Jocelyn Yiu


"Disney Kills 2D Animation"


I was met with this title tonight.

I was raised on Sesame Street, Disney movies & Looney Tunes. It sparked my imagination and fuelled my desire to create and explore. It taught me how to live outside the box that i was brought up in, how it was okay to be a dreamer and to take bigger risks; to think of the endless possibilities that the world brings.

I remember seeing The Sword in the Stone for the first time. The finely detailed film about a boy trying to find his way. The movie appeared on television one Saturday afternoon, I was enthralled by Archimedes the talking owl and his bumbling friend, Merlin, the greatest wizard known to man, as they battled Nim. Their bodies switching from one animal to another trying to outsmart and defeat one another. I remember laughing as Merlin then turned into a microscopic germ and crawled onto the villainous Nim as she broke the rules changed herself into a dragon.

I remember falling in love with Beauty and the Beast as Belle, the bookish girl next door, swept through a small town in France, singing about how she wanted "adventures in the great wide somewhere." The everyday appliances through out the Beast's castle who were once human beings made me think of what the stories the spoons and brooms could to share when they came alive in the evening.

To this day, The Lion King still remains my favourite movie of all time. A retelling of Hamlet set beautifully within the Serengeti. Animals rather than Danes, but the story was there, the magic was there. You could always relate with those hand-drawn animation films, no matter if it was a talking cup with a chip on the lip, or a rambunctious lion cub, or a boy king. It was relatable.

It's not that 2D animation is dead, it's far from. It's not that 2D animation won't bring in money for the studio, 3D animation is just cheaper to make. 

That's the gist of it. 

It's just cheaper for a studio to make. 

But do not say it's because it didn't make a profit. Because plenty of films don't make profits. And none of them are because 'it wasn't 3D'. There are plenty of CGI movies that made no money. It wasn't about advertising, it was just because it wasn't good. That's it. It just was not good. 

When you can't relate to a character within the story and be pulled in, you've failed. There's only so much you can do, so much you can put in, so many celebrities you choose to cast within your movie, if you don't have a story, you're pretty much toast. 

Let's illustrate that elsewhere. 

Why did Harry Potter capture our imaginations while Rowling's new book eluded the same acclaims and accolades the be speckled boy wizard received? 

Why did the movie Oz the Great and Powerful receive such a low score at RottenTomatoes while Wicked the Musical and Judy Garland's Wizard of Oz were granted such love and praise? 

Will we remember Oz the Great and Powerful 10 years from now? 

Don't get me wrong, Disney had thrown some duds out after investing millions of dollars in 2D animation both during Michael Eisner's tenure (selling animation tables and everything) to Bob Iger's current reign. Princess and the Frog definitely did not do well, after everyone seemed to place pressure upon the piece to save classical animation once and for all. Home on the Range was a piece completed at the end of the Eisner era with Rosanne Barr voicing a cow that wanted to go get home. 

Good movies resonate with you, good books resonate with you. 

Gimmicks do not. 

Just because a book looks kind of cool on the cover or have some crazy popup inside does not mean it'll be a good book. Just like you wouldn't say it was a good movie because the poster was cool. Some of the best movies have no CG, most of them we still count as some of the best movies today. We quote lines and describe, in detail, story lines that we were so drawn to. We talk about the gunfight between Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and the Mexican army, but we don't talk about how the gunfight was achieved on screen. 

There are reasons why the last 3 episodes of Star Wars was better than the first 3 episodes. There are so many reasons why we prefer a copy of the trilogy undigitally mastered than one that had been. When Indiana Jones captured the Raiders of the Lost Ark, we never thought it to be ludicrous, but when he swung into the Amazon to find the Crystal Skull quarter of a century later, it just seemed ridiculous some how. 

It made money, not because it was a good movie, but because of its reputation. Just as the never-ending Twilight Saga seemed to make money because of its stars, not because the tale. 

The short of it is that if Disney would stop spending money staring at box office tallys and budget spreadsheets and dive, take a risk like its founder did with ventures like Fantasia, spend a little more time developing stories, they'll find they can recreate that magic they seemed to have lost. 2D animations don't have to be like 'Home on the Range', they don't have to be just for Saturday mornings. They have the ability to create brilliant stories like Tangled and Wreck it Ralph. Both of which could have been set within a 2D environment. 

Let me finish with this point.

Paperman was a short that was shown in front of Wreck It Ralph. It was completed for under 10 minutes and contained absolutely no dialogue. It was set in both a 3D and a 2D environment. Its premise was simple. A man and a woman meet at a train station and found themselves saying 'What If?' only to be swept away by the daily rat race we call life. 

Its director John Kahrs and his incredible team managed to pull you into their world, make you fall in love with its leads, and make you believe that it was possible for fate, or in this case, seemingly self-propelling paper airplanes, to bring two people together. But it made you believe. It made you think it was all possible. And it did it within 7 minutes.

For a layman unversed in the artistic techniques that are involved in creating animated films, one would think it was a 2D film. But would that really matter? For myself, for that 7 minutes, I forgot that I was watching a 3D/2D short, I forgot that I was sitting in a theatre. For 7 minutes, I lived within the 16x10 screen in front of me, peering through that window and glimpse a life that could be. A life that was possible. For 7 minutes, I was there with them. Just as I was there with Archimedes when that boy pulled the Sword from the stone. Just as I was at the castle when the mob descended upon its grounds and drew arms with its inhabitants to fight off the invaders. Just as I was there in the canyon as a young lion cub ran from the hyenas, wracked with guilt over his father's untimely death.

Good stories compel us to do better, to want more, to discover opportunities and take the risks that you would never think of. It makes us dream big and outside the box.

If we keep churning out stories after stories that fail to inspire the youth of our generation then where would we be? Flash Gordon gave our parents and grandparents the dream of flying to the moon, which they achieved. What will our legacy be? What story will push it forward into the unknown? Which child would be inspired to find the centre of the earth, to find their way to Mars, to Alpha Centuri?

If there are no stories to spark that imagination, where would our future be?