In 2001 a movie was released that would change animation forever. Okay, maybe not this movie in particular, but it did change the way I looked at animation. That movie would star a young boy with the head of a carnival ice cream cone and his robot dog. That movie would be none other than Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.
When the show started, I knew immediately that it was different because it strayed away from the 2D animation I was used to. I know computer animation wasn’t new and had been working it’s way into film culture for a few years now with Pixar and other franchises, but this was the first time I saw a TV show using the technique. It was kind of cool (keep in mind that I was 9 so this blew my mind) especially in contrast with the other shows that were airing at the time. The year they did the Fairly Oddparents/Jimmy Neutron crossover was exciting because it was taking this new form of animation and using it side by side with the old animation I knew and loved.
13 years later all I seem to see is CGI in both film and TV; so much in fact that the hand drawn style is fading away and falling into an abyss of lost ideas. It pains me because while I find CGI to be a good format for specific instances, I still prefer the old way of doing animation. I see the new Disney movies like Tangled and Frozen and part of me wishes kids could see these movies in the same format as the Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast. I know that Frozen won an academy award this year for being the best animated feature, but honestly I wasn’t wowed by the animation. In fact, I was disappointed with the movie as a whole, but that’s going more toward the storyline than the animation itself.
Maybe I’m biased for being a “90’s kid,” but I find the stampede scene or Simba’s rise to the throne in the Lion King more impressive than anything I’ve yet to see with the new format. I still believe the ballroom scene in Beauty and the Beast has aged well and remains some of the most beautiful animations in film. And yet we receive scenes like the lanterns floating over the lake in Tangled that leave me in awe and make me wonder if one is better than the other.
There’s definitely a time and place for CGI just as there’s a time and place for old school animation, but I hate the idea of one getting left behind because the other appears superior when it isn’t. I know that people love their technology and that things are going to change despite how much I pout about it, but I still wish people would recognize the beauty in 2D animation. Sometimes I look at anime or shows like Phineas and Ferb and I try to picture them in a CGI format. To put it simply, they just wouldn’t look good. There’s an animation company called Madhouse that did the the animation for the anime films Summer Wars and Wolf Children Ame and Yuke. Both of which have a breathtaking artistic style that would be a shame to ditch all because it might be considered “out of date.”
For films like Pixar the computer animation feels right. It’s Pixar’s style that they’ve been improving since Toy Story. It would feel off and uncomfortable for Pixar to switch over to 2D animation because it doesn’t fit Pixar’s personal look. It’s perfectly fine if Disney wants to follow in Pixar’s footsteps, but I hope they’ll bring back the old style eventually or at least mix it up with the new style. I know that people like GCI and I know company’s will always choose the option that is more convenient, less time consuming, or cheaper. Still, shouldn’t we celebrate both forms of art? Each has their strengths and weaknesses and both deserve to bask in the spotlight. Neither should be tossed out because one seems like the cool new thing to do. In a world where we have so many talented artists and designers, why not have both?