Entry: No more hand-drawn animation on Disney's slate Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Upcoming Disney films no longer include hand-drawn animation

For those of us with an interest in the history of animation, this definitely is the end of an era.

Disney was, of course, the icon of feature-length animation for the 20th century.  The golden era started with "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and lasted through "The Jungle Book," the last film Walt Disney worked on personally.

Disney animated features were, to say the least, uneven through the 1970s and 1980s.  But then a renaissance occurred; "The Little Mermaid" kicked it off, quickly followed by "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin," and "The Lion King."  True, there have been a few clunkers since, but overall Disney feature animation has been top-notch.

Recently, however, with Pixar's unbroken string of successes, and the cost pressures of the labor-intensive hand-drawn animation process, it has become inevitable that computer animation would replace the hand-drawn type.

For those who collect animation cels, original (not sericel or limited edition) feature film cels from Disney stopped by the time of "The Lion King."  By then, even though much was hand-drawn, the cels were then scanned into computers, added together with often-computerized backgrounds, minor characters, and special effects, and then transferred to final film.  The cels were never released to the public, and would rarely look like the final film version in most cases anyhow.

There will still be room for the traditional-looking 2D animation, but it will be done completely by computer.  And 3D animation, in the Pixar vein, is likely to take over as the most common type.

Other major corporations' studios and smaller animation studios will follow.  In many cases, they already have.  Today, Disney; tomorrow, all.

And after "The Simpsons" goes off the air, you can bet there will be few hand-drawn animated TV series of any quality or importance.

One possible exception: the recently-resurrected "Family Guy."

Call it another cast-off technology.


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