This season Disney launched The Princess and the Frog(img. 1) with much hype. The fact that this was going to be the first African-American Disney Princess caused the media to take notice and was Disney’s main press kit. Another fact surrounding its production caused me to take notice: Disney had reopened its 2D animation department. That department closed around the period of Home on the Range and The Emperor’s New Groove as more efficient animation methods were found in digital tools. Hooray for digital media but there was also a sadness about it as though it may not have been the end of 2D technique it seemingly signalled that the value in the manual practice of hand drawn animation had plummeted. Nevertheless, Disney was always about efficiency and streamlining in its aptly named production line.
For some time it seemed that one had to accept the plasticky surfaces of Shrek and the muted coldness of The Polar Express as the next phase of progress in animation. Granted major 3D houses such as Pixar and Dreamworks did much to advance the medium through strength of story and design but there were times when it seemed that Finding Nemo and Cars would become the standards of animation filmmaking. Turned out I was wrong. With such beautifully crafted pieces as Belleville Rendezvous, The Danish Poet, Father and Daughter and Persepolis being nominated in the Academy Award animated film categories, it seemed that the value of hand-made films climbed. Even in Ryan(img. 2), Academy Award winning 3D short film, there was that aesthetic of freshness.
As it turned out, the independent animated filmmaker didn’t disappear, they turned to the short film format, digital tools to keep innovative 2D filmmaking throbbing. With the arrival of Sita Sings the Blues and The Pearce Sisters(img. 3) here was strong evidence that artists were using the digital tools to be more inventive than many of their highly budgeted feature length counterparts. This must have seemed very inspiring for aspiring moving image artist who could gain access to a computer and a few other basic digital tools.
For part 2 of this article please visit newly launched digital magazine Island Art & Design