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As the animation scene continues to evolve and adapt, one arguably surprising development has been the resurgence of 2D animation after a period in which CGI seemed to consume the industry.
While traditional animation for many decades consisted largely of 2D or stop-motion techniques, the emergence of new technologies and the success of computer-generated animations such as Toy Story and Shrek altered audience appetites and expectations, as well as industry ambitions.
Over time, children’s TV programming and animated cinema releases began to reflect the accelerating enthusiasm towards CGI. Indeed, even industry behemoths such as Disney started to move away from its familiar 2D animated format to embrace the 3D CGI standard set by the likes of Pixar and Dreamworks. And with early CGI series such as Butt Ugly Martians beginning to change the shape of children’s TV, it seemed that 2D may be a dying art.
Yet, recent years have become a hive of activity for animators working on 2D assets and programming. Brands such as Peppa Pig – sparingly but lovingly animated in a 2D format – have found meteoric success with audiences, and encouraged a new raft of kids series produced in the UK such as Ben & Holly and Sarah & Duck.
In the cinema world too, animation companies such as Cartoon Saloon have produced ambitious 2D features such as The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea – acclaimed works demonstrating the affection for, and endless stylistic advantages of 2D animation. Indeed, as has been argued in the past, “there is an artistry and warmth to hand-drawn animation that the cookie-cutter look of 3D animation can’t quite capture” (LINK).
Meanwhile, new media players such as Netflix have commissioned a wave of animated originals. While many of these continue the CGI trend, a significant selection such as Guru Studio’s Justin Time and Dreamwork’s Dawn of the Croods are very much of the 2D style.
And so, a seemingly dwindling artistic style and skillset has once more found itself very much in demand. The UK animation scene is certainly thriving, with increasingly active hubs in London, Manchester, Dublin and beyond.
Whether a new wave of animation design will once again disrupt the industry is unknown, but for now it would appear that the old ways are very much the best.