CG vs. Hand-Drawn Animation
May 6, 2020
(The Channel Awesome logo and NC title sequence play)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. In the profitable world of animation, there's a battle going on between hand-drawn and CG.
(The words "HAND DRAWN" are displayed. Then, to a "ta-da!" sound, a huge dollar sign with the words "CG WINS" written on it, falls out of the sky and crushes them)
NC: Okay, maybe not a battle, but a conversation: which one is better?
(A clip of an episode of SpongeBob Squarepants is shown)
NC (vo): First off, let's clarify the difference. Hand-drawn, or 2D, animation...
(Cut then to an animator working on Aladdin, flipping through various pieces of paper like a flipbook, showing animation of Aladdin and the Genie)
NC (vo): ...is a series of drawings given motion by quickly displaying one after another.
(Cut to a clip of The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run)
NC (vo): Computer-generated, or 3D, animation is the same idea, except it's not drawn...
(Cut to an animator working on Frozen, using the computer, with hand-drawn sketches displayed off to the side for reference)
NC (vo): ...but rather created in the computer. So you don't have to draw every single frame; you can just put all your energy into one model and move it as you please.
NC: Both of these are amazing art forms, have changed the way people look at cinema, and are a buttload of work.
(Footage of the original animated versions of Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King are shown, as well as clips from TV shows including The Powerpuff Girls, ReBoot, Gravity Falls, and the 2017 version of DuckTales, as well as clips from recent Disney films including Toy Story 4 and the live-action remake of The Lion King)
NC (vo): However, where hand-drawn animation used to be the dominant art form in both film and television, CG slowly worked its way in and eventually took over. While hand-drawn is far from being extinct, it's no question CG is being utilized far, far more.
NC: There's two areas I'd like to explore with this: how did CG beat out hand-drawn in terms of popularity and what are the strengths and weaknesses of both styles?
(Footage of Gertie the Dinosaur is shown)
NC (vo): Well, let's see where it all started. Arguably, the first animated film was Gertie the Dinosaur in 1914, a still-amazing feat when you consider its animator, Winsor McCay, had to redraw everything in every single frame: the rocks, the trees, the specks of water. All of it had to be redrawn every time Gertie would move. This groundbreaking move would lead to other animations like (images of...) Felix the Cat, Dinky Doodle, and, of course, Mickey Mouse.
NC: As the popularity of animated shorts grew, so did the art form...
(Footage of a Mickey Mouse cartoon being photographed frame by frame is shown)
NC (vo): ...using cel animation so they didn't have to draw the background in every frame...
(Cut to clips of two Looney Tunes cartoons: Baby Bottleneck, with Daffy Duck and Porky Pig, and What's Opera, Doc?, with Bugs Bunny)
NC (vo): ...adding sound so people can finally hear the characters talk, and naturally, evolving to color.
(Cut to Walt Disney as he displays the blueprint for his legendary multiplane camera)
NC (vo): There was no question the biggest envelope pusher was Walt Disney...
(A clip of a Mickey Mouse cartoon (the one being photographed from earlier) is shown)
NC (vo): ...not only creating insanely popular shorts and characters with state-of-the-art ingenuity...
(Next, cut to a clip of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs)
NC (vo): ...but also producing one of his biggest gambles, a fully animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The film was a smash...
(Then cut to footage of The Secret of NIMH)
NC (vo): ...and soon, other studios would try to cash in on creating animated features.
NC: On the other side of the world, Japan was also breaking new ground, too.
(A clip of a Mickey Mouse cartoon with Pluto is shown)
NC (vo): Despite Disney's work entertaining kids and adults, it no doubt had a family-friendly lean to them.
(Now cut to footage of anime, including an episode of Dragonball Z)
NC (vo): Well, several Japanese studios would go on to create anime: movies and shorts with a very distinct style, usually incorporating more grown-up themes and imagery. America would dabble in this, with films like (Images of the following are superimposed...) Fritz the Cat and Fantastic Planet...
(Now cut to clips of Aladdin and Lilo and Stitch)
NC (vo): ...but many Americans still animation as kid stuff.
NC: But a new form of animation was slowly sneaking into our consciousness.
(Clips of CG animation in live-action movies like Jurassic Park (the dinosaurs), a Star Wars movie (spacecraft flying through the air), The Mask (the wildly cartoonish reactions) and Casper (the Ghostly Trio) are shown)
NC (vo): An art form that could make dinosaurs come alive, other worlds look breathable, and even cartoons a bit more realistic.
(A clip of The Matrix is shown: Neo splitting into several clones of himself, followed by another clip of Jurassic Park)
NC (vo): Computer animation gained popularity as a means to create better special effects for live-action films.
NC: It wasn't long before it was more utilized not only in cinema, but in television, too; specifically, hand-drawn animation.
(Footage of modern Froot Loops commercials are shown, with CG-rendered backgrounds and scenery while Toucan Sam is 2D-animated)
NC (vo): You see, people were still used to their 2D mascots, but 3D was offering a convenient time saver. Instead of drawing a moving background for every single frame, you just create it once in a computer, and you can move it however you like.
(Another CG/2D hybrid clip is shown, this one in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, as Quasimodo holds up Esmerelda's body while crying out for sanctuary)
NC (vo): On top of that, the backgrounds looked more realistic, which sucked many viewers in even more.
(A clip of Samurai Jack is shown next)
NC (vo): But this wasn't a big worry for 2D.
(Clips of Beauty and the Beast and Snow White are shown)
NC (vo): Sure, 3D can make realistic backgrounds that move, but they can't capture the soul of a living character that feels 100% believable...
(Footage of Toy Story is shown)
NC (vo): Well, fuck. Toy Story was one of the first feature-length CG animated films, and not only was it a hit with kids, but a hit with adults as well. The writing had a lot more modern talk that both children and adults could relate to, and on top of that, it just looked more realistic.