Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Boy, this is a big subject! For a start, lets ask whether 3D (above) really improved cartoons. Which version of Popeye do you prefer, the one above or the hand-drawn version below?

If 3D hasn't improved cartoons, why are we wasting time with it?

Which version of the Alvin characters do you prefer?

It's hard to be funny in 3D. I laughed when Clampett did the old shoes-for-wheels gag in "Coal black," but in 3D the same gag (above) is only mildly interesting.

Make the gag even more realistic (above) and it's not funny at all. The more realistic the shoe gag gets, the harder it is to make it funny. It's harder to be funny to be funny in 3D. It's less of a caricature of the real world.

Characters without pants can be funny (or almost funny) in 3D, but you have to work at it

Look how effortlessly 2D (above) accomplishes the same thing.

This group of old men looks hilarious in this (above) old Rube Goldberg cartoon. Would they have looked as funny in 3D? And the cost...I'll bet it was a hundred times faster and cheaper to draw these people than it would have been to create computer models.

2D cartooning has an incredibly rich history.  Some of the best minds who ever worked in popular art  gave us a legacy of gutsy and streetwise artwork that might have stimulated our own creativity for hundreds of years to come. 3D has so far been indifferent to all that.

But maybe I'm being too harsh. Every once in a while you see a moment in a 3D film (above) that gives you reason to hope. "Horton Hears a Who" had more moments like that than any other 3D movie I've seen. It gives me reason to think that in 40 years 3D might catch up to hand-drawn.

Here's a couple of shots (above and below) from George Pal's Puppetoons. These are very crude, and I'm not suggesting we return to that, but they do prove that some type of cartoony 3D can be funny.

Pal's Jasper proves that it's possible to do 3D design that's so incredibly funny that the characters look great even when they're standing still.

I've noticed that cartoony 3D subjects (above) sometimes look funnier in black and white. Why is that? Is it the ultra-retro design or the fact that digital makes black and white looks so sharp and appealing?


Anonymous said...

How often do situations and places that are classic settings for comedy feel devoid of even the possibility of humor in real life?

In 3d every object is painstakingly rendered and doesnt exist in cartoonland anymore its just a noun

lastangelman said...

It's not a three-D cartoon, it's a three-D animation. Essentially, you're animating virtual puppets (Pixar did something really strange with WALL-E. They made believable looking robots and Earth and spaceships, etcetera, but the people looked like uninteresting blobby cartoony amoeba. One day, they MAY create a feature length 3-D cartoony characters, just not in the next ten years, sigh). If Bob Clampett was around and active, I would bet he'd be chomping at the bit to make funny, interesting 3-D animated movies. They'd still look like puppets, but they'd be funny and interesting puppets.
Most of the stories and scripts of 3-D movies are atrociously bad. (I can't believe I actually fell asleep during Bee Movie!) Too many executives attached and lots of technology is costly, so independents (who are not encumbered by suits and ties and picketing uptight hausfraus and make cartoons and animation for FUN) have been shut out (perhaps someone will master free software app BLENDER and produce funny interesting 3-D animation independently, maybe the Fleischer's of 3-D and give Pixar and Dreamworks a run for their money.)

Michael Sporn said...

You sold me - but I think I was sold coming into the discussion. I love how you let the pictures do the talking, and they certainly do.
Very nice post, thanks.

Phantom Spitter said...

2D cartoons are better than 3D cartoons. They have been and they always will be. I just can't stand 3D cartoons for some reason. The "feel" of them doesn't feel right, and the "look" doesn't look right. When I watched Family Guy (ugh) one time, it felt like I was watching a 3D cartoon. I wonder why? Anyone have any theories? Eddie?

Adam T said...

I guess it all comes down to playing to the medium's strengths. 3D may work better for adventure where it isn't as driven by character or emotion but by visiting new and wonderful places. You could probably build great 3D sets CG or physical and have more freedom when it comes to camera angles and movement. If you go the 2D route to tell that kind of story it would be much more difficult.

But if you want to be funny 2D is really the way to go. Animating emotions on faces and expressive movement in 3D is a lot harder than doing it 2D. When done in 3D it looks too labored over so it's less fun. It's sort of like a standup comedian stuttering when delivering a punchline.

Scott Alberts said...

Excellent observations! I am finding that while we artists may enjoy rendering and realism, the viewers and customers are not always impressed. The show-off technique artist misses the point entirely — the point being humor, entertainment, branding, ...whatever the consumer originally wanted!

I have recently proposed great-looking "web 2.0" logos and graphics to several clients only to have the fancy detailing rejected so as to improve readability, simplicity, emboider-ability-on-hats, and so on.

The Horns and the Hawk said...

i think the idea of "looks better" is so subjective that it'd be hard to actually determine. i mean, for example, the 3d popeye looks stupid and lackluster in design whereas the 2d popeye looks so much more exaggerated and naturally funny, like it wouldn't have to depend on a lot of jokes, as opposed to gags, to be funny. on the other hand, i don't think you'd find a kid today that would opt for the old chipmunks over the new.

i think the other thing that makes 3d so much harder is that it has to be shaded and buffered and anti-aliased and all this stuff or it just looks bad. with a 2d cartoon, you can have a 2 color character (bugs) that has no shading anywhere and he looks just fun. if you were to do the same thing in 3d (no shading), it would look really bland and a little confusing.

Khaki Hat said...

I would like to bring in another part of 3d that as as of late been neglected; Low poly 3d. A long time ago, video game systems didn't have the oomph to push the tens of thousands of polygons that our game systems do today and had to servery scale back from "Feature Quality" 3d models. The resulting models relied more on silhouette and distinct animation coupled with solid texture and construction. When done right, the game exploded with life as characters happily hammered each other with weapons beautifully textured to feel like hammers and blunderbuss rather than wasting polys on shiny triggers.

Visiting the site Polycount.com, I was amazed at how the community was able to quickly push out such characters out of 3d programs. Though many of them belong to the dull 'Hardcore' gamer set, they still deliver great models that make me smile.

Beavis said...

I find it interesting that there is so much stress on being able to draw three dimensional, but when an actual 3 dimensional model exists it can never live up to a drawing. Agreed that there are absolutely horrible looking 3D movies/characters, but true is the same with 2D movies/characters. Obviously the 2D popeye is 1000 times better visually than the 3D, but because of the time and age we live in, everyone thinks they need to make a 3D everything.

Fanboy critics can spout word for word what John K. thinks about 3D movies, but dont really know the improvements and advancements that some studios are developing. They might be subtle like how wet hair looks, or how a car's suspension works around a curve, or how WallE's treads reacts with the gournd plane. It is a slow development, but they are making huge strides with every movie.

There will always be crappy imitators with any medium that are just out to cash in on the 3D fad, but there are some studios out there that continue to develop and invent new things for the medium.

Laura said...

I don't think one mode of production is necessarily better than another. It depends on what you do with them. Just like there are 3-D animations that come off as flat and unimaginative, there are 2-D animations that do the same.

I submit some examples of great 3-D animation (particularly the 2nd one, which I love):

Maestro - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1DvsQ3pF5Y

One Rat Short -

Kiwi -

And Finding Nemo, Monster's Inc., and Shrek all have strong characters. I found Nemo & Shrek both emotionally convincing (and One Rat Short above certainly communicates emotion well).

All forms of animation have their limitations (as do all art-making practices). It's just a matter of animators learning how best to work with those limits so they don't feel like limits at all, but desirable characteristics of the medium.

Bitter Animator said...

Lastangelman makes some interesting points and perhaps there is a problem here. 3D is not 2D. Now that I've blown you away by that revelation, the next step would be to suggest that 3D should not try to mimic or replace 2D in any way.

What you could argue is that it could go head to head with stop motion. That is a far more similar art form. Techniques have been honed for many years in stop motion, it doesn't usually attempt to mimic 2D and yet can be stunningly entertaining in its own right.

My area is animation for younger children. It's not an area that interests a lot of people but I love it. So, I'll throw out Pingu as an example. Check this out and tell me it's not absolute genius - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2PZp7k_bmA

But that's not the sort of thing they usually try to replicate in CG. As you know, it's usually trying to emulate 2D.

But occasionally you get the odd thing that, in my opinion, gets it right. Seen Pocoyo? Again, from the younger children's end but here's a sample - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6Vq52gscwo

It's not a great quality video but will give you an idea. It seems to use methods and principles far more in keeping with stop motion and I feel it works much better as a result.

And your point about getting realistic is spot-on. Not only do certain things go from being entertaining to dull when they go more realistic - they can begin to get creepy. This is one of the most hideous things I've ever seen - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjT8SzxA8a8

oppo said...

I have a suspicition that 3D animation takes less artistry than traditional. Everyone I've told that I'm interested in cartoons, but have no talent in drawing say I should go into computer aniamtion. Arrgg!

Anonymous said...

When putting over a cartoon gag in live action things suffer if entertainment isn't a real part of the equation. Same thing goes for gags that work in 2-D attempted in CG. Take the live action Spike Jones television show, much of which can be seen on You Tube. There's not a joke or gag in there that didn't exist before as a 2D cartoon gag. Yet Spike and his crew of drunken musicians and even (gasp), writers, including Eddie Brandt, turned stale into surreal, using live action and about fifty cents for a budget. Maybe there is something to this alcohol. Drunks are funnier than techies. Of course it takes more, or Russian cartoons would be funny.

I.D.R.C. said...

(I can't believe I actually fell asleep during Bee Movie!)

I can't believe you actually left your house for that.

This is one of the most hideous things I've ever seen...

It's creepy, but I love it. It's even disturbing. Cool. It's nothing like 2D. Asking whether it's better or not seems like a silly question. You could make it in 2d but it seems to me it would be inherently more whimsical and to me that is not an improvement.

Eddie, I mean no offense, but the 2D versus 3D question is silly. At least it would be, if all the money didn't now believe that 3d makes more money. That's the only thing forcing us to take the question seriously. Why can't we have both?
They both have so much potential going unexplored.

If the general public has been persuaded that 3D is better, it's only as sheep that they have reached this conclusion. Give them a great 2D story and it could do giant box office, too. But it's harder work, creatively. Right now, 3D has a higher ogle factor than 2D. If NEMO had been made exactly the same, but in traditional Disney, It probably would not have made as much dough. Not having the 3rd dimension to ogle would reveal the weaknesses more. The rich colors and shadings provided by 3D are all I can really remember. 2D is potentially better at big bellylaffs, or so it seems. But nobody but John K is really trying to make really funny cartoons anymore, and that's another big problem.

And what's the difference what medium you use if you are hamstrung by formula? What do I care how many dimensions I'm bored in?

The real question is, how do we get executives to dispose of the stupid belief that 3D is inherently superior to 2D?

We don't, until somebody makes a 2D feature that does half a billion worldwide.

JohnK said...

I can't add much to this. I pretty much agree with Eddie and everyone, but can't help but wonder why cartoons and cartoon animation developed so fast and computer animation hasn't.

Someone mentioned that after 20 years and billions of development dollars we can now have robot treads look as if they were actually touching the ground. What an accomplishment!

CG looks to me that it hasn't even reached the entertainment value and naturalism of Felix the Cat yet, and they have 30 years of classic animation to study from, whereas Messmer and others had to basically create everything from scratch.

Every year in the 20s and 30s, cartoon animation was noticeably advancing in leaps and bounds with no money supporting the medium.

Is it the technology that is the problem? Or is it stale jaded folks in charge?

Who knows?

oppo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris L said...

Frankly I think its kind of sad that there's such a resistance to computer animation, because there is so much potential there. Can it do the same things that 2D can? Not well, but why should we expect it to?

How about this, did the old black and white Little Nemo and Krazy Kat cartoons live up to their comics predecessors? Even the Popeye cartoons did something completely different than Thimble Theatre and it is routinely lauded by animation historians for doing what animation did well.

I don't think we've discovered the type of story that 3D is best suited for yet. The closest 3D has come to matching 2D on its own turf (imo) has been Pixar's Presto, and, to a lesser extent, Blue Sky's Horton (yes I think its well worth seeing.)

But like I said, 3D is a young medium. We need to give it some time. I think most historians would agree that 2D made its first big peak around 1940. Thats at least a half a century after the invention of the artform. Why are not more impressed with what 3D has been able to do with just a few decades? If anything, 3D needs to stop chasing 2D so that it can fully mature.

Anonymous said...

I think black and white works cause it streamlines all of the distracting details and gets rid of the garish colors, most dont realize that color is a stylistic choice for film, black and white just frames things better

pappy d said...

CGI is bound to improve. Right now, it's just emerging from its puppety stage. I've worked around computer animation since it was still analog & the thing that has held it up more than anything was that no one could figure out how to make (or, more often save) money with it before Pixar.

CG has a lot to learn yet from traditional animation. It's like B&W vs. color. Just because something works in color doesn't mean it wouldn't look better if you consider the tonal values as well.

Realism is not a good style choice for computer animation. What I hate worst is to animate a character with beautifully sculpted muscles whose muscles are not individually rigged & weighted. It looks good in its crucified pose but as soon as you move it, it's apparent that it's just a virtual hollow sculpture made from aluminum foil. Even almost-rubber-hose characters with just a hint of anatomy look fucked up with just one bone in the forearm or a shoulder with less than 5 joints.

Another pet peeve is when they try to redo 2D characters in 3D. In 2D, Mickey Mouse's ears are always facing the camera. Unless he's staged carefully, a volumetric Mickey just doesn't look like himself. Popeye is, let's face it, unriggable. I'm also beginning to hate it when 3D tries to tap my nostalgia for old puppet animation by deliberately making it look jerky & adding digital film scratches.

I haven't seen Horton yet, either but what I've seen has very good, clean staging & strong silhouettes (it's all 2D on the screen!). That clean line on the edge of Horton's screen-right side may have taken somebody hours of nudging to accomplish. All that work has paid off because he's achieved simplicity.

Blender is an exciting development. It's open source software for 3D modeling, animation, rendering, post-production, interactive creation and playback. Available free at:


Some kids made a short with it. It kind of feels like a student film, but production values are really good.

Anonymous said...

I dont care for mickey mouse, hes so bland he makes archie andrews look like a tortured figure

Aaron said...

As long as focus groups are trying to create art, it doesn't matter whether its 2D 3D or sunny D, its going to be uninteresting, especially to artists. If you believe it has anything to do with that extra dimension, inherently, I strongly disagree. The funniest things happen in real life, and that's all the Ds.

Kris said...

I snuck in to see Horton since I assumed it would be REALLY bad. It surprised me--it was actually worlds better than any other recent non-Pixar cartoons. It was nicely written, had a few good jokes, and was just pretty fun to watch.

And it looked good! Not as good as the original Dr. Seuss drawings, but still good.

lastangelman said...

1.)To answer the charge I left the house to actually attend a showing of Bee Movie, let it be known that I was taken there against my protests and better judgment, even though it was at second run theater on fifty cent Tuesday. At least the Dollar Dogs from the concessionaire were good.

2.)3-D CGI animation is a whole different tool set than trad 2-D (though 2-D animation now uses computer software animation tools extensively), a lot of memory and other resources is used to create "believable" looking solids, hair, clothes, backgrounds, air, water, etcetera.

3.)The main complaint so far has been why hasn't there been more "cartoony" looking 3-D animation. The problem/blame goes back to the animator. Trad animators have been timid to ask the techs in 3-D studios to push the animation here or there, make it look like this or that or do some type of action. You need very aggressive animators who love cartoons to go up to the renderers and other techs and say:"Look here! I got some very funny pictures here. I need them rendered in 3-D so they look funny without looking repulsive or creepy, and also retain their cartooniness." And they need to really get in the techies' faces and watch how they do it and learn and offer helpful suggestions.
4.)I'm sure John K and Uncle Eddie may already have this (and if not, they oughtta), for anyone interested in 3-D animation, they should get a copy of Pixar Animation Shorts Vol. I. Pixar didn't invent 3-D animation, but they did pioneer using it as entertainment medium. The documentaries, commentaries and shorts demonstrate how the operation evolved as leaders in this field (for good and for worse, actually).
5.)Blue Sky Studios got pretty darn close in creating a fun feature length 3-D cartoon (as opposed to 3-D animated film) with their take on "Horton Hears A Who". But then again, I've always had a soft for this studio since they animated the cockroaches in Joe's Apartment.

Rick said...

Wow, why would you post such an unbelievably racist picture, Eddie? That's your example of an "incredibly funny" design? That's pretty ignorant if you believe that. Do you think the black community wouldn't be offended if that character were used today?

I.D.R.C. said...

Wow, why would you post such an unbelievably racist picture, Eddie?

I'm black. I see nothing offensive. In a world without racism it would simply be a cute, funny, appealing caricature, and the design itself does not seem to be much of a comment on my race's inferiority. There are much better images for that kind of thing. There is nothing in that design to indicate lazy, stupid, dishonest, or any bad stereotypes. I am sure that's why Eddie posted it --purely as design.

He has jellyroll lips, which we have come to recognize as "sambo" or "minstrel" and therefore automatically bad. I don't think it's that simple.

You might ask if white America at large has earned the right to produce cartoon imagery of poor black America such as this, and I might say no, but that is something else to talk about.

I.D.R.C. said...

PS --Why didn't you mention the jumping-bean-headed Mexican caricatures just above?

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Rick, IDRC: Thanks IDRC, you said it much better than I could have. it was indeed put up in the spirit of fun and charm, not racism.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Last: Thanks! I never heard of Blender til you mentioned it. I looked it up on the net and it sounds interesting. I'll ask around to see if anybody I know uses it.

Adam: Maybe you're right!

Horns: Really!? Kids would prefer the 3D version? It's an interesting point if it's true. i wish I knew for sure.

Kali Fontecchio said...

I wonder what Eddie would be like in 3D....?

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Aaron: I don't think 3D is inherently bad, just the 3D that emerges from the Maya-type programs we have now. I wish there was an alternative system that was cheaper and faster and allowed for more spontaneity. Comedy needs to look spontaneous.

Maybe in the not-too-distant future the computers will be so fast and easy to use that even clunky programs will yield good results.

Anon: Old animators often seemed to believe that alcohol greased the creative wheels. Maybe they knew something we don't.

Nick said...

"My area is animation for younger children. It's not an area that interests a lot of people but I love it. So, I'll throw out Pingu as an example. Check this out and tell me it's not absolute genius"

You worked on "Pingu"? Wasn't that made in Switzerland by a crew of just two people?

Anonymous said...

They should make expensive CGI that looks like cheap 1960s Rankin-Bass stop-motion, so some suit will go, "Hey, we can save money by doing stop-motion"

Or they should use CGI to create fake-looking Popeye style 3D backgrounds for hand drawn shows.

But not chracters. John Lasseter figured this out in the 80s, and then proceeded to forget his lesson.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Laura: Interesting films, thanks for the links! I liked them, but I'm still wedded to the examples set by cartoons like "Coal Black," the Fleishers' "Snow White," and "Piggy Bank Robbery."

Khaki: I used to be addicted to games like that.

Anonymous said...

Oops, I forgot to say everything I wanted to say! I wanted to point out that John Lasseter's first fully 3D short had characters based on the tubes and balls 1920s Steamboat Willie style.

Pingu was a Canadian classic.
I used to watch it religiously as a boy on TVO.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Bitter: Thanks! Fascinating films! I didn't realize the little kids' genre was such a hot item!

Kali: That's me, I can't deny it!

Anonymous said...

This is off topic. I netflixed the Tiny Toons first volume dvd and watched an episode called Love Among the Toons. I noticed you had a hand it writing and directing it along with Kent Butterworth. There's a scene where Cherub Fudd is looking through one of those toy photo viewers and the pictures are clay version of the Toons. Who's idea was that? The Elmyra model was hilarious.

lastangelman said...

Uncle Eddie: unrelated to current topic, a suggestion for your blog. When Volume II of the Popeye re-issues came out, I was disappointed to find no audio commentaries from you or John K. I've enjoyed your photo essays, philoso-tainment discussions, creative use of You Tube videos to enhance the blog experience for you and the audience. As an experiment, might I suggest you try an audio commentary only entry on a cartoon. (I'm planning to record and post my own commentary for Casablanca, just need to get my notes and stuff ready and sorted out). You could do this as a separate blog or podcast from this blog. Even if your commentary is simply marvelling at BGs or going "WOW!", it's certainly more entertaining than other commentaries I've heard on recent cartoon collections (MY fave have been you, John K, Greg Ford, Jerry Beck, Mark Kausler, Paul Dini and Eric Goldberg. The only bad one I can think of .... I'll be a nice guy and not mention him, I'll just say he mumbles or talks like he is sleepwalking, and anything he says is rarely edifying or enlightening or entertaining.

Bitter Animator said...

Thanks, Mr.F, glad you enjoyed those!

Sorry, Nick, I didn't mean to give the impression that I worked on Pingu - I didn't, though do currently work with some people who did. I can see how you read it that way though. I was unclear. I meant I was throwing it out as an example of stop-motion for the younger children.

It was originally made in Switzerland but Hit brought it to Hot animation in the UK, the makers of Bob the Builder. While that could have been a disaster, the Hot episodes turned out to be great and that one I linked to is one of those.

Unfortunately, Hot had to close its doors earlier this year (or was it last year, I've lost all track of time). A major blow for stop-motion, in my opinion.

Mitch L said...

But nobody tried to do something really crazy with 3d right?

Like Tex stuff

In kung-fu it seemed that they tried to do some funny faces. But it's like they are holding back. And too much slow motion...

Is something like that possible in 3d? Or will something like that won't work in 3D just like you said about that bicycle with shoes?

I whas thinking of that scene in the mask. That refered to a scene of Tex Avery. That frame of the mask what I found looked awfull.

Why don't they try to do more crazy things... You need to experiment to make progression, right?

Ryan G. said...

I see a lot of good points here. I usually check out most of the 3D movies when they come out unless they look really bad in the previews. Usually there is a few moments that really stand out and show promise for 3D.

Technology definitely hinders what is possible with 3D. Simple things might create huge problems for the modelers and animators. I remember seeing something on "Over the Hedge" that the golf bag that the raccoon guy was carrying around was creating loads of problems for the animators. You have geometry intersecting with each other. Then you have characters interacting with each other. They have a shit load of fur that needs to react to a hand grabbing it or something. Lots of problems for things you would think would be easy. If you look back at Toy Story to WallE, there have been loads of improvements.

Anon said...

Those toddler stop motion shows look funnier but I still think stop motion can't be as visually funny as 2d. Take this extremely primitive looking Italian babble cartoon,
La Linea
. It may be a little tiresome to watch because it looks so cheap but it looks funnier than that toddler stop motion to me.

When I was a kid I loved La Linea - much more than all the Bob Builders of the world.

And if that isn't good enough try the funniest babble cartoon ever! It's not toddler so I'm not comparing it to the penguins, but I doubt any 3d cartoon can be half as funny as this.

Gustav wants to marry!

TailorMode! said...

Realistic = Believable!

Believable Far Side!

It's not actual 3d but it illustrates the point well.

I-Like-it said...

Realistic pictures have advantage when you show a human face and acting. 2d can't beat that, but neither can 3d.

Also, it's more believable, but that only works as comedy for pictures that are supposed to represent something that really happened: like this. Again something 3d can't handle because it's obvious 3d is made by computers and is not real. Photoshop works much better here.

Those crude 3d puppets are funny but 2d will ALWAYS tell a funny visual situation better - it's just easier for our brain to read it.

PCUnfunny said...

Eddie, what do think of these 3-d rendered characters ? They are from a Super Nintendo game called Super Mario RPG:

Knife Guy

Shy Away



Anonymous said...

Those believable far side cartoons are depressing, theres none of that delightful "larsonesque" quality to them, instead they have that lame internet picture "lolcats" sensibility behind them and therefore arent funny

Tailormode! said...

@anon I didn't want to make it sound like the people who've made it sucked. It's a witty idea but it just doesn't work.

Hryma said...

It's a painful subject to talk about.
I have come to dislike 3D but still love Pocoyo the best darn 3D cartoon around http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bxu3jfqpItE

Try to have a conversation about 2d vs 3d animation with the people of the general public and the sad fact is they love your hoodwinked and shreks for the 'look':(

CG should only be used for mechanical movements, nothing organic and in 'small' quantities (not like starwars) in live action film. Or advertisments showing how a car for example is put together.

Anonymous said...

advice: If any of the older posters here have a daughter and they bring home a boy who uses terms like, epic fail lulz or "for the win" get out your shotgun and give them 8 seconds to leave your property

Pseudonym said...

I think that the spontaneity aspect is the main thing.

Computer animation was made for visual effects. It's no coincidence that a lot of animation these days are done by effects houses, not animation studios. Visual effects is deliberate in a way that cartoons are not.

It's instructive to compare an animated film by George Pal with a visual effects sequence by Ray Harryhausen. The Harryhausen sequence will be sheer technical brilliance, but it won't be anywhere near as much fun as the Pal film. But then, it would be deliberate.

The long lead times are also a factor. A good computer character needs months of building before you get the first pose; a hand-drawn animator can get one in minutes.

Anonymous said...

Just caught a preview for Igor, out this fall, which has Tim Burton Styled designs for the characters, with the initial appearance of the puppet based stop motion, yet is CG, and stretches and pops more than puppets should. And, it just looks wrong. Because it moves TOO much. But the designs, high sculptural designs, do not seem like objects that could support their own weight, ever, yet that stylization might work in 2d.

At least puppet animation has to obey some of the laws of physics, to give the characters some realistic weight.

And Popeyes flat drawings are still animated in much more 3d space than most 3d animation of any sort that has followed.

I.D.R.C. said...

I just watched the IGOR trailer and I'd agree it doesn't work but I'm not sure it's for the reasons you gave.

I agree they move too much for the stop motion puppets that they resemble, but, mostly it's the way they move that's not working. It adds nothing. They would look better if they were stiff and jerky. They are giving extremely weak performances. Aside from the art direction it looks almost like Jimmy Neutron. These characters barely emote even when they are emoting. That seems to be the problem.

Here are some others:

It's yet another goddamn "follow your heart" story. I can't take any more. If I see one more shot of a lonely character staring off into the distance sighing about when his dreams will come true, I swear to freaking Christ I will make someone pay.

Igor is Disney's Hunchback with the Robert Mitchum removed.

Gabriele_Gabba said...

Excellent post Eddie!

I'm pretty new to your blog, but your views are fair and well exampled, i especially felt a strong sense of wrong doing looking at Popeye.

His B&W version has so much appeal its dripping from the pages!

Anonymous said...

I don't think the appeal of cg animation is really the consumers. It is the appeal for corporations that can have dead on matching toy designs, and can pop out quickie sequels (once the 'puppets' are made, make a few quickie direct to video sequels for the lucrative mindless electronic babysitting market.

I fear that young generations may grow up not being able to related to 2D animation, or black and white.

As far as Blender users being a possible salvation, from what I have seen so far, I don't have too much hope. Some shots and takes should have never made it into some of the more ambitious Blender efforts. Breaking the fourth wall ala oliver hardy after every scene is not funny on its own, there has to be effective context. Grinning constantly does not make a character friendly or funny, and that was one of the overwhelming mistakes of the Warner Brothers Tiny Toons era.

Jerry Chan said...

I would see Horton up until the point where they're about to boil the spec and then [stop watching/leave the theater/shoot the projectionist] because what follows really, really ruins the movie. I think it's the most non-Pixar 3D film (besides Presto, oddly enough) that's daring enough to break the laws of physics for once to make it MOVE like a cartoon.

I liked it at least (until the ending), but I'm easily amused.

Michelle Klein-Hass said...

Hi Eddie...gotta put my two cents in here...

Take a look at this:

Clicky linky to piccy

Now why did I label the drawn version of Clone Wars "Rocks" and the CGI version "Sucks?" Well, because it's true, that's why!

Genndy Tartakovsky and Paul Rudish got exposure to Spumco theories of character and background design when they had Jim Smith on board during Samurai Jack. The lessons Jim gave them were lessons they took to heart. Look at the Banking Clan Capital City in the background there! It looks like something Jim drew for Chestacles. Look at the appealing way the characters have been drawn, the gracefulness and economy of line, the way the basic character of the sketch translates into the finished characters.

When the Clone Wars shorts turned out to be uber popular, Lucasfilm turned to Gentle Giant Studios and had them start merchandising it. They made some nice maquettes. They weren't GREAT, but they were nice enough.

However, what it looks like Lucasfilm did for the CGI Clone Wars was to just digitize the Gentle Giant maquettes. And this, to quote Grand Master Yoda, is why they failed. They were under the constraints of a TV budget. So yeah, everyone looks like they are carved out of bars of soap. And they managed...damn, where did they go wrong?...to design out the appeal that the maquettes had.

I have been trying to find an image of the Tartakovsky Clone Wars Obi-Wan maquette...and I distinctly remember Gentle Giant putting it out...but this Yoda is one of the more appealing translations of Tartakovsky 2D designs to 3D maquette:

Another clicky linky

This is a crappy pic of it, alas. But I saw this in person and yes, it does look good. Too bad it was so damn expensive.

See, there were other things wrong with the animation too: they didn't have a great model of physics. This is what has always blown it for me wrt the Dreamworks stuff: their characters don't move in anything resembling gravity.

I could forgive everything if the stories were well-written. That was the case with the Star Trek animated series...it was done horribly cheap by Filmation but written by some of the best Sci-Fi writers of the day.

But unfortunately The Clone Wars the CGI movie was not extremely well written. It was only fair. I had fun, but I had to turn off my cerebrum to do so.

So ultimately, they failed. Lucas should have hired Genndy, no matter what the cost, and the series should have been done as 2D drawn animation. But what else is new? Unfortunately people are laboring under the assumption that drawn animation is dead. We know they are wrong. But unless The Princess and the Frog is boffo at the box office, we might not be seeing the conventional wisdom change.

Lester Hunt said...

Eddie, I agree completely. For whatever it might be worth, I discussed some of these issues here.

trevor said...

Nobody studies anything objectively anymore. People just see this new-fangled stuff, and they like it based on the fact that it looks new.

Nevermind that Pixar is simply Disney remixed, and not for the better, either. They took the most stereotypically used story points and character types, and slapped them into bodies that, to the untrained eye, look 3D.

But for the record, Eddie, you should DEFINITELY see Horton. All my friends who know how harshly I judge 3D animated films said I wouldn't like it based on that.

But, as always, they were wrong. I give it an A for effort, a C + for the end result. Considering my previous gradings of Pixar and Dreamworks movies, this is very generous and a vast improvement.

Like John pointed out at his blog ( using a Nickelodeon bumper made in 1989 to make his point ), they definitely have the technology to pull off fun and believability, they just don't have the talent.

Great post, Eddie!

- trevor.

Daryl T said...

Dear Mr. Fitzgerald,

I read your post with great interest as I am currently doing this topic for my dissertation. basically, I am researching the rise and fall of the hand-drawn animation boom of the late eighties/ early nineties, why did it happen, what was it like to work in the industry at the time etc. I would love to know your opinion on the matter and what you hope for the future of the industry.

Thankyou very much.

Best Regards,

Daryl-Rhys Taylor

Anonymous said...

"I think most historians would agree that 2D made its first big peak around 1940."

So what of Popeye? Betty Boop? Felix the Cat?

Bwanasonic said...

"Eddie, what do think of these 3-d rendered characters ? They are from a Super Nintendo game called Super Mario RPG:"

What a great game! Great music too!

I notice Aardvark Studios hasn't got much mention in this discussion. I thought "The Curse of the Were-Rabbit* was great, and you'd think CGI could at least come up with something half as funny. OTOH, can't say I've seen too much 2D animation lately that gives me hope for the medium. At least not on Cartoon Network.

Oh, and I liked the creepy french Orangina add too!

Raff said...

The answer to the whole thing is people.

For example, I used to think that the sweetness of a cartoon was lost when cel-and-film was traded in for Mirage and Flash and Toonboom; because the grain wasn't there, the lines were too dark, whatever.

But I looked at the end of a Ren and Stimpy episode and saw two fake commercials in a row; one that was inked digitally (Powdered Toast Vitamin F) and one that was cel-and-film (Sugar Frosted Milk, I think). There wasn't any difference in entertainment value.

The reason most cel-and-film looks better than digital cartoons is because only trained professional artists got access to cel-and-film. The whole process was too expensive for anyone else. Unlike Flash.

What would you all think of Flash if it was only used by people this good:


As for 3D, it just came out in an era where seasoned nerds would get to it first whereas cartoon animation started out in an era where seasoned artists would get to it first. So 3D culture is nerd culture, and 3D work is judged in nerd terms, probably forever.

Solun said...

if some big studio can put more efforts on the cartoony feeling rather than rendering hair and water, they may get more closer to the 2D feeling. Actually, movie like "open season" and "madagscar" try to get the "squash and stretch". i think to main problem is how to identify the value of animation, the 3D rendering images may too fancy to the audiences which get lost in it. once the audiences get used on the 3d rendering images, the Bob Clampett and Tex Avery's stuff may come back.

i just try to get cartoony feeling in 3D character


Eddie Fitzgerald said...

solun: Interesting! Why not link to some finished animation when you're ready?

Solun said...

this is the final render of my project, it about rigging and principles of animation


Would you please give me some comment

thanks uncle eddie

Anonymous said...

I think its all about fractals. CGI has none so the line or edge appears boring to the eye, but hand-drawn images if you magnify them a million times are full of interesting fractal designs and shapes.

Anonymous said...

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