For the past decade or two, blockbuster animated films in the US have all relied heavily on computer graphics. Two years ago, Toy Story 3, the highest grossing animated film of all time, earned more than one trillion dollars worldwide at the box office. Heading into this holiday season, all six solely computer-animated films released in 2012 raked in revenues in the neighborhood of $150 million or more at the box office. By comparison, none of the three other major animated releases, which largely used stop-motion animation, eclipsed $55 million.
Despite the long-standing success of computer-animated films, traditional types of animation are slowly making a comeback. Earlier this November, Disney released the black and white short, Paperman, which blended traditional line art with 3D animation. DreamWorks also has plans for integrating traditional 2D and 3D animation with Me and My Shadow, which will opt for mostly hand-drawn characters and is due out in March 2014.
Hayao Miyazaki is a filmmaker who champions hand-drawn animation in his movies, and he just so happens to be the director of my favorite movie of all-time, Spirited Away. Despite bucking the CGI trend, this 2001 film garners an 8.6 user rating on IMDb, making it the highest rated animated film ever on the site. Even by today’s advanced animation standards, Miyazaki is clearly doing something right.
So the obvious questions emerge; why does Miyazaki stand his ground with hand-drawn animation and why are major studios starting to come around as well? After all, doesn’t it seem imprudent and archaic to draw by hand when the most profitable films are completely computer animated?
In its first two weeks at the box office, Rise of the Guardians, DreamWorks’ latest computer-animated release, took in less than $50 million and could result in losses of millions of dollars for the studio. The long-term ramifications of this flop are unclear, but it’s likely that studios will no longer consider computer-animated films to be guaranteed blockbusters. With this in mind, could we see a renaissance of hand-drawn animated films, an art form that some may have written off?
I think that by stripping animated films of their glossed, shiny veneer, filmmakers allow audiences to concentrate on the candidness and authenticity of the films’ stories and characters. This approach is all the more resonant for brands seeking to connect with consumers in today’s word wrought with economic, environmental, and diplomatic uncertainty.
The Internet video launched by McCann Health as part of a pledge to lend support to USAID’s Call to Action on Child Survival campaign is a great example of successful use of simple, hand-drawn visuals to communicate a message. The video’s objective, educating the public on ways to help prevent the spread of diseases among the world’s children, captures “live” footage of an artist’s hand illustrating the video’s core message on a whiteboard. In today’s world, awash with over-the-top visuals, simple, hand-drawn art and animations can cut through the clutter and really make an impact on the audience.
Here at Truth Central we’re big fans of hand-drawn animation, as you can see from the beautiful animated watercolors in our launch film (you can watch it here). Great job from Samantha Hahn on the beautiful artwork!