Animation Mystery: Did 3D kill 2D?
Updated: Oct 8
Since the introduction of 3D animation in the early 90's, we've seen less and less classically produced animation in films and television. Did 3D animation murder 2D? Did technology replace art? I know these questions have been keeping you up at night for decades so it's time to search for some answers to this troubling mystery.
What happened to classical animation?
For the majority of the 20th century, classical animation graced the big and the small screens with some of the greatest animated films and characters of all time. Disney ruled the movie industry with films like Snow White, Cinderella, and Bambi and Warner Bros and Hanna-Barbera ruled Television with shows like Bugs Bunny and The Flintstones. But classical animation became quite lazy, as studios began to shoot for quantity over quality. Has there ever been better animation than the Superman cartoons of the 1940's produced by Fleischer Studios?
Over time, studios began shooting on 2's (A method of animating that allows for fewer drawings over a 24 per second frame rate) and the production quality noticeably deteriorated over the decades, evident in both film and TV. In the mid-90's a revolutionary film from an upstart studio named Pixar was released which seemed to have spelled doom for the art form of the 20th century. Toy Story was animation, but a completely different type that was generated by computers rather than drawn and colored by hand. The film was an instant classic and the new 3D style appealed to audiences as Snow White may have in the late 30's. For the next 2 decades, 3D seemed to slowly take over, but the question remains; is 3D animation responsible for the murder of 2D classical animation?
There are many misconceptions about 3D animation and one is that the computer does all of the work, like there's an 'animate' button that modern animators press then sit back and watch the computer animate characters. This couldn't be further from the truth. The computer to the modern animator acts just like the pencil did to the classical artist. They're simply artist's tools. Whether the animation is drawn or posed in 3D, it's still on the screen like it always was and the classical principles of old are still applied the same way- if produced at a high level, that is. The big difference between the classical animation of old and modern 3D animation is that the quality seems to constantly improve with 3D as opposed to 2D. Performances in 3D films are astonishing and continue to entertain audiences year after year. 3D animation didn't murder 2D, it evolved from it, and the classical principles and practices of the great animators and studios of old, live on.
By Garth Drake, Founder of Rocket Sky