Friday, February 9, 2007

Disney Returns to Cel Animation

Yesterday Ed Catmull, President of Pixar and Disney Feature Animation, announced that Disney was bringing back hand drawn animated films. For those of you who do not know the significance of this, it was only a few years ago that Disney announced it was no longer making traditional, cel animation movies. Instead, it would only make computer animated films, which at the time dominated movie screens. Of course, since then a good deal has changed.

For one thing, Disney's first computer animation film, Chicken Little, met with only modest box office success and mixed reviews. For another, since then Disney acquired Pixar, the computer generated animation studio whose films they had distributed for years. Ed Catmull, founder of Pixar, and John Lassiter, also of Pixar, were then put in charge of Disney's animation unit as its president and Chief Creative Officer respectively. Ironically, then, it took Pixar, the company that put CGI on the map, to bring back hand drawn animation at Disney. Of course, this wouldn't be a surprise to anyone who knows anything about Pixar. Lassiter has worked on cel animation features, and both Catmull and Lassiter are admirers of classic animation, including that, perhaps especially that, of Walt Disney.

At any rate, I am glad to hear Walt Disney will once again be making hand drawn animated films for the big screen. While I am a big fan of computer animation (I've seen most of the Pixar and Dreamworks movies in the theatre), I have always loved hand drawn animation. And I still think there is a place for it in today's world of CGI creations. It seemed to me a grave injustice that Disney decided to stop making cel animated films to begin with.

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