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Disney Does Digital, Ditches Drawings 337

May Kasahara writes "This is something which has been the talk amongst animators for the past couple of weeks: Walt Disney Feature Animation is in the process of halting all work on traditionally-animated features and going completely CG. Supposedly, all of their animators-- even staunch traditionalists such as Glenn Keane-- are being trained on 3D computer animation techniques. The last hand-drawn high-budget Disney feature scheduled for release is Home on the Range, which is due out next April. It appears that Disney is bowing to the supposed pressures of the market, even though the hand-drawn Lilo and Stitch was considered a success and the all-CG Dinosaur (done at Disney's now-defunct FX house The Secret Lab) was not. However, I believe there's another factor at work: Pixar's contract with Disney is set to expire soon, and the revered CG house has been making their own demands of Disney for the contract's renewal."
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Disney Does Digital, Ditches Drawings

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  • Walt Disney (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dolo666 ( 195584 ) * on Monday November 10, 2003 @01:21AM (#7432381) Journal
    Walt Disney would have loved this move to full CG! He likely would not have liked Pixar's pushy behaviour, however. Apparently Walt loved the results of drawing cartoons, but complained about the long hours at his desk, until he gave up drawing altogether to supervise his own studio. He also loved new inventions, as he was the first person to make a cartoon with sound (Steamboat Willie (1928)). Therefore, I would have to say that Walt would have loved the idea of making machines draw for him!
    • Re:Walt Disney (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mr100percent ( 57156 ) *
      How was Pixar pushy? They got screwed over contract-wise for Toy Story, and Disney managed to make a CG for less than a traditional animated film.

      For the next movie (Bugs life?) they got a bit pushier, yes. They asked for top billing alongside the Disney trademark, and Steve Jobs managed to make Pixar a household name. Anyone know about current relations? They seem to be a cash cow for both parties.

    • Re:Walt Disney (Score:5, Interesting)

      by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @01:38AM (#7432432)
      He likely would not have liked Pixar's pushy behaviour

      Pixar films has made like 1.5 billion dollars in ticket sales alone. That's not including merchandising, cross-licensing, and home entertainment. In that same time, what has Disney done with their animation films? Between Lilo and Stitch and Mulan, all other Disney films have done very poorly compared to Pixar and even Dreamworks. I think they've earned the right to be a bit pushy.

      While Disney might have one of the most powerful marketing divisions in media, somehow, I suspect that all things outside film making mean little to Pixar. Sure they like the money that merchandising might bring in, they know they can get a better deal somewhere else. So if you're Pixar, do you stick with a 50/50 deal or do you shop around for a better one knowing that your partner needs you more than you need them?

    • Walt Disney would have loved this move to full CG!

      What does Walt think about technology?
      Let's thaw him and ask! :) From the strange-but-true department here... [] Walt Disney was fascinated with technology. It's no wonder the creator of Mickey Mouse had his body frozen. Immediately after his death on December 17, 1965, Walt Disney was placed into cryogenic suspension - in other words, frozen. The theory goes that anyone suspended and preserved can be brought back to life, if or when the cure is discover

    • Re:Walt Disney (Score:3, Informative)

      by drfuchs ( 599179 ) *
      Walt Disney never drew a single cartoon character! He couldn't even draw Mickey Mouse when kids asked for his signature. It's a well-known fact. So what fantasy-land did you get your story from?
    • as he was the first person to make a cartoon with sound (Steamboat Willie (1928)).

      He also was first with the Multi-Plane Camera used in Mary Poppins.

    • He likely would not have liked Pixar's pushy behaviour, however.

      When negotiating a business transaction, showing that you have the power to walk away is not pushy behaviour, it's assertive behavior.

    • Re:Walt Disney (Score:5, Informative)

      by DavesWorld334 ( 714899 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @02:54AM (#7432607)
      He likely would not have liked Pixar's pushy behaviour, however.

      Walt likely wouldn't have treated Pixar so incredibly poorly, as Eisner has.

      After Toy Story 2 was produced by Pixar as a full-feature, at Disney's insistence, Eisner then shoved the terms of the contract down Pixar's throat (long-story shortened, Disney assumed any sequels to Pixar films would be Disney type sequels, which are always low budget direct-to-video and usually considered crap by the film market; for this reason apparently, the contract specifies sequels do not count towards the five pictures Pixar is contracted to deliver under the current deal). tm l?fromint=1

      Of course, Eisner took Disney's full cut for Toy Story 2, even though it "didn't count". Eisner further thumbed his nose by pointing out Disney could produce a third Toy Story film whenever it (Disney) liked.

      I dearly, very dearly, hope Pixar walks after the way Disney's treated them. I hate seeing Disney's name on Pixar's work. It further infuriates me so many mundane folks don't understand Toy Story and Finding Nemo are *PIXAR* movies, not Disney movies.

      I very much want Pixar to emulate Dreamworks (or Lucas with Fox if you like); production but cutting straight distribution deals with existing studio distribution muscle. Aside from the money, Pixar's storytellers *deserve* to own the stories and characters they've breathed life in so brilliantly. That Disney has ownership over Buzz Lightyear, Dorrie the Blue Fish, Flick the Ant, and even Sully the Monster is a creative travesty.

      Any way you want to spin the story, the facts remain the same. Disney can't put a picture together since Katzenburg left, and Pixar hasn't hit less than a homerun yet. Pixar doesn't need Disney, and should walk just to show they're not going to reward those who treat them so poorly.

      Other References: nflash/sep200 1/nf20010928_5607.htm /ntrvu/Eisner/Index.htm l ieb erman/2003-02-09-pixar_x.htm
    • He likely would not have liked Pixar's pushy behaviour, however.

      Oh, brother. I personally have never negotiated with the Walt Disney Company, but one acquaintance who did described their negotiating technique as "Bad cop, Antichrist."

      Disney has always had a reputation for what we may politely call hardball negotiations. Remember the memorable dinosaur sequence in Fantasia, set to "The Rite of Spring" by Igor Stravinsky? Stravinsky was still alive when Walt was planning the movie, but under copyright law

    • He likely would not have liked Pixar's pushy behaviour, however.
      Pixar would probably be less "pushy" if Disney hadn't screwed them over Toy Story 2. The Disney/Pixar deal is for 5 films, but Disney claim Toy Story 2 doesn't count because it's a sequel and not novel material. After pulling that Disney shouldn't (and won't) be expecting any favours.
    • by silentbozo ( 542534 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @05:24AM (#7432919) Journal
      The contract Pixar signed with Disney basically said this:

      Make 5 movies for us. We (Disney) will own all the franchise rights. Once your 5 movies are up, we'll let you out of the contract.

      Pixar makes Toy Story. Disney makes millions. Pixar makes A Bugs Life. Disney makes millions. Pixar makes Toy Story 2, originally for direct to video, but its so good, Disney decides to put it in theatres.

      Pixar asks, will Toy Story 2 count toward our 5 picture obligation? Disney says, hell no - it's not a new franchise. You still owe us three new films. Pixar makes Finding Nemo, Disney makes millions, etc.

      At this point Pixar is asking, why are we busting our butts for the mouse and letting them rake in all the money? Disney has had it good... way too good.

      This is just normal negotiations, now that Pixar is in a better position. Disney needs that cash flow (since they're doing a lousy job at generating decent stories in-house), but Pixar also benefits from the awesome distribution and promotion arm that Disney wields. I figure Disney will sign Pixar, but will shortly try and cut them loose if and when their own in-house 3d department makes good.

      Too bad for Disney (I think laying off most of Feature Animation was a mistake), but that's what happens when the accountants and lawyers are running the asylum...
    • by artemis67 ( 93453 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @09:46AM (#7433830)
      The fact is that Pixar knows how to tell a great story. The CG is meaningless without that. There are lots of CG movies and TV shows flooding the market these days, but Pixar is still able to make a name for themselves because it's about the story first and the technology second.
  • by 56ker ( 566853 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @01:27AM (#7432394) Homepage Journal
    I try to limit the amount of paper used as far as possible. In this day and age - graphics tablets, decent graphics software I'm sure Disney have figured out that it's cheaper and more efficient to use a computer.

    It also gives the animators more artistic freedoms as well as freedom from some of the drudgery of cell animation where every single frame has to be drawn by hand.
    • I do not think the point here was about ditching paper, that transition has already mostly happened. (AFAIK)

      The point was moving from drawing lines in 2d to modeling+animating+rendering in 3d. (although the result might sometimes look like hand-drawn, if wanted..)

      • Disney has a system called CAPS. It's a computer based ink and paint system that I believe was developed in the 80's... By PIXAR... Ed Catmull anyway.

        The Disney film "The Black Cauldron" made use of 3D generated elements. "The Great Mouse Detective" I believe is another one.
    • by fenix down ( 206580 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @01:45AM (#7432451)
      See, that makes sense, but they already did that with Lilo & Stich, I believe. All the DVD special features stuff was all them on the Macs and tablets, anyway.

      I'd like a article from competent people rather than USA Today, who clearly don't have a clue what the hell they're talking about. Are they abandoning 2D or hand-drawing? USA Today makes it sound like 2D in general is getting thrown out, which is idiotic any way you slice it.

      3D animation is a great medium, but unless Disney can develop some kind of style for it, they're screwed. They're throwing out their 2D style, which is absolutely unique, and jumping into 3D which they're not going to be able to brand anywhere near as easily.

      Not that using computers is a problem, but doing things in 2D gives you stylistic options you don't get doing 3D. You have to make an actual 3D model when you're doing CG, with 2D you can bend space-time and make it look good. With CG you're stuck with basically a puppet show, albeit a much more elaborate puppet show, but you have to go at it like a physical place or else it looks ridiculous.
      • With the ability to change the shape of 3d geometry in any way at any interval the animation capabilities of 3d are limitless. A vertex (or any other part of geometry) could be at coordinates (0,0,0) at frame 1, then at (5,10,90) at frame 2, changing locations without traversing the space in between. I believe that is "bending space-time", and it exists in all digital animation that is composed of frames. It is impossible not to bend "space-time" while dealing with quantized animation media.

        There are n
      • 3D gives you 2D (Score:3, Insightful)

        by G4from128k ( 686170 )
        3D animation is a great medium, but unless Disney can develop some kind of style for it, they're screwed. They're throwing out their 2D style, which is absolutely unique, and jumping into 3D which they're not going to be able to brand anywhere near as easily.

        Good point, but.....3D modelling gives you 2D automatically when a 3D scene is rendered for a frame. The trick for Disney is to create their own 3D modeling and 3D-to-2D rendering algorithms that replicate that Disney 2D animation style. Although m
  • by mirko ( 198274 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @01:29AM (#7432399) Journal
    3D is not all.
    I personally consider that "The Emperor's new groove" though classsically designed is much better than some more technologically advanced movie.
    Now, if they want to privilegiate the marketing and the buzzwords to the storytelling, it's their business.
    • Emperor's new groove has a lot more CG in it than most people realise. I mean, the makority of people realise that the big log falling down the waterfall was quite obvious 3D art, but there were a lot of little things that went by unnoticed: The cart that Pacha pulls around when he goes to see the Emperor, for example, or the bag that Kuzco is dropped in.

      Disney seem to have foudn a method of generatign a 3D model, and animate it in a way that looks cartoony. At the very least, the 3D models were used as ro
  • by cliffy2000 ( 185461 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @01:30AM (#7432402) Journal
    I just heard some sad news on talk radio - cartoon Mickey Mouse was found dead in his Anaheim home this morning. There weren't any more details yet. I'm sure we'll all miss him, even if you weren't a fan of his work there's no denying his contribution to popular culture. Truly an American icon.
  • by smilingirl ( 608655 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @01:30AM (#7432403) Journal
    I will miss the old hand-drawn films. They have a certain nostalgia about them... the not-so-crispness lends a certain effect that is lost in computer-generated animation. CG is nice, but I don't think they should completely eradicate the old way.
    • With my youngest son being sick, we've been watching quite a slice of Disney work. We watched Snow White this morning - Monster's Inc (one of the Pixar releases) last night.

      The hand drawn stuff does have something not present with CG, especially the pre-WWII work. Especially pertinent that I had the chance of meeting Ward Kimball on a couple of occasions - he was someone that a lot of geeks could have learned valuable lessons from.

    • I wouldn't be surprised if we started seeing apparent "flaws" added to CG animation to make it look like traditional animation. Stuff like random noise added to perspective calculations, some jitter added to the outlines. It's the lack of these flaws that makes it easy (for me at least) to spot the CG in otherwise entirely hand-drawn films.
    • by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @08:43AM (#7433503) Homepage Journal
      "CG is nice, but I don't think they should completely eradicate the old way."

      Even though I'm a 3D artist, I must say I agree with you. I wonder if anybody at Disney (any of the PHBs rather) has ever seen Animatrix. If they had any appreciation for the artform, they'd reconsider their view. All those movie segments were animated and drawn in dramatically different ways. And, most importantly, it *worked*. If those movies had all looked like the Final Fantasy-esque technique used in Flight of the Osiris, a huge chunk of the intrigue of those movies would simply have disappeared.

      Why? Because drawing by hand is about as close as drawing straight from your imagination as you can get. With CG, you have to rationalize your style in 3D form. That's a bit of an oversimplification, but it takes your creative look and applies rules to it.

      Now, there's nothing that says you can't have unique style to 3D. I've seen some rather interesting and impressive attempts at it. I saw one 3D movie that was made by using a series of filters that made it look water-colored. Cool effect, but I have a seriously difficult time imagining how the Animatrix Movie with the skateboarding kid in highschool would have been done in 3D. (Sorry, the title of it escapes me.)

      Hmm. I guess there's a silver lining though. Maybe if everything is pushed through 3D, it'll force new creative styles to surface. Just wish it wasn't at the cost of a whole media.
    • I will too. I think the Onion AV Club said it best in their review of Brother Bear []:

      "Giving up on hand-drawn animation is akin to abandoning pianos because synthesizers have come along."

  • by jokkebk ( 175614 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @01:30AM (#7432404) Homepage
    It would be interesting to see "normal" animations generated with computers, instead of the now-so-common 3D things like Finding Nemo.
    I would suppose digital equipment would offer lots of possibilities for texturing in general, and cinematic effects such as lense focus, motion
    blur and a lot of more complex things.

    Well, if 3D feature animations sell, then those we shall have, it seems. And I do have to admit that Finding Nemo does have a similar look to it as some "traditional" animation titles, being "less" three-dimensional..
    • I think Disney is heading towards doing animated features that look like traditional hand-drawn animation but is completely computer-generated.

      The reason is simple: this allows for much more sophisticated character movements, lighting effects, and cinematic effects. Anyway, both Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Treasure Planet were almost there in terms of computer animation, anyway, with only the main characters being hand-drawn (and that's debateable at best). If you look at Lilo & Stitch, while the han
      • Fantasia 2000 is what you'd get, appearance-wise, specifically the Steadfast Tin Soldier bit. There, they had 3-D characters over 2-D backgrounds, but unlike Pixar, the 3D stuff wasn't rendered as "totally" 3D. They did block-shading instead of normal light-shading the way Pixar does theirs, so it still had that aspect of looking 2D.
    • by Unknown Relic ( 544714 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @02:03AM (#7432505) Homepage
      Actually a huge number of "normal" animations are already being done by computer. One example which many people here may be familiar with is the Dilbert series. Another even more extreme example is Southpark which is done using Maya, something you'd never know from looking at it.

      One good indicator that computers and 3d modeling is part of the process is how the background moves. Traditionally drawn cartoons often have static backgrounds. They may move, but very rarely does the angle at which you're viewing the background change. This is why cartoons today typically have much more dynamic environments than they did in the past. Going back to the Dilbert example, the opening credits of the show demonstrate this extremely well.
      • Well, it doesn't change all the time in "2-D" but it DOES change. Disney has a fantastic package called "Deep Canvas" that does most of the work for generating the 3-D backgrounds while appearing like 2-D space. Its used heavily in Tarzan, Atlantis, and Treasure Planet (where they added the ability to "move" parts of the background around). It allows the background people to "paint" directly into the computer the complete 3-D picture, by painting onto geometric solids with the stylus.

        meanwhile, a skelet
    • Most large-scale animation (film and TV) has been at least partially digital for years. Even if you're not drawing it directly to a tablet or something, it's kinda ridiculous to run around doing overcomplicated camera tricks when you can have it done in 1/8th the time with a $200 computer and a scanner.

      I admit I'm somewhat interested to see if Disney can do something new with 3D. Right now, the creativity is basically Pixar coming up with a water effect and working it into a movie. It's worked pretty we
  • by Gogl ( 125883 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @01:30AM (#7432405) Journal
    This is really just a sensible evolution, a transition to a newer way of making a polished product. Drawing by hand will still be around as an intermediate step for design and planning (storyboards and such).
  • CG != 3D (Score:5, Insightful)

    by obsidianpreacher ( 316585 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @01:33AM (#7432411)
    Making a transition to "computer graphics" does not necessarily mean a move to "3D work." There's been tons of CG usage in Disney cartoons already (stampede in Lion King, flying through trees in Tarzan, etc.), and neither of those would be considered 3D animations (like Toy Story, Shrek, et. al.) ... hell, even South Park is animated completely by computer, and you can't seriously tell me that it looks in the least like it's 3D.

    This is not going to be the end of a traditional 2D-look for cartoons, but I can see it as Disney just embracing the technology that's there, like they did with Snow White and the pseudo-3D frame photography that they used for that.
    • Re:CG != 3D (Score:3, Insightful)

      Every Disney movie made after The Little Mermaid has been done entirely on CAPS without the use of cells; if that's what they meant, they did it over a decade ago. They could do some movies that are animated in 3D and rendered with cell shaders as was done in Titan A.E., but if they say they're retraining their animators, it seems that the drawn animation process is going out.
    • Re:CG != 3D (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cascino ( 454769 ) * on Monday November 10, 2003 @01:49AM (#7432468) Homepage
      Making a transition to "computer graphics" does not necessarily mean a move to "3D work." There's been tons of CG usage in Disney cartoons already (stampede in Lion King, flying through trees in Tarzan, etc.), and neither of those would be considered 3D animations (like Toy Story, Shrek, et. al.)
      I believe this is incorrect. The way I understand it, CG was used in both of the examples you cited to add 3d elements to a 2d cartoon. In The Lion King, the stampede sequence uses 3d to show changing overhead perspectives (think tracking cameras) across the moving herd of wildebeasts. In Tarzan, the trees were CG modelled such that they could be rotated, panned, etc., during the "flying through trees" sequences.
      In both cases, simple 2d characters were overlaid on 3d animations. The only difference between those two examples and Toy Story, Shrek, et al., is the fact that the primary characters were composited from 2d sources, not 3d.
      I think the best example is the rotating ballroom from the "dance" sequence from Beauty and the Beast. Yeah, the technology's been improved, and the primary focus (the characters) are hand-drawn, but otherwise there's no difference between that and the 3d animations you mentioned above.
      • I agree. What the original poster might not realize is that CG 3d can be rendered such that it appears to have been hand drawn, i.e. cel-shading instead of smooth shading (Phong, Blinn etc.). The systems used by Disney to emulate a traditional animation look are much more complex than the cel-shading renderers available to consumers though.
  • Pixar (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spytap ( 143526 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @01:34AM (#7432417)
    To call Pixar pushy is to miss the point: right now they're getting screwed. Disney is getting 50% of their movies for doing nothing more than distributing. Pixar is investing years of labor and untold hours of computing time into making these as good as possible and Disney is pulling crap like not counting Toy Story 2 in the original 5 movie deal (Disney doesn't count sequels as new properties, even when they're immensely successful and have a veyr nice theatrical run).
    Pixar deserves whatever they can get, and Disney deserves the same deal that Fox gets for distributing Lucas' work: 15% or lower.
    That being said, I would also venture to guess that Pixar is looking to branch out into more adult fare as well. It's only time until a fully rendered CG film deals with adult themes (NOT porn...but that's a possibility too) instead of just catering to kiddie audiences. Finding Nemo was closer than anything else they've done, but my guess is that once Disney drops Pixar, they announce a PG-13 rated drama.
    • Re:Pixar (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @01:43AM (#7432442) Homepage
      Nobody, even Lassiter and Jobs, really expected that Pixar would end up being a better and more original storyteller than Disney. Yet they did. Most Disney work is derivative. From Snow White to Treasure Planet, the story came from elsewhere. "Toy Story" and "Monsters, Inc" are entirely original. That's an achievement. Pixar has a good team. What makes them successful is their original concepts, not their All Renderman All the Time style. Monsters, Inc. would have worked as cel animation. Other technologies yield more realistic animation (see Stuart Little, which was done in Maya).
      • Re:Pixar (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Pseudonym ( 62607 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @02:17AM (#7432532)
        Nobody, even Lassiter and Jobs, really expected that Pixar would end up being a better and more original storyteller than Disney. Yet they did. Most Disney work is derivative. From Snow White to Treasure Planet, the story came from elsewhere.

        I think this is more than a little unfair. In the early days, Disney's films were highly original, because they had to basically invent the process upon which modern animation studios basically get a free ride. They had to deal with far more fundamental questions than Pixar does today, such as: Could you hold an audience's attention for 75+ minutes with a cartoon? Could you make an audience do anything but laugh with a cartoon? Could you, for example, make them cry? These are hard problems to solve, and nobody had tried it before.

        As for originality, I'm not sure that Pixar's five (so far) films are a good sample. Shrek isn't an original story either, but it did extremely well at the box office. Besides, A Bug's Life isn't exactly the most original plot ever written.

        Disney's problem, as I see it, is that they got complacent. They've decided that they're going to release two animated features a year, and that's too much creativity for their team, so they basically started turning their direct-to-video "cheapquels" into theatrical releases (Jungle Book 2 and Return to Never Land being two recent examples) and assumed that people would turn up to see them. If there's one thing that Disney has a long history of, it's producing filler material.

        Nobody knows what kind of movie will work and what will not. The history of cinema is littered with highly original flops as well as highly derivative flops. However, there are certain things which are known not to work, and trying to sell a film on brand name alone is one of them.

        Now to Pixar. They have a young, fresh team with lots of new ideas, and enough money in the bank to sit on a film until it's ready to be made. The big question is: How long can they sustain this? Only time will tell.

        • Re:Pixar (Score:3, Insightful)

          In the early days, Disney's films were highly original, because they had to basically invent the process upon which modern animation studios basically get a free ride.

          When where Disney's films highly original? Do you mean their remaking of traditional fairy tales like Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Pinnochio and Jungle Book? Bambi and Fantasia are the only 'original' full-length Disney films I can think of from their early days.

          Disney has a reputation for Borg-like assimilation of traditional
      • To add to what you've said...

        I remember the first demos that Pixar showed at Comdex. From the begining, they kept dragging people away from the tech and back to the artistry, to the fact that they had good people doing the animation and that computers were secondary. Truth be told, they didn't have to drag that much. The demos were and are still excellent. I only thought about the fact that computers were used to do the animation before and after. While they were playing, it was 100% entertainment.

      • Re:Pixar (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Quarters ( 18322 )
        Other technologies yield more realistic animation (see Stuart Little, which was done in Maya).

        Yes yes, it's all about the technology and has nothing to do with the art direction. Monsters, Inc. doesn't look like it does because of the technology. It looks like it does because that is how Pixar wanted it to look.

    • but my guess is that once Disney drops Pixar, they announce a PG-13 rated drama.

      Everyone keeps saying that but I think that will be far from the case. Have you ever seen the special features and behind the scenes stuff where they show Pixar studios or interviews with Lasseter and the other lead directors? Those people are very much into the Disney tradition. All of the lead guys there have kids and make movies for kids. That's about it. I think Disney did have a say in what kind of movies that Pixar was m
    • Pixar's 1986 short film Knick Knack that was played with Finding Nemo and included on the DVD has been modified to remove "adult" content [].

      Was this at Disney's request?
  • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @01:39AM (#7432436)
    Quite honestly, Pixar doesn't need Disney at all. Pixar could easily get the capital necessary to build their own distribution house, especially considering that digital media are rapidly replacing film in theaters. If they did break off their relationship with Disney, it would provide Pixar the chance to offer some more serious fare, finally giving the US a studio to compete with some of the higher-budget anime of recent years (a la Ghost in the Shell or Final Fantasy).

    • Heck, if Pixar built their own distribution channel, they could probably compete with Disney for bringing over a lot of the better anime. I can't believe it took until the last few years for someone at Disney to decide to translate and distribute Miyazaki's work in North America. In fact, if I remember correctly that John Lasseter was a major factor in the Disney distribution of Miyaxaki's work, I could see Pixar taking over that distribution unless Disney already has those distribution rights under contrac
  • Nothing New... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jasonripp ( 300770 )
    Disney has been using CG in their "traditional" animation for some time. My kids were watching "The Emperor's New Groove" the other day and I watched the behind-the-scenes portion in which they showed how many elements (such as the wagon pulled by the John Goodman character) were CG and combined with traditional animation for the characters. It looks just like the cel-based animation, since they use shaders that make the 3D objects look hand-drawn. If I recall correctly, they also used a good bit of CG in
  • by Masem ( 1171 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @01:44AM (#7432443)'s the plot, characters, and other parts of the presentation. The last several Disney movies ( Atlantis, Treasure Island) have suffered from being overly casted by big names but lacking any plot, and while trying to be serious, they through in characters that are to be lovable and huggable. This has been going on ever since Lion King, as they struggle to try to recreate the formula that Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, the Little Mermaid, and Alladin were about to do.

    On the other hand, the story writing and characters created by Pixar in the their last several movies could have easily been able to be done with traditional animation, assuming a good animation studio was behind it. The 3d CGI adds the right amount of sparkle to an already top-notch story, but the writing is so good, that the 3d is not necessary.

    What Disney needs is to rethink their approach to their 'animated' features. Lilo and Stitch *was* funny and was a good movie, and beautiful to look at with the watercolor backgrounds. If it was done in 3d, it actually may have actually lost something in the final presenation. But the key improvement was the writing where they turned back to their past talent and got them to do their thing, and didn't muck about in making it family friendly. As such, it's a very witty movie. But when the management gets too deep in the details to make a movie more appealing to the very young crowd, it suffers drastically (such as Treasure Planet did).

    Fortunately, I don't think Dreamworks is giving up their feature animation department. Sure, Sinbad didn't do so well, but they have had a few good shots with that and with The Road to El Diablo. (If anything, Dreamworks fault lies in too much 2D/3D overlap). WB has disbanded it's feature animation department (The new LT movie is not much as aniamted as it is live), and FOX killed it's line after Titan AE failed. It's a shame that people think that 3d is the only way that people will appreicate an animated movie. The only reason that every Pixar movie has worked is that every Pixar movie has great writing behind it, not just a bunch of render farms.

  • by jht ( 5006 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @01:46AM (#7432454) Homepage Journal
    Lilo and Stitch wasn't a success becuse it was hand-drawn, it was a success because the story was interesting, the characters were fun, and the movie well-made. And Dinosaur wasn't a flop because it was a CG film, it was a flop because it sucked.

    CG lets you do cool stuff that's not readily feasible by hand, but it's no substitute for a good story. The marketplace isn't pressuring Disney to abandon hand-drawing, it's pressuring Disney to make good films. They've just made a decision that they're better off producing them via CG instead of hand animation. Right now, though, Disney's good animated films are all coming from Pixar - who happen to be an all-CG shop.
  • by zymano ( 581466 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @01:47AM (#7432462)
    Can CG do high quality artistic caliber 2d drawings ?

    When I am watching a movie i almost don't care if it's 2d or 3d as long as it's good.

    • If you've ever watched Futurama and seen the spaceship they fly around in, you've seen 3D CG with a cartoon-ish shader at work. That can be really useful in some aspects of cartooning.

      ...And if you've ever seen more than perhaps the very first episode (season?) of South Park, you've seen 2D CG at work, which is pretty much Flash on steroids. Of course, that doesn't mean all 2D CG will appear like South Park, of course. Regular cartoons can easily be created as well.
      • I think I've heard Matt Groening say in an interview that in fact Futurama is ALL 3D models with a toon shader. Notice the camera movement often describes an arc around something, especially in the brief scenes where they should Planet Express's headquarter. That and the ship are great examples to show that the 2D is in fact 3D.
    • In the Iron Man. Many sceenes with the robot was done with CG and made to look compleatly cartoon like.
  • by enkidu ( 13673 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @01:49AM (#7432467) Homepage Journal
    Why are they insisting on 3D? It seems to me that there's plenty of opportunity and market for well drawn, intersting 2D animation with good stories. The problem with Disney's latest offerings (aside from the mentioned Lilo and Stitch) has been an appalling lack of creativity in story and plot. If you look at the anime coming out of Japan, the large majority of it is still 2D and a lot of it is completely awesome. A couple of the more recent ones which got limited theatrical releases here in the U.S. were Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade [] and Cowboy Bebop: the Movie []. Both were 2D animation with great visual and story quality. Of course, Spirited Away [] was also mostly 2D (with some 3D affects and scenes added) also. There's still plenty of life left in 2D, why try to teach people who have been great at it for so many years to switch? Why abandon all of the expertise and skills you've built up?

    Of course, that doesn't mean that they should abandon the 3D animation arena to Dreamworks and Pixar. Developing talent and capabilities in the 3D arena are clearly needed (and could be melded into existing 2D techniques ala the ballroom scene in "Beauty and the Beast"). Still concluding that 2D is dead seems a bit premature to me.

  • Poor summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kevan_moran ( 661209 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @01:59AM (#7432492)
    May's summary seems rather poor to me.

    Walt Disney Feature Animation is in the process of halting all work on traditionally-animated features and going completely CG.

    Article says-

    Stainton, who took over as animation chief earlier this year, insists the press obituaries for 2-D are premature. "It is a bit of a media creation to say 2-D is dead.

    Supposedly, all of their animators-- even staunch traditionalists such as Glenn Keane-- are being trained on 3D computer animation techniques.

    Article says -

    "We will always do whatever fits the story best," Cook assures. "We've gone on a concerted effort to train and re-train artists. But we will keep our great sensibility."

    The last hand-drawn high-budget Disney feature scheduled for release is Home on the Range, which is due out next April.

    Article says -

    continues with the computer/hand-drawn hybrid A Few Good Ghosts in '06 as well as the spoof Rapunzel Unbraided in '07.

  • by snStarter ( 212765 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @02:11AM (#7432519)
    What Pixar has brought to its animation is a respect for its audience, high quality animation, and artistic integrity. And they have consistantly done something that other studios seem to do only by accident: create characters a wide spectrum of audiences can actually CARE about.

    I'm happy Pixar is out there because their stories aren't cynical. They reflect an integrity that comes from imbuing their characters with a fundamental humanity we all can relate to. It's good for children. It's good for everyone.

    I'm hoping they push up the rating scale and make more complex stories as well. If Pixar starts to write stories about ambiguous characters they can truly re-invent American animation.
  • The Lilo&Stitch v. Dinosaur comparison is an invalid weak correlation.

    The valid difference between those films was that L&S was a strong story with strong feelings and psychological complexity, while Dinosaur was a predictable, tired story with pat characters.

    Until L&S, I thought Disney would have to rely on Pixar for all of its quality storytelling (and it's not the CGI at Pixar that makes their films great, it's Stanton and Lasseter, who are absolute masters at creating stories and the chara
    For starters, I think Matrix Revolutions really did create a revolution in the movie industry: they proved that you still need a good story line in order to make a good movie even with zillion dollars set for CG. Revolutions might have been an eye candy, but I definitely snoozed through a part of it. I don't think I can sit through that again. But I definitely have watched some Disney films and some anime (Studio Ghilibi) more than 2 or three times.

    For me, CG does cut away a bit of the
  • Luddites! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Nathdot ( 465087 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @02:15AM (#7432529)
    There seems to be a whole buncha people complaining that this is the death of art, blah blah blah, as we know it.

    CG does not mean that all animation will be 3D/look the same. It's just a new set of tools, practices allowing the artist to work with greater efficiency and a better palette.

    Maybe we should go back to filming flip-book drawings if this advancement is so universally reviled.
    • Disney has been using computers to paint and composite since the Rescuers Down Under (Beauty and the Beast was the first 100% digital production). So this is not a decision to start using computers.

      From what I have heard, they literally think that people are refusing to see films that don't look 3-D, and that all future productions are to look like Shreck.
  • by Aqua OS X ( 458522 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @02:20AM (#7432542)
    Remember, just because Disney is moving to all CG, does not mean that every Disney movie is going to look like a Pixar flick. A lot of folks here seem to have that impression.

    Most Disney movies already incorporate a lot of CG (ie Treasure Planet). However, Disney still choses to use a lot of design principles that people typically identify with older hand drawn Disney cartoons.

    (ohh and on a side note... South Park is nearly 100% CG, and that looks nothing like a pixar flick ;) )
  • Italian Wedding (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Graymalkin ( 13732 ) * on Monday November 10, 2003 @02:24AM (#7432554)
    Disney's been heading into the CG arena for quite a few years now. While cels are still hand drawn they all end up scanned into a computer and colored and composited digitally. Drawing directly on the computer instead of scanning cels simply cuts out a rather pricey step in the animation process. They also get to leverage the computer's innate ability to do really tedious jobs quickly.

    If they made some software that would take something drawn on a tablet and convert it into NURBS and let the animator define relationships easily they could save a lot of time animating. They could adopt interpolation techniques used in 3D animation to flat 2D animation. It also isn't terribly difficult to adapt 3D animation to look like cel drawings. Disney's been doing that for years, ever since the antilope scene in Kimb^H^H^H^HLion King. The milling crowds in the Hunchback of Notre Dame were animated using a similar technique.

    Regardless of how Disney makes their films I just want them to hire some decent writers. Their movies aren't flops because of the animation techniques, they flops because they're crappy movies. I had really high hopes for Atlantis. It looked like it might be an interesting flick from the previews. Titan AE despite its suckiness was a much better animated action flick. Emperor's New Groove however was pretty funny and is one of if not the best animated disney flick made in the past several years. Treasure Planet was as boring and uninspired as Atlantis. Hercules however was pretty funny and kept my interest. Lilo & Stitch so didn't live up to my expectations. It needed way more Stitch hilarity and less whining about being a family.
  • by PotatoHead ( 12771 ) <doug AT opengeek DOT org> on Monday November 10, 2003 @02:33AM (#7432568) Homepage Journal
    Disney needs to learn a few lessons from Pixar regarding respect for their viewers.

    Disney DVD:

    Too damn many previews, lame plots, good characters, One disk for movie, other disk for special features, lots of stickers on the side to peel off.

    Pixar DVD:

    Almost the opposite. You get two discs containing the movie, one wide and one full pan & scan. So, one for the kids to thrash and one to keep for later, or give to a friend. No forced previews, and one security sticker.

    Frankly, the Pixar packaging and presentation value is easily 2X that of Disney and that does not even count the movie. Which has been more lame than usual these days.

    Pixar is making new stories instead of pillaging the public domain as Disney tends to do often. Sure, there are new stories from Disney, but they have not been as good as those produced by Pixar.

    Given all the crap Disney does behind the scenes regarding copyright issues plus their overly pushy presentation and packaging issues, I believe many people are more than willing to look at other options.

    Disney can retool their production house all they want, but they are going to lose big in the DVD market as long as they keep releasing the way they do.

    I can't wait to see Pixar go once they can do what they want.

  • I've heard it was animated entirely with computers, but I'm not sure. I know the second season (J to X) was, and it shows. It had some really amazing animation I wouldn't expect to see in a TV series. On the other hand, the colors were just too clean and sharp. I'm not sure what causes it (I don't think I could even discribe the differnce adaquately in words), but I've always been able to tell when computers have been used in a sequence. If that's changed, it's a recent thing. Anyone know of something that
  • I have to say... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuuSt ( 151462 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @03:06AM (#7432627) Homepage Journal
    It's a bit ironic that as Disney switches from the cell shaded look to the 3D, many video games are switching from the 3D look to cell shaded.
  • by Dominic_Mazzoni ( 125164 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @03:28AM (#7432676) Homepage
    'Dotters discuss Disney.

    Disney ditching drawing? Digital Disney? Dumb.

    Donald Duck doesn't do dimensions. Dumbo doesn't. Dalmations don't. Drawings darling. Drawings delight.

    Dinosaur dimensionful -- Dinosaur dumb. Duh.

    Disney's dangerous decision dooms Disney's deliverables! Defines Disney's decay, death.

    Don't deify dimensionality. Deceptive.

    - Dominic
  • I'm not really sure if Japanese animation still uses the traditional pencil and paper method, but it's highly likely they've moved to CG (Note, not necessarily 3D).

    I've watched a fair bit of anime, and there is just a certain quality of the cel-shaded animation that appeals to me. It's harder to comically exaggerate things in real life; such things are easier with cel-shading. Also, anime usually have much better plot, characters than most cartoons and sometimes movies (*cough*Tomb Raider*cough*). I mean
  • by Hanno ( 11981 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @04:39AM (#7432835) Homepage
    Disney's 2D department is in limbo because recent scripts were weak. Their animators are still great!

    Cynical businessmen have looted the Disney legacy, with classy projects such as "Peter Pan 2", "Hunchback 2", "Cinderella 2", "Aladdin: The Series" etc.

    Disney dug its own grave, believing in their homemade "sure" formula for success. The formula is deader than dead. The audience didn't want to be fooled any longer and chose the better films: Those made by Pixar, where you can still see the spark and joy of the people creating these films.

    If you're looking for what modern Disney could be, look for the films of Miyazaki. It's still a mystery to me why the old films from the back catalog of Ghibli [] is still being ignored by Europeans and Americans.
  • I was browsing, ironically, and noticed that the traditional art animator [] description contains the line "DUE TO OUR CURRENT PRODUCTION NEEDS, WE WILL NOT BE ACCEPTING TRADITIONAL PORTFOLIOS ON A CONTINUOUS BASIS."

    Should be a clue, eh? :)
  • And Debbie Does Dallas!
  • Dinosaur was a flop? That fools me. I rather like that movie (and as does my son). The Toy Story movies are OK and all (I like 2 better, but maybe that's just me), but Dinosaur is a great film. Nemo is the only movie I can think of that's better (as far as this genre goes, I mean).
  • The French Disney studio was closed because France was always too expensive to do animation in. The studio was only created to appease the French government to get Eurodisney through.

    The Japanese studio closing is a sad thing. Disney don't have enough quality product to feed their studios, so it came down to Australia and Japan, and Japan got the arse for whatever reason. There is still an active studio in Australia producing 2D stuff, most of which goes direct to video but there is some film work. A lot o
  • "It appears that Disney is bowing to the supposed pressures of the market, even though the hand-drawn Lilo and Stitch was considered a success and the all-CG Dinosaur (done at Disney's now-defunct FX house The Secret Lab) was not."

    I have doubts that the reason 'Dinosaur' didn't do as well was because it was all CG. The bigwig Hollywood producer mentality is that pumping $50,000,000 into a production will sell more seats, but maybe they should take the time to consider WHY they're doing it. This isn't the
  • by DirkGently ( 32794 ) <`gro.okcegnomel' `ta' `krid'> on Monday November 10, 2003 @10:11AM (#7433962) Homepage

    The article cites that, among other things, traditional 2D takes too long, and somehow looks dated. Hrm. Someone should inform Hiyo Miazaki that Priness Mononoke & Spirited Away are behind the times. There's something to be said about goddamn moving paintings . They also state that Brother Bear was hand drawn for a warm, organic feel. It's a shame they're in such a hurry to lose that.

    Why not a mix of the two technologies? In keeping with the times, the 6-episode anime "FLCL" by Gainax was an entirely digital creation, while still being cell-based. No shortage of cutting edge techniques employed there. Made for a gorgeous DVD transfer, to boot.

    Maybe this isn't a such bad thing. Maybe this will make room for other talented 2D cell artists to tread where the Mouse no longer fears to go. I've got my fingers crossed.

  • by Zed2K ( 313037 ) on Monday November 10, 2003 @11:08AM (#7434380)
    Disney will come out and have a press release stating they are doing away with hand drawn 2d animation and switching to all computer generated animation. People will ooo and ahh. Then their first movie under this change will come out and people will not like it and not go to see it. Disney will lose a ton of money and realize there is a time and place for everything and switch back to using a mix of hand drawn and computer generated like they do now.

6.023 x 10 to the 23rd power alligator pears = Avocado's number