The state and future of animation

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The state and future of animation

Post by GeffreyDrogon » June 10th, 2021, 3:25 pm

With COVID-19 and Disney having shut Blue Sky Studios down earlier this year, is the state of animation in the world hopeless? Will I get frowned upon for not drawing things realistically and having a liking for animation? Will all non-Disney animation studios be shut down?

I don't like it that some people say that anime is our last hope for great entertainment, and that anything produced by Disney is garbage. I feel like my ideas and I have no place in this world. I want hope.

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Re: Is the future of animation hopeless?

Post by Dacey » June 10th, 2021, 4:05 pm

The short answer? No. While the closing of Blue Sky Studios is of course both tragic and unfortunate, for the most part, animation is booming in the industry perhaps more than ever before--and for better or for worse, part of that has to do with streaming taking everything over.

Disney of course has been on a roll with a huge string of critical and commercial hits since Tangled (well, okay, we'll omit Winnie the Pooh at least as far as commercial success goes, but that film doesn't seem to get a lot of love around here anyway despite how well it did in the recent decades poll), and though Pixar doesn't always hit "home runs" as certain members of the press like to harp on for whatever reason, when they produce a winner, they produce a big winner, and the one-two punch of Onward and Soul coming out in the same year for them was certainly terrific.

Now as for things like Luca being sent straight-to-streaming? That is regrettable, and while Disney wanting original content for their service is certainly justifiable, they don't need it with Luca--this month they already have Loki, and next month brings Monsters at Work, so Luca was hardly necessary to keep subscribers.

But animation will go back to being successful at the box office again. Just before the pandemic, Frozen II became the biggest animated movie ever, so if Disney stops sending their films either straight-to-D+ or provide them as "Primiere Access" options they might find the strong theatrical numbers will return as well.

And of course outside of Disney, there's juggernaut Illumination, and even DreamWorks Animation is chugging along despite (or perhaps because of) being purchased by Universal. And heck, just today, we heard the announcement of a theatrical animated Lord of the Rings movie. That's pretty cool, and expresses more hope for the future.
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Re: Is the future of animation hopeless?

Post by GeffreyDrogon » June 10th, 2021, 5:53 pm

The Middle Earth anime is probably going to be bad, and look at how DreamWorks Animation's recent fare have performed at the box office, I doubt things are getting better. DreamWorks Animation is going the way of Blue Sky Studios, and Disney is eating everything up, so I am not going to hope that anime is going to save entertainment. I want to carve out an empire by the sword, since whatever stories I create will languish and be devoured by Disney.

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Re: Is the future of animation hopeless?

Post by Ben » June 10th, 2021, 7:13 pm

I am confussed and bewildered by this conversation, and by its contradictory and pretty far out statements. A moment ago, Geffrey was tinkering around with Blender and now he’s taking on Disney while conversely expecting (hoping?) they will be interested in thise projects? Huh!?

Make you own stories the way you want to make them. If they’re good they will find their own place and their own audience, however small or big. Everything else brought up here is just white noise and wallpaper...

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Re: Is the future of animation hopeless?

Post by droosan » June 10th, 2021, 9:04 pm

DreamWorks' feature division may not be cranking-out films at quite the breathless pace they'd managed, throughout the 00's & 10's .. but their TV & streaming side has been going strong for several years, now. I don't think DW is going away, anytime soon. 8)

Disney is a juggernaut, for sure .. but they always have been. Heck, when I was a little kid, they were practically the only feature animation studio in town. We're not anywhere near back to those days, by a long shot.

Sony Animation -- & the aforementioned Illumination -- are still pushing the envelope of style, with each of their films .. and even some recent smaller-studio fare (like last year's The Willoughbys) contained some delightful surprises, story- and design-wise.

Laika, too, has proven to be a home to decidedly 'non-Disney'-esque storytelling .. but their most recent films (although excellently entertaining) didn't exactly light-up the box office. Warner Animation Group is also still chugging along, with its highly-commercial -- but often still quite interesting -- projects.

But IMHO, the future of animation is far from hopeless. There's plenty of great stuff coming, especially on streaming platforms. Take a look at that teaser for Netflix's Masters of the Universe: Revelation on the AV front page .. wow! :shock:

-------------------------------------------

Ben's advice to make your own stories the way you want to make them is a sound strategy.

Animation -- particularly high-budget feature animation -- is, by necessity, a collaborative endeavor. Becoming a director at such a studio is a laudable goal .. but it's also an opportunity that only shines upon one person among any ten thousand (if not more!) -- and even then, it still requires the ability to compromise and wrangle with literally hundreds of people for many months .. if not years, to guide a film to completion.

If you have very specific stories you want to tell -- there are abundant tools available, these days, to help realize them on a personal level -- or with a small team of like-minded artists -- perhaps as a series of shorts, or even in 'graphic novel' form (just as examples) that could eventually help to 'sell' the idea of a feature-length animated treatment.

:arrow: Though, again, getting any feature animation project off the ground -- at any studio, large or small -- is up to chance, with extremely high odds. I don't say that to be discouraging; just realistic.

If a story is good enough -- and compelling enough -- and/or has a built-in audience/readership .. those things, combined, may help along its chances of becoming the next animated blockbuster.

Concentrate upon crafting the story itself first, on a level that you can manage yourself .. and build from there.

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Re: Is the future of animation hopeless?

Post by GeffreyDrogon » June 11th, 2021, 10:23 am

I have no interest in wanting to pitch anything to Disney. I am more afraid about what that company's actions might do to affect the entertainment industry as a whole. The whole thing with Disney vs. Star Wars author Alan Dean Foster has me a little worried, because I don't want there to be a new rule stating that the publishers should receive all the revenue from a book rather than let there be a certain amount paid to the author.

Also, the enmity between traditional animators and modern CGI/digital animators is something I worry about, since most of these traditional animators are old men who are against innovation. Though I'm not saying that Shrek changing animation is all good.

I like Blender, but the problem is that I worry that there are people who want to keep animation in a rigid formula and that I can never make anything deep while the sword of Disney hangs over the entertainment industry.

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Re: Is the future of animation hopeless?

Post by Dacey » June 11th, 2021, 12:41 pm

Sorry to burst your bubble, but Disney isn’t going anywhere. :?
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Re: Is the future of animation hopeless?

Post by droosan » June 11th, 2021, 1:30 pm

.. and, with respect: these 'fears' are not worth worrying over .. certainly not to the extent of preventing you from the pursuit of telling your own stories. :?

As Dacey says, Disney isn't going anywhere. And they do cast a long shadow over the entertainment industry, particularly with regard to copyright; their lobbying is largely responsible for more than tripling the terms of copyright protections, within my lifetime .. and if they achieve their endgoal (permanent copyrights), it would effectively end the concept of 'public domain' .. at least, in the USA (which -- of course -- the Disney studio largely benefitted from, while building its legacy during its 'golden age' .. and even up to the modern era).

However .. if you've no interest in pitching to Disney, you've little to fear from them, in any direct way. The Alan Dean Foster case you cite is a rather narrowly-specific scenario (there's a large difference between being a career author contracted to write a story set within a pre-existing franchise, vs a first-time author telling a wholly-original story).

Enmity between (some) traditional animators and CGI/digital animators was very much a 'thing', for awhile .. especially during the years which the industry was in transition (late-90s - mid-00s). But it hasn't been a major factor -- as far as I can tell -- for the past decade, or so. Some traditional animators soldiered on, and picked-up digital skills to keep themselves employed; some didn't. Many CGI animators have a strong appreciation for the traditional approach, and have incorporated its concepts and aesthetics into the CG/digital pipeline, wherever possible. Basically .. if you're worried about this, don't; you've missed it. :wink:

As for the last point .. again, dude .. animation is not anywhere near being "confined to a rigid formula," by comparison to the 1960s-1970s. There's plenty of diversity in content, design, and storytelling approach .. and -- if anything -- a glut of platforms on which to enjoy them.

Yes, it hurts to lose a major studio like Blue Sky. No .. that doesn't make the future of animation hopeless. :mrgreen:

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Re: Is the future of animation hopeless?

Post by EricJ » June 11th, 2021, 3:15 pm

Sad to say, but it's time to finally get out of the 00's.
(You remember, when the wave of 90's Disney-renaissance Wannabes became the cable-network Rugrats Bubble, and when that imploded, nobody knew why Shrek was suddenly so popular?)

DreamWorks "made it look so easy" for pumping out sitcom-CGI, because old-fogey execs still pictured a 70's-80's animation industry that was used to sell IP, and where Disney was the "only" game in town. And once they figured out that Shrek DIDN'T come from "the studio that brought you Toy Story", every studio literally wanted their own animation branch as one of the core key artillery in the IP Franchise War.
But--as Warner and Paramount found out--it's not EASY to keep a full-time CGI-feature studio going as a full-time house-label icon, and even harder if you have a string of pointless April-dump flops. Paramount ditched most of their Paramount Animation projects to streaming, and Warner, being Warner, reined most of their projects back to house-promoting Scooby, Tom & Jerry and Space Jam. ("B-but...Iron Giant!" Was twenty years ago...Okay, freakin' twenty-two, Dacey!)

At the moment, Sony and Universal/Illumination are the only houses still in there punching, because, of course, they're incredibly delusional.
It's not that Disney/Pixar "should" or "deserves to" dominate the marketplace, it's more a case of product being made by those who had experience making it, before corporate games stunk up the works. Cobbler, stick to your last.

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Re: Is the future of animation hopeless?

Post by GeffreyDrogon » June 11th, 2021, 5:09 pm

I truly agree.

I don't think DreamWorks needs to bother extending the Shrek and Madagascar franchises into infinity, or try to transform each and every film they release into a franchise.
Regardless if a movie gets a Cinemascore rating of A- or higher, it doesn't mean that box office success is guaranteed (Alice Through the Looking Glass and Rise of the Guardians) or it's worth watching (Show Dogs and The Emoji Movie).

I think some ideas that get turned into movies are dumb to begin with, like making a movie where cultural icons for children like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny getting turned into fantasy superheroes. I think movies about Funko Pops and Peeps are insanely stupid ideas that are only going to be bad movies that will bomb horribly.

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Re: Is the future of animation hopeless?

Post by Dacey » June 11th, 2021, 5:44 pm

Why is Eric talking like I have some fixation on The Iron Giant when I’ve never mentioned it to him before?

And Illumination is riding their “delusional” studio all the way to the bank for billions of dollars. Same with Sony. And yes, DreamWorks (which is also producing a number of more “adult” cartoon shows for Netflix, natch).

Both Alice Through The Looking Glass and Guardians would’ve made more money if they had opened on different weekends (Alice against X-Men, Guardians against the final Twilight film and Pi).

Like it or not, franchises and tentpoles are what fuel Hollywood so they can in fact take risks. You need your dependable Madagascar 3 so you can feel safe financing the actually much-less conventional (for DreamWorks) Guardians. It doesn’t always work, of course, but you’re never going to have a Tinseltown that isn’t run on what they view as surefire hits.

But I’m kind of confused—like Ben and Droo—over what this topic is even about now.
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Re: Is the future of animation hopeless?

Post by droosan » June 11th, 2021, 6:10 pm

GeffreyDrogon wrote:I think movies about Funko Pops and Peeps are insanely stupid ideas that are only going to be bad movies that will bomb horribly.
.. and yet .. for every dozen or so movies of that type which 'bomb', we get a The Lego Movie or Angry Birds .. which manage to entertain at a level well beyond audience expectations. 8)

Money gets those types of films greenlit .. and 'money' favors franchises, too; that's just the way of our world, and it won't change anytime soon .. if ever. :wink: And -- as Dacey just explained -- franchise films provide income to studios which can then (sometimes!) lead them to consider funding more-'experimental' projects.

As Ben and I have said elsewhere, moviemaking -- whether animated or live-action -- is a complex and demanding process .. involving hundreds of people working over the course of several months to a few years.

Animation, in particular, can find itself subject to a "too many cooks" situation, more often than not .. and that can often lead to a re-tooling of the story, a shuffling of key staff, etc. Sometimes, this may improve a film that previously had trouble finding its feet .. other times, it may exacerbate existing problems .. or introduce new ones. :|

Regardless -- with perhaps an odd exception, here and there -- no one sets out to intentionally make a 'bad' or unenjoyable movie. Sometimes the complexity of production just proves to be insurmountable, whether it's a matter of budget, individual talents, or any number of other factors.

I do agree that this discussion lacks 'focus' .. but with three long posts in the thread, it seems like I found plenty to talk about. :oops:

I hope at least some of the advice I'd offered proves helpful. :)

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Re: Is the future of animation hopeless?

Post by Randall » June 12th, 2021, 7:15 am

Animation is far from dead, and the future remains bright. That doesn't mean that it includes everything that one could hope for, or that the industry doesn't have its issues and challenges, but there seem to be plenty of opportunities these days to sell animated stories.

At the risk of repeating (sorry, I came in late), there are a few pretty healthy animation studios churning out hits, or at least they had hits pre-pandemic. And that will come back. Whatever one may think of Hotel Transylvania or Despicable Me/Minions, those films have made good money, enough to power their franchises. And films based on pre-existing properties can still lead to fantastic films like Lego Movie and Spider-Verse. Even the latest iteration of The Grinch turned out pretty terrific.

Franchises rule the day, but there is still plenty of interesting content out there, including original stories, or at least ones based on little-known properties. (And let's face it, from Disney's earliest days, animated films have largely been based on pre-existing stories and books and comic strips.) I had given up on DreamWorks, but then Boss Baby surprised me by having fantastically designed sequences and telling a darn entertaining story. And we shouldn't forget the streaming world ,where a lot of innovation is going to continue being seen. Netflix alone has already produced many wonderful projects, including hand-drawn.

I'd say the future looks pretty good, really.

And Disney films are hardly "garbage!" That's just silly.

I think you're listening to the wrong people. Ignore the doomsayers and internet trolls and clickbait articles, and just do your thing. :)

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Re: Is the future of animation hopeless?

Post by Ben » June 12th, 2021, 9:31 pm

I recently finally caught Boss Baby and Captain Underpants and found both pretty hysterical, especially Underpants, which was just a really funny cartoon feature.

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Re: Is the future of animation hopeless?

Post by GeffreyDrogon » June 13th, 2021, 9:40 am

The comments section for Cartoon Brew articles is FULL of negativity. That's why I created this chat.

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