2D vs 3D Animation

Grace Wilson, Staff Videographer

In 1995, Pixar released the first full entirely computer animated feature-length film, “Toy Story.” The release of this milestone kicked off an entirely new style of film much different than earlier design.

 Previously, animation could only be done by either drawing them frame by frame, or moving clay frame by frame to make figures move and come to life. 

The creation of 3D computer generated animation allowed for a more realistic style, continually becoming more detailed and intricate over the years. While all styles of animation have their merits and have produced beautiful and meaningful films over time, 3D animation has begun to dominate the big screen.

Traditional 2D animation is rarely produced for blockbuster films these days, with powerhouses like Disney completely dropping the style of animation they used for years. Due to major financial losses from their last two attempts at traditional animation, “Treasure Planet” in 2002, and their final attempt “The Princess and the Frog” in 2009, Disney has given up the style of animation altogether. 

2D animation has been virtually thrown away, despite that even partial use of it can create masterpieces. In the famous ballroom scene of “Beauty and the Beast”, the camera pans around the ballroom and around the dancing couple, seamlessly blending computer generated imagery and the hand-drawn characters.

Another example of both types of animation being used is “Treasure Planet.” Despite its high losses in the box office, “Treasure Planet ” displays both traditional animation and 3D animation to create an immersive world. However, the movie’s more impressive feat is its character, Long John Silver, a cyborg. With a computer generated robotic arm and a hand-drawn body, Long John Silver displays animation’s potential to make hybrid animation with the technological possibilities of 3D animation and the artistic liberties that can be taken with 2D animation.

Due to it being drawn frame by frame, 2D animation usually requires more artistic talent than technological talent. While it is indeed helpful to have artistic ability in computer animation, it is not necessary, resulting in less creativity. This has resulted in most Hollywood animations having a very static style. For example, think of the animation style of most recent animated movies such as “Despicable Me,” “Wonder Park”, “Home” etc. Most of these new movies share a similar style and lack any individuality. While there are notable exceptions that break away from the usual style, like “Into the Spider-Verse” with its comic book-like style, most of these movies lack any defining features in their animation.

Instead of cutting back on traditional 2D animation and only using it in television and short films, we should embrace it, and even let it be combined with current technology to make creative styles for feature length films.