Kudos to the guys who can sit at computers and create graphics of twinkling fairies and castles. But I kind of miss the days when people actually had to draw them by hand. It kind of displayed a sort of artistic quality: one that we don’t see anymore in children’s movies.
Tonight I watched Beauty and the Beast on ABC. I found myself blown away by the stunning, vivid colors and animation that seemed to jump out of the screen like moving paints on camera. It gave the movie a much more sentimental and emotional touch as I watched. The characters, oddly, felt more real and more human.
That is, compared with most of the CGI “cartoons” we see nowadays. Pixar manages to pull it off, time and time again. But other movies feel almost lifeless, without this classic paintbrush touch. As a person who grew up on 90s Disney movies and then slowly watched the transition, I am somewhat (no actually really) biased. Hand animation feels like an art form long-surpassed: some ancient relic of movie magic that simply isn’t present anymore.
It makes me sad. It makes me long for the days of VHS, when I could actually see the talent of many creative hands at work, rather than the work of computers. But, fast-forward two decades, reign in the new age, and look what we have: endless CGI.
The movies are still good. But they lack this authentic touch of craftsmanship. Computers can’t compete with paint and drawings. There’s just a human, breathing element inherent in the form that feels less elegant and much more hackneyed when you replace it with digital graphics. In Beauty and the Beast, you can see the tints of the forest, the shadows playing on dark corridors filled with vibrant curtains, statues, and furniture. The animation just brings it alive in a much more magical, picturesque way. And that’s what cartoon movies should be: magical.
With classic animation, kids’ movies had more of a multi-dimensional feel. The characters were more fluid, rather than geometric. CGI has a very hard and solid look to it. It doesn’t flow in the same natural way as paints:it bulges. Artists had to work harder to create genuine images when only working with “flat” colors. Which gave the artwork more dimension. Now that dimension is manifested by pressing a button: expanding contours through artificial computer lights and shading, rather than mixing paints.
I’m more astonished by the people who can do this by hand, rather than the people who can “copy and paste” so to speak. Obviously computer graphics is a very long and intricate process (that I admittedly know nothing about). But it pales in comparison to the work of a paintbrush. The richness is simply irreplaceable. Notice how in Hercules the gods of Olympus “glow”, like candles of color. Or the genie in Aladdin. All you do now is increase the brightness by turning a switch up. Pretty cool, but it cheapens the more genuine element of animation.
Maybe it’s just me, but the “magic” of cartoon movies feels more real when it comes from actual cartoons. Characters look more fluid, and less rock-solid, like blocks of shapes thrown together. They simply come alive more. At least for me.