has a power motor suited to move MechaGodzilla, then it's still technically a duck.

And to the latter I say: well first off, that's quite rude, and secondly. I am in no way implying that one form of animation is somehow superior to the other, I honestly couldn't care less about which is better. I'm saying that it makes very little sense to me why Hollywood (or any film industry for that matter), would willingly abandon one in favor of the other. Especially when there is room for both or, even better, a mixture of the two. How cool would that be? 2D animation mixed with 3D animation. If done correctly, it would be the best of both worlds. Hell, in Japan, we are already starting to see something like that (see video above).

I think Don Bluth sumed it up the best:
"Just because we listen to classical music doesn't mean that we can't listen to jazz."
Well put sir, well put.

And that's all out of me for now, Dear Readers. See you next week.                              


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