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Immersed in Movies: How the Power of 2D Is Still Alive at Disney

Immersed in Movies: How the Power of 2D Is Still Alive at Disney

One of the more interesting Comic-Con panels (“Disney Animators: The Power of 2D”) explored the current state of animation at the studio. With the success of Tangled, the Glen Keane legacy is very much alive at Disney with an organic 2D/CG aesthetic. And it’s now a regular part of the workflow to have 2D animators consulting on features to help attain traditional posing and performance, and draw-overs have become systematic.

Randy Haycock (The Lion King to Moana) said he was thrilled when asked to 2D drawings for the Oscar-winning Frozen. “CG animators were excited and inspired,” he told Leslie Combemale (Animation & Film Art Gallery), who sponsored and moderated the panel. “The level of animation has been elevated since Glen. Draw-overs allow them to get a third vision of the characters. They think like we do. Further collaboration for character animation is an advantage at Disney.”

Haycock explained how his test for Moana (Nov. 23, 2016), the Polynesian princess movie directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, had a direct artistic impact. They wanted to see her hair blowing in the wind more believably, so he loosened up the curl, which made it more artistic. As a result, they changed the designed. “Backdoor 2D principles are working,” he asserted.

However, the experience of Dale Baer (Robin Hood to Moana) has not been as fulfilling. He misses having 2D at the forefront of animation in which every pose was influenced by it, as exemplified by Milt Kahl. “A lot of it is getting lost,” he said. “I don’t like the separate camp mentality. They aren’t working together. More involvement and collaboration with each department will help problem solve to make the films look better.”

Tom Sito, who chairs animation at USC and just hired Eric Goldberg to teach character animation, credits Pixar with successfully implementing the artistic with the technical in complementary ways, and this has carried over to Disney, where “tricks have been implemented in CG. He recalled Eric Larson describing Disney animation as “Life plus.” It’s caricature that’s pushed. And so is the best CG animation, including the performance capture perfected at Weta Digital. Sito even gave a shout out to their animators: “Andy Serkis is great but character animators brought Gollum to life.”

Mike Polvani (Hercules, 2D Animation School founder) echoed Haycock and Sito. “There’s room for both. I want to pass along the ability to draw to give clarity to the performance and aesthetics and enhance the CG.”

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