Keep Moving Forward… (AKA So long, Lion King)

The world turns quickly. Every minute, dozens of creative brains pitch their next big idea to make the world greater, easier and best of all, newer.  It’s no wonder we’re obsessed with everything NEW.  HEY! What about old things?? Yeah, we love them, too. FEEL THE LOVE. BUT. What is it about these old things that we love? I owned a Talkboy (Stolen Credit Card??) and  an R2D2 tape player that played my stellar Scooby-Doo tape. However, today, I toss my voice into garageband and instantly become a chipmunk or elderly woman instead of lugging some bulky Talkboy that autocorrect doesn’t recognize. And if I want to rock out to the Scooby-Doo soundtrack, I pop out Pandora.

Where do we draw the line between nostalgia and actually serving a purpose? Truth is, there’s not always that fine a line. Like myself, John Kahrs fell in love with the art of hand-drawn animation when he first stepped into Walt Disney Studios (minus the Walt Disney Studios part)– the texture, the life of it all that, at times, is lost behind the technology of CG. SURE, if Disney-Pixar created Monsters Inc with 2D animation, Sully’s full blue locks just wouldn’t be the same! 3D animation has built a gargantuan home in animation, especially these days (they’re taking over!). However, I, like Kahrs, believe 2D animation has its home on our LGs as well. I have a hard time believing a movie like Disney’s The Lion King could have been any better in CG. I’d be so bold to say Disney would agree! (Feel free to comment below, Disney!)

Paperman-shortAnimation is like a puzzle and you piece it all together–the story, the characters, the medium, the voices and so on. Depending on your voice talent, artist, or the medium (i.e. hand-drawn or CG) you have a drastically different story to tell the world. One isn’t better than the other, RIGHT? WELL…. That depends who you ask. The box office would tell you hand-drawn animation is another Titanic–post iceberg. It’s dropping deeper and deeper into the dark of our childhood nostalgia where it might as well stay as far as Disney is concerned. But not if Kahrs has anything to say about it. Kahrs created Paperman to keep hand drawn sketches planted in the final featured CG animation. SO, what we have now is BOTH. Now, we’re talking! Why didn’t I think of that? That’s right! Because I’m not a bloody genius like this guy (Read once more with British accent). Right around the same time as Paperman was introduced to John Lasseter, Disney let go of A LOT of its hand-drawn animation team. The life of a 2D animator is like an endangered animal and Disney holds the smoking barrel. Moreover, they’re about satisfied with the hand-drawn heads on their wall of fame. Will this breakthrough in Disney animation crack a window for hand-drawn animation to form a marriage with the CG world of today?

Either it was a valiant effort and will be a fondly-remembered Disney short or we will see a film, soon, with that same zest for life as Paperman so honestly delivers. CG animators, themselves, love the idea at Disney. Kahrs allegedly would sketch onto their CG animations just to dash on a little extra Disney spice. Let’s face it, when we think of Disney in years to come, there will be a large hand-drawn hole in our CG-loving hearts if all that beautiful hand-drawn animation gets wastefully flushed away.

project_imageWhat do you think? Are you tired of seeing this hand-drawn stuff? Is there a part of you that wishes they would mix it up and do a little bit of both from time to time? Then again, The Princess and the Frog got fantastic reviews but made very little profit (“Disney” little) in comparison to Frozen which may be the top-grossing movie yet. How do you explain that? It might go unexplained. It all comes down to preference. I love hand-drawn animation. I’m sure Walt Disney Studios loves hand-drawn animation too! But investing that much time and money into what people are about sick of– that’s just not smart business.

I guess that’s my last question– There’s no denying that while Walt Disney is a massive conglomerate, creative minds still nestle below the big bucks telling stories that mean the world to them. They put their heart into every frame. BUT when is it wrong to sacrifice the stories you, as storytellers, want to tell– for dollar signs? Is this selling out or is it meeting the public in the middle–“Hey, I’ll save my favorite story for later and tell you one I know YOU’LL love for now…” Either way, I think storytellers from the beginning have told their tales through one medium or another. Cavemen wrote on walls, writers write books, artists paint portraits and animators animate. Experimenting with cutting edge mediums is the way of the storyteller. I look eagerly to the future as maybe Walt Disney Studios is simply carrying on the legacy Walt Disney intended to be carried. Maybe I need to stop and remember what Walt Disney really wanted.

It’s all fun in the end, telling stories. That’s what keeps us animators and illustrators going. We close our eyes and see the world in color, brighter colors of course with jagged outlining and wacky characters that only exist in lost moments if not quickly scribbled on cocktail napkins. That’s the dream we live to tell, no matter the way we tell it. I think we’ll continue to see incredible stories told in the most fantastic ways just as our parents and their parents saw from the beginning. I have no doubt I will be charmed and inspired very soon.




“Keep moving forward.”

Walt Disney




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