Friday, 12 April 2013

Disney 2D Veterans Fired

Yesterday Disney fired most of their traditional animators, keeping only Eric Goldberg and Mark Henn. The veteran animators who lost their jobs are:
Nik Ranieri, Ruben Aquino, Frans Vischer, Russ Edmonds, Brian Ferguson, Jamie Lopez and Dan Tanaka (two names are unknown).
And apparently Disney are still calling meetings with people to discuss pay cuts or buyouts.
It’s awful news but it makes sense considering Disney currently have no interest in pursuing traditionally animated features. The sad fact is it seems that they’re going off the back of Prince and The Frogs not so great reception and most people agree that that movie suffered from a weak story. Techniques don’t ruin films, it’s all about story and characters. Whenever a VFX film bombs we don’t start crying that VFX are dead. We just make another one and hope it does better.
Traditional animation is a technique, it is still appealing and it still sells to both young and old. Give people bad stories and they won’t like your product regardless of how you created it. A lot of folk are commenting on the fact that 2D animation hasn't evolved enough to keep audiences interested. I think that's true to an extent with Western animation but there's a ton of great films coming from plenty of other countries that are doing much riskier things. And on that note, CG films can be judged in the same light.
Massive shame that such skilled people are being let go instead of trying for another feature. It’s not like Disney are short of cash but if they've already made the decision to turn away from 2D then it makes sense for their business plan. Sad times.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Suitable for animating?

I've been thinking about this topic recently, mostly after watching certain films and thinking back to things I've heard a lot of people say. How many times have you ever heard somebody say or write:

"It should only be animated if it needs to be."

By this they mean that a project should only undergo an animation process if it will benefit from it. An example would be, if you have a talking dinosaur could suggest animating it straight away because it doesn't exist in real life. It wouldn't be possible to grab a camera, hunt down a talking dinosaur and film it acting out your script. It's something that has to be created because it doesn't exist.

That's the argument I hear most of the time. The attitude of "If it's mundane, why bother?". I completely see where people are coming from when they say this. I even believe it myself, to an extent. But surely that point of view could be damaging for our medium? In the west animation is mainly for kids, feature films are colourful, have whacky characters and movement and are pretty much mostly aimed at being hyper entertainment for the younger generation (not a bad thing, I love that stuff). In the east they have some of that too, but they also have the opposite. They have films aimed at adults with largely quite normal (within the style) designs and movement.

I don't know if our opinions in the west are stopping us from creating different projects, some that could be more appealing for the older generation but I think it can be limiting. Take a look at Mary and Max. If you gave that script to some producers/directors there's a good chance they wouldn't even think of making it into an animated feature. It's such a real world story, there are no crazy characters, no strange worlds, nothing very animation-stereotypical about it but the film is beautiful.

It totally works.
What I'm trying to get at is how great things could be if we didn't set so many rules for animated films. If we didn't have to tick boxes to OK something to be animated we could explore a lot more. I know some people might think it could be damaging, animation could lose it's charm and become too realistic. And I guess that mocap is something that's drawing the line there at the moment. And it comes down to money too. Rise of The Guardians for's an awesome film. A proper family adventure kind of deal, but it didn't do as well as Dreamworks had liked. It made a profit but not enough. These days, for films to get made the studio has to believe it's going to make a ton of cash, and we all know kids will drag their parents to the cinema to see the latest animated feature (for kids).

What got me thinking about this was watching some animated films from Japan, y'know, the stuff the kids call "anime"? The stories can be very mature. I really wish that we had animated features for older age groups in the west. With such skillful folk as the guys at Dreamworks/Pixar/BlueSky and pretty much everywhere else...imagine the kind of projects that could be made! I feel so frustrated that the potential possibilities won't ever happen for x and y reason. Which is awful...but hey, more folk are making short films and working on projects in their spare time. There are countless short animated films online that most certainly aren't for kids that are doing very well and definitely have an audience (see end of post). If only folk with lots of money would take notice and take a chance. And maybe if we animators didn't put up so many boundaries we might explore a few different areas.

Who knows :)

And just to be clear, I'm not implying that we should dumb down our designs and style of animation to accommodate more mature stories. I'm focusing more on what we think is suitable to be animated. The examples below are all pretty stylised and have different styles of animation but they all deal with topics that are more suited to an audience who are a bit older than the target audience for Rio (for example).

Some recent examples of more mature animation:

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

The Reward Kickstarter

Great news! The guys from SunCreature Studio have hit their kickstarter target and will definitely be making a brand new episode of The Reward. There is only less than 70 hours left at the moment, but that's plenty of time to help fund them even further and to pick up some awesome rewards along the way.

Head over to their Kickstarter page and throw money at them whilst you still can!

And if you haven't watched The Reward yet, then you're in for a treat: