Commentary

Why Should 2D Animation Be Abandoned? (Part 1)


“2D Animation is dead.”
You hear the phrase all the time, in spite of recent 2D releases, the likes of which make it to the top of the Oscar short list. Whether it’s dead or not, today we’re going to do something very different and look at reasons why 2D should be left in the past and abandoned completely from here on out. What case can be made for that?

First of all, let me tell you why I’m writing this editorial. (No, it’s not “to get hits on a website.” I truly could care less about such things, personally. Not much less, but a little.) 2D hand-drawn animation is one of my life’s passions. I consider myself a passionate person, but I only have a few that make it to the very top of the list, and animation (2D specifically) is right there.

Why, then, would I argue it should be abandoned?!

I came to the realization while working on an upcoming book I’m publishing on Creativity that in order to get a full understanding of a certain topic or idea, you must consider all angles. If people say “2D is dead” then we must understand WHY, and why that might be good and bad. For that reason, let’s go all-in and consider reasons we as creators might completely walk away from a tradition that began more than one hundred years ago. No hyperbole here, only actual, reasonable rationales. By understanding these reasons, we better understand both 2D and 3D animation.

1. 3D Animation is Easier

Controversy on top of controversy! There are animators who will tell you that 3D animation is most certainly NOT easier, and will argue that point until you slowly back out of the room and run to the safety of your car. Stay for a moment and hear me out.

Animation is animation. It is not “art style” or even medium (2D, 3D, stop-motion, etc). In order to get beautiful movement, you must apply the exact same principals in 3D that you would in 2D (or 1D or 4D or any other D you’d like to consider). Because of this, no form of literal animation is “easier” or “more difficult.” So we must turn our attention to PROCESS instead.

If only it were this easy!
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If only it were this easy!

Let’s say you have an animator who is a master of movement. Somehow, without any experience animating (which is impossible, but this is Hypothetical Land) she has a grasp of the principals of animation the likes of which would make Glen Keane envious. It would be a waste to let her skill go unused, so it’s up to us to put her to work on an animated film.

In order for her to animate in 3D, she will need to learn a piece of animation software. It might be Maya, or Max, or RenderMan. (EDIT: As Paul points out, RenderMan is not technically software to “animate” in. Thanks for catching that!) Learning a new piece of software is hard, but manageable. With some dedicated classes and a handy reference book sitting alongside, our Fantastic Animator can put her existing animation knowledge (ie. movement, flow, timing, etc) into the 3D space and have rigs dancing about on screen with the best of them. Another animator can also link their scene next to hers and the character will transition perfectly, both artists using the same rig already created.

In order for her to animate in 2D, however, she will need to learn draftsmanship (drawing) at a masterful level. There are no reference books to check when you run into an issue with the graph editor here, because there is no graph editor. While you can take classes, those classes are merely a push in the direction towards a lifetime of practice. The skill required to keep a character consistently drawn and on-model is astounding, and it’s a wonder any artist even attempts such a ridiculous goal.

Don’t take my word for it, go try.

Get some paper and do 100 drawings in a range of poses and try to keep the character – who you didn’t design yourself, by the way – looking identical in size and shape throughout. It’s a nightmare.

It is not that 3D animation is inherently easier than 2D, because again “animation is animation.” It is the skill needed to bring animation to the screen that differs. One requires a moderate level of comfort in a particular piece of software. The other demands a mastery of drawing that very well might cause Leonardo DaVinci to set down his quill and toss his sketchbooks into the trash bin.

The truth is there are fewer and fewer artists every day that can pull off the drawings needed to make beautiful 2D animation. This is because animation is so much an apprentice/master style craft. You NEED a more experienced animator to show you where things have gone awry, and the fewer there are to do that in 2D, the fewer new 2D masters there will be in the future.

Certainly we can use digital tools to lessen the need for every frame to be drawn, as in limited-style animation, but then we must ask ourselves if this is worth while. Because:

2. Computers are Superior to Humans (Detail)

We’ve already got a nice fire going, so let’s throw another can of gas on it, shall we? The simple fact is a computer is capable of a level of detail and perfection than no human hand is going to come close to. Don’t believe me? Try to pull this off by hand:

Brought to you by 3D Animation
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One could argue “Well, you just don’t do those sorts of shots in 2D; you plan differently.” Then the question above remains: Why? Why limit yourself when the technology is right here at your fingertips to pull off a shimmering, glistening, geometric ice castle being conjured up out of a snowy mountain cliff? Why go backwards and do things that are more difficult and much more limited due to the human element? Why not embrace the future instead of living in the past?

These are questions that need sat with and answered by every and all animators, whether your focus in 2D, 3D, or another type entirely. We MUST ask “Is this the best way? Would this story be told better in 3D? Would the characters connect with the audience from screen to seat better if it were live action? Do these beautifully rendered shots of skyscapes and ocean waves really push the purpose forward or should they truthfully stay on the cutting room floor, no matter how ‘pretty’ they are to watch?”

Using technology for the sake of technology is just as fruitless as doing things “the old way” because that’s how they’ve always been done. If the new way is superior, it is a fool’s errand to grasp tradition for no reason other than nostalgia. As artists, we should know why we choose the mediums we choose, and that choice should never be “because some other artist used this one time.” Being inspired by our art ancestors is a wonderful thing. Comparing ourselves to them, or worse trying to BE them, is the fastest way to failure. You are you, and they are they.

3. Computers are Superior to Humans (Subtlety)

I ran this “What Makes 3D Better” idea past the supremely skilled Tom Bancroft in the hopes of getting his thoughts on the subject, being that he’s one of the best 2D animators currently living. (If you disagree, just go watch some Mushu scenes.) He was kind enough to share his perspective on subtlety in animation. From Tom:

One thing that I can concede that 3D (and the animators behind the machine, of course) can do much better than 2D animation is Subtlety.

Extreme subtlety to be more accurate.

I animated some of the most subtle scenes of Disney’s 2D modern age’s most subtle film: Pocahontas (like her thinking about her dead mother). I can attest that even with the best clean up artists in the world working on those scenes, its incredibly hard to show a character barely moving for an extended amount of time and make it look good on a large screen. And at Disney, in the 2D days just like today, we wouldn’t just hold a character drawing for any extended amount of time because they would go “dead” and look like they were part of the background.

Pocahontas by Disney
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But in Computer animation? No problem. Barely moving something is easy and remains ever solid. No wobbly lines- ever. And the best CG animators have taken great advantage of this ability of the computer with even the first Toy Story having some really subtle moments of acting. I have heard that many CG animators look at 2D animation as “vaudevillian” acting/ performances because to them they look very rudimentary and over-preformed. There’s SOME truth to this since 2D animation acting works better with broader performances and we 2D animators needed the drawing ability of a Glen Keane, Andreas Deja, James Baxter or Ruben Aquino to pull off that kind of subtle control of your drawings.

Has the pendulum swung too far the other direction in CG animation? Yes, I think we’re seeing that now. Ultra realistic animation performances have given way to CG animated films that can feel like watching a live action film and, therefore, loosing the magic of what is at the heart of animation: Believable characters that are imaginative and fantastic in some way.

Big thanks to Tom for his insights, and be sure to check out his animation podcast with his brother Tony at Taught By a Pro.

It’s also important to note his point of “and the animators behind the machines.” Obviously contrary to what many non-artists think, the computer doesn’t “do all the work.” When I say it is superior to humans, I mean that as a tool it has a greater degree of accuracy. It allows an animator to do things a pencil doesn’t. As said before, animation is animation.

In Part 2 of this article we take a look at a few more reasons 2D should be dropped for good, and then one single very compelling reason why the pain, effort, and life-long endeavor that is hand-drawn animation deserves to stay out of a lonely grave and continue on until the end of time.

In the meantime, please feel free to comment (hopefully reasonably, but yell if you must) below and discuss the ideas listed here. The purpose of this article is to bring things to the table for deep thought on why we do what we do, instead of doing things blindly. Discussion is necessary if we are to truly understand our own reasons for what we spend our time and energy on. Given the amount of overall time and energy animation requires, scheduling time to talk about the “why” is time very well spent.

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Sabina K

Great article and really valid arguments!
Having tried both 2D and CG I can say that while animating in CG, all my focus is on the movement. I don’t have to worry about the lineart, the character shrinking etc. I don’t get distracted by those things, and can work on the poses and the movement alone. But 2D makes me feel more like an artist, because I actually create the character from nothing, not manipulate the rig. I’m not the puppeteer, but the creator.
How about merging both? So far, from what we have, it looks very interesting and beautiful. Can’t wait for part 2. 🙂

Josh K

The imperfections of 2D animation are a reminder that humans aren’t perfect. That is why we are drawn to it.

Anyone can pick up a piece of paper and draw a 2d character on it. It’s a closer relationship for the average person than CGI.

A lot of CGI films rarely stylize the environments. Only CGI characters. So you have these goofy cartoony characters in these photorealistic environments, because that is what the computer is best at. Simulating real life. With 2D, you are forced to stylize everything, because humans can’t draw every single blade of grass or every strand of hair like a computer can.

Chris

While I agree with doing traditional animation on paper is dead, I have to say the rest of the article I have to disagree with.

I think its possibly far easier for rising animator to become a better draftsman than having to learn overly complicated software and learn the basics of animation through 3d. Reason being as artists we need to continue to draw better our skills. 2D animation allows us to build up on those skills while making great animation. I cannot say that the years of being a 3d animator/ graphic artist that my animation skills have improved or have gotten better over time. However with my animation and my drawing skills have.

Drawing each frame makes me think deeply about how to make the expression work. As well as how my characters will act.

I know rig technology is getting better and soon be able to sketch characters to infinity. However, I feel like that I am limited to what I can express when I animate in 3d than I can in 2d. Not to mention it reads better whenever I show it to the audience.

Almost tempted to write a rebuttal article on my blog but I will wait until Part 2 comes out =D.

Chris

Aww thanks J.K!

While its true that technology has made leaps and bounds on making software user friendly, most 4 year college courses in animation skill require students to start learning animation with paper and pencils. I know for my time at college, I spend the first year doing traditional mediums before I touch any software program. And that was back in 2005-2009 (I just felt old saying that lol).

My school focus on draftsmanship and applying those ideas when we transfer over the using digital mediums.

While it maybe true that there are more 3d animators opportunities out there than 2d isn’t a guarantee that it will continue to be dominant. However, I been seeing more of a trend of the opposite lately.

The bigger studios have been experimenting with 2d/3d hybrids. Like Get a Horse, Paperman, Feast,The Peanuts, etc. As well as the big release of Klaus trailer. Even Brad Bird talking about directing another 2d animated film.

While of course these films are based in 3d they are having more and more elements of 2d being implemented. Audiences are enjoying that.

Even “Hullabaloo Steampunk” campaign got $470,000 in funding and its an 2d animated film.

Don’t go by the studio hiring practices to say that a medium is dying out. Studios will follow whatever is trending and popular.

A great example: The release of Toy Story. The moment that was a big success Disney layoff half if its staff of 2d animators.

I feel that the studios will do that too if a very successful 2d film is created and you see another shift in hiring practices.

Paul

Interesting piece. As a guy who started in 2D and now works almost exclusively in 3D, a lot of what you say rings true.

One note: RenderMan is rendering software, not a piece of animation software.

Steve

Judging from your reply to the last comment I’m going to assume that in this article you are just playing devil’s advocate, but I want to comment on some of the points.

I think that a lot of the points are kind of silly. As far as CG being easier in the way you described, I think you are just pointing to CG being easier to keep on model, and that is only true of decent rigs and models. I am speaking from experience when I say that crappy rigs can take a lot of finesse and visual skill to put on model and keep on model during animation. And learning any 3D software package enough to actually be able to tackle all the disciplines of modeling, rigging, animation, effects, lighting, etc is only part of actually utilizing those disciplines, and is as monumental as learning all the disciplines in hand drawn productions.

As far as detail, there is no doubt that CG is superior to hand drawn animation in that area. But so is stop-motion! I’ve seen the puppets from Paranorman in person and they are meticulously detailed, more so than a lot of CG characters, and impressively alive while just standing still. But still, detail is not the only goal of any art, nor is detail the litmus test for skill level in art. The absence of detail can often leave stronger impressions than fully realized models or drawings or models.

I really think CG is unfairly compared, most of the time, to hand drawn animation instead of stop motion, which is what it’s most similar to. The way I see it is, CG animation is to Stop Motion, as Photoshop brushes are to traditional painting. 3D software has very little to do with drawing technique in the way it operates. What it does well is create digital puppets, and dioramas, and uses the camera like a photographic lens, as opposed to paintings on a canvas, or drawings on paper. It’s more sculpture than drawing. Why it gets compared to hand drawn so much, I think, is because of all the displaced traditional animation artists when CG became the new go to medium for all the studios. It makes sense that those artists would try to utilize the skills they already had to stay working, thus, shoehorning a lot of 2D ideas into an inherently dimensional medium. I think it helped to enhance the artistry of CG, which is incredibly beneficial to filmmaking, but I think people could be missing opportunities in CG because artists are so dead set on trying to make CG into a drawing medium. Draw because you like drawing, use it to your advantage in computer animation, but don’t think that the two will ever be the same. They are 2 different beasts entirely.

Also, hand drawing is not dead. Paper animation may not even be dead. It’s just expensive to do well, and the studios that fund most theatrically released movies are already heavily invested in CG. I wonder if stop-mo people were declaring stop motion animation dead when Disney was doing hand drawn movies.

The only reason to abandon 2D animation would be because you don’t like it. If you like 2D animation, then do it. It’s your art. Jobs are not the only reason to make the art you like, and it’s not the responsibility of a company or an industry to provide you with artistic fulfillment. Make the art you want to make because you want to make it.

Juan Carlos Valdez

I totally agree with you. Thank you for your comment

Steve

Just FYI, I am not in any way attacking you or your point, just disagreeing. I assumed you wanted to start a discussion, and I wanted to participate because every time I see this discussion about the two mediums it is usually full of nonsense, purists, offended folks, and rollicking cries to revive 2D.

I only got the devil’s advocate angle from the reply up there. I did read the article and I figured that you would be flipping the pitch in the next installment, but I thought you were trying to insight a bit of a reaction with this one. Judging from a lot of the comments here and other places, I don’t think I was the only one who assumed that. Not to be rude, but maybe let’s call that a critique of clarity in your writing. Critique is a huge part of the animation process, so I promise you I mean that genuinely, and I am not insulting you.

Now, honestly, I don’t think “click bait” in this context is necessarily a bad thing. It’s clearly a hot topic in animation, and again, I thought you were trying to start a discussion that you were interested in, so enjoy the traffic, and discussions, and cash yourself some ad checks.

Onto my point about detail in stopmo; I stand by it. Not just in the puppets, props, lighting, and cameras. The animation in some of the recent Laika movies is on par with the animation of CG films. It speaks more the the finesse and skill of the artists, and somewhat to the generous amounts of time in production. I don’t think this is just because of 3D printed face replacements. I think they use the 3D tool because of the speed of iteration on the scenes. All of CG’s strength (and by CG I mean Maya or Flash or any other computer assisted technique) is the editability and iteration. That’s why CG is as prominent as it is.

The techniques used in CG almost never have any inherent strength in their aesthetic. CG is almost always mimicking other mediums or trying to capture reality exactly. The only filmmaker I know of who uses CG as it’s own aesthetic would be David O’Reilly. I’m sure there are others, I just don’t know of them yet.

Also, the subtlety; I think the subtlety you refer too (and hell even Tom Bancroft’s definition) is a little shallow of a meaning. Traditional mediums have inherent subtleties that are incredibly difficult to realized in 3D software specifically. Think about tiny little variations in line. Those variations can make such a difference, even between animation roughs and clean up drawings these subtleties can be diminished. That’s how subtlety works in drawings. In 3D all of these subtleties have to be preconceived. Not that they can’t be accomplished, but they have to be pre-planned and take a lot of work and understanding to use. Just adding simple smears to animation often requires a technical artist or even a modeler to get involved. It’s harder to be loose in CG, it’s harder to improvise in CG, it’s harder to express in CG, and all of these things come easier to more tactile mediums. I think you may be seeing a lot of reaction to saying that 3D animation is easier.

Simply put, saying 3D animation is easier is complete bullshit. I think your understanding of 3D is a bit limited. The animator in 3D is usually less involved in anything other than animating the puppet, but to say that 3D is generally easier is to ignore the dozens of other disciplines involved in 3D animation. 3D animation production is very compartmentalized, but it requires exactly NO less work than any other medium. It’s that most of that work isn’t allocated to only the animator, it’s spread over many varied disciplines, and even some that aren’t very artistic.

Your example of the animator who will just “need to learn a piece of animation software,” is not the greatest example. Not just because learning how to navigate the software is difficult, or that figuring out the graph editor is difficult as well, but that for that animator to animate, she would need a model of something she wants to animate, and a rig to control that model, as well as any other knowledge of cameras and lighting to get the shot she would like to see. It’s the equivalent of saying that all she would need to make an animated short is a pencil, some paper, and a camera, which is actually simpler to understand and use. Not easier, but simpler. I definitely want to make that distinction.

Finally, I want to clarify my comments about Tom Bancroft’s quote. I am not disparaging his comment. I am not denying his experience or skill as an artist. But just because an artist is experienced doesn’t mean his or her opinions are gospel. I think the detail and subtlety of a Disney-style line drawing aesthetic compared to that of a high end, fully rendered CG movie is limited. But my point was more that the Disney style, line drawing is not the only thing 2D has to offer. I believe that no CG production could match the subtlety of a Plympton film, for example. Or even a cleaner style like Secret of Kells would be maddeningly more difficult using 3D techniques, even though I’m certain it could be done somehow.

Anyway, it’s getting late, and I can’t form thoughts anymore, so I am posting this as is. I can’t wait to check back on this discussion. Take it easy folks. It’s just the internet.

Juan Carlos Valdez

Firstly, I must say this. There is never a reason to abandon 2D animation. Whether it’s on paper or digital, and no matter what your reasoning is, there’s no need to abandon it. It’s a different medium. That’s like saying, artists should abandon painting with paint on canvas because painting digitally is so much better and easier. If you prefer cg animation over 2D, don’t assume others do too. And don’t try to convince others to abandon the greatest form of animation. Which brings me to….

Secondly, traditional animation will always be superior to cg animation. The movement, style, and appeal can’t be beaten. Traditional animation is like looking at real magic, it’s art coming alive. Not simulated by a computer.

Thirdly, as a computer animation teacher, a computer animator, and a traditional animator, and like many other animators, I know first hand what are the challenges of both CG animation and traditional animation. One is not easier than the other. Traditional animation may take a little longer because of all the drawing. But cg animation has all the technical difficulties that comes with it. To create character expressions you either create a facial rig or blend shapes. In traditional animation, you just draw it. What it comes down to is how proficient you are in either cg or 2d. It’s the animator, not the computer or paper that makes animation amazing.

Fourthly, if 2d animation should be abandoned, then why are studios trying to make cg look more 2d? Paperman, Feist, Hotel Transylvania, and others cg animations are trying to get the 2d look. Makes me wonder, why not just do it 2d? Because studios have to pay higher salaries to phenomenal animators like Glen Keane and Andreas Dejas. But the studio exec would rather pay pennies to the recent animation college graduate than the animators that deserve it. Don’t believe me? Google the salary wage fixing that the major studios conspired together to not pay animators higher salaries.

Lastly, you and this article do a great injustice to animation and to the animators who came before and paved the way for our industry to be what it is today. Do don’t divide us on what’s better, what’s easier, or what should be abandoned. By your logic stop motion animation should be abandoned too. But, look at the marvelous animation from the up coming movie Klaus. At first glance it may look cg. But it’s hand drawn. And it’s amazing. And movies like Box Trolls.

If you think cg is the future of animation. That’s your opinion, but you’re wrong. Animation is the future of animation. In whatever form or medium by talented and passionate animators.

Your article should be deleted.

JohnSmith

3D animation and CGI might be cheaper for big companies because they require to hire less people but most of the time 3D animation out there is usually really bad and very bad animated and only because big companies are pushing it too much. 2D animation requires real skill and even if it’s not blooming in big hollywood movies is not because is not popular, it’s because like I said before they don’t want to spend money on a good quality like is 2D.

2D animation is blooming all over the internet and youtube. This article is very ignorant if you thin 2D should be abandoned. I’m studying 3d animation because I like both styles but even today, animators at Disney are fighting to bring back 2D and also they are teaching animators to retake 2D animation again.

Josh K

Sorry, but the “might” part wasn’t clear.

Michael

Here is one of many comments from “Cartoon Research” on their facebook pages:

“This author is a complete moron. Animation is about art, not technology. When Picasso and his ilk came along with their abstract paintings, people didn’t stop painting like the French Impressionists or Dutch Masters. But when computer animation comes along, traditional techniques get dropped like a hot potato because it’s more expensive and time-consuming. But art cannot, and should not, be limited by cost or time. Most of the great masterpieces we love today were not done with those considerations in mind. The simple fact is that CGI animation can never replace traditional animation because it is a completely different art form. Personally, I detest CGI not only because it is killing traditional animation, but because most of it is ugly and looks the same. Most of it has pretty lousy stories too, but so does a lot of traditional animation, so I guess I can’t complain about that.”

I agree with them 2D animation is far more better than 3D. 3D might look impressive and clean, but most of the 3D animations at Disney, look all the same and is very little variation. Most 3D animation is still not that good, even for Disney standards and 2D animation feels more natural and looks better, that’s why Japanese animation is far more popular than ever. Even they use some 3D, they are still reluctant because 2D animation is still better than 3D in so many aspects.

Makoto

Let’s take it a step further into the far future. When we no longer need to use computers. You just “think” it with a neural implant.

And the art comes to the screen instantly. No need to know how to draw. No need to learn software. Just think it. Push a button.

Should we now abandon drawing by hand?
Should we now abandon the time to texture and model?

With your logic, the ends is all that matters. Not the means.

I can buy a wallet that is handmade. And I can buy a wallet that is machine made. Exactly the same wallet.

Then why do people buy the handmade wallet? It’s knowing that each frame was drawn, each thread sewn that the audience appreciates.

“I built this house with nothing buy hand tools” is the carpenters choice.

Jacques Muller

To me there is absolutely no forgiveable excuse to drop 2D all together. It is a style of its own. Why can’t we have 3D & 2D coexisting side by side or merging into one another win harmony? Why is there still this constant bikering over this issue? 3D is here to stay regardless of what some of us thing about it. Realistic 3D is a non issue. Jurassic World triumphs through incredible 3D. What is an issue is more cartoony 3D. Some love Pinocchio or 101 Dalmatians; others prefer Frozen or Shrek. It’s ok. You can love both if that’s your inclination. For me I always loved the fact that masterful draftsmen like Milt Kahl, Frank & Ollie, Marc Davis and others managed to endow the illusion of life into their gorgeous drawings. And if the human touch is not as subtle as the computers so what? Should Vincent Van Gogh have dropped his brushes and used still cameras? That the kind of argument that I find totally stupid. Oh yes it can be perfect allright; but it can also look dead as hell. The emotions you get at looking up close at these masterpieces; including their human imperfections; is precisely what can move your soul. Who should give a dam about this or that brushstroke opposed to an hyper polished, dead surface on some 3D character. -“Less is better” used to say uncle Walt. I believe that he was right. Who needs to see gazillions of details in an animated pictures? Do I need to see all these planktons in Nemo’s ocean; that makes it look like a documentary from National Geographic? There are still some superb 2D animators around the world today. I think that it’s a great shame that most of them can no longer perform their art because some guys in suits decided that there will only be one way of doing things from now on.

minzi

What intrigued me most about this article is the ‘still standing’ part. I really cannot think of any certain 3D animation scene where the character is still and looks ‘natural.’ Do you have any examples that you can show? Thanks!

Ferdinand Engländer

I think holding a character still in 3D doesn’t work the more realistic you get. Realistic humans just never ever stand completely still and if you try to reach a certain level of realism (maybe the point where you animate breathing), you simply have to do moving holds.
However, there are examples in stylized 3D animation, where the character can hold completely still. Pocoyo for example. And I can swear there are some complete still moments in Hotel Transylvania. Of course those instances don’t look “real”, but they suit the style and therefor look “right”.

Mark Oakley

2D and 3D aren’t the same thing.

I get why they are compared, but suggesting one should be dropped for the other is like saying, “We should drop Bananas because we have Apples.”

The problem with 3D, as wonderful as it is, is that it is locked in 3-Space. It’s inherently materialist.

2D is Dream-Space stuff.

You couldn’t make the first 3 minutes of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” with conventional 3D software. You just couldn’t. -Of if you did, you’d have to cheat like crazy, simulating computer insanity in order to stay within the math boundaries of a 3D space.

Humans aren’t meant to exist solely in 3-Space. We have souls. (Well, some of us, anyway).

Darryl

After watching the presentation on Guilty Gear ZRD Rev, where they implemented a strategy of “breaking the 3d”, I’m convinced this is a silly argument.

2d evolved from a very “low-fi” place, with human interpretation of 3D space-time. 3d also evolved from a primitive place and has evolved into a high-res place based on human interpretation and computer interpretation.

But the BOTTOM LINE is that they are both projections of 3d onto a 2d screen! 3d can break the rules to mimic 2d, because it’s a computer, and computers can do damn near anything, under DIRECTION from HUMANS.

This is what I learned from Guilty Gear. It doesn’t have to be 30fps, you can limit frames. It doesn’t have to be locked in 3d space where each frame is perfectly continuous from the next. You don’t have to have continuously changing cel-shaded shadows and highlights. Now all this takes research, trial & error, and probably as much nerve-wrecking frustration as hand-drawn animation carries for some. But the ability to do these things certainly exists and is already moving full steam ahead.

So I think this an exciting time for 2D. I don’t know when or if 3d has crossed the uncanny valley yet, but once photorealism is fully achieved now what? What’s the point of that when you can just hire real humans? And with 2d you have styles. 3d too, but photorealism is end. You can’t go beyond that.

I think we are now in the 2nd age of 2d, where there is a merging of 2d and 3d. A cusp, if you will.

Benoit Cecyre

Considering how many people in the industry already hold that view and the current state of traditional animation,we don`t need that devil`s advocate.
As far as “creative people ” are concerned,traditional animation has not even come close to achieving it`s full potential.Let the creative people decide if it should die or not.
CGI and 2D do look different so,yes,medium does matter.

Ferdinand Engländer

Hmm, I think we do need to play devil’s advocate to really understand why some people think the way they do – even if their opinion might be narrow minded and not thought through. Maybe then we can find the argument that CEOs can understand. 2D enthusiasts that just go into defense mode “just because” will convince no one who isn’t already on their side.
And we can be really happy if an article like this makes people not only write about it but actually feeds their flame of passion to create 2D animation (and choose it actually as a conscious decision because it is the best medium for the story and not because it’s what they learned first).

Benoit Cecyre

I still disagree,playing devil`s advocate (especially with this article)only reinforces certain misinformations and inaccuracies.It offers nothing new,not even in terms of insight,it just repeats what the 3D supporters have said sooooo many times before.
The real damage from this article is how it misinforms people who don`t know much animation but have interest in it,and who do to a certain extent have an influence over what can get made(the audience in other words).
That why animators like me,who appreciate animation in its different forms and who want to see a greater variety of mediums used respond to this article the way we do,to them that by having a single monopolize the screen they are losing out.
As for CEOs,they not hard to get,money is the only motivator here.It`s been known for a long time.
Show that you can money on a 2D movie and voila,end of argument.Of course,the tricky part is getting one done to prove it….
In Europe,despite smaller budgets and a smaller audience,the studios there are offering a variety of story ideas and mediums that puts North America`s better financed studios to shame.
All too often,in these discussions,creeps in the suggestion that the 2D supporters are the ones that are closed minded.The idea that 3d supporters might be the closed minded ones(see them argue the death of every other mediums,and close the doors on their opportunities as a hint)never seem to enter the discussion.I can`t speak for all the traditional animators(some will be stuck in their old ways),but the ones I know,don`t need to be told that an interpretation of a story(there are many ways a story can be told)must have the medium that will fit it best.
You should perhaps tell that to those who think that everything can be done in 3D.

Ferdinand Engländer

Why misinformation? The arguments JK brought up are objective arguments for a production that is suited for 3D (and many of them are already debunked or put in perspective in the article). In both parts JK made clear that 2D has many strengths over 3D and that he prefers 2D. People left misinformed didn’t read the whole thing – or even the first paragraphs.

This article is not supporting 3D but questioning it. If anything it supports to use the right technology for the right story and ends with a pro 2D argument.

And yeah, you might not need this article to realize that 3D is just one of many techniques, but maybe a wannabe 3D animator will read the article series (including its pro 2D ending) and understand, what you already understand.
I don’t think we (including the author) actually disagree on the subject itself here and yeah there might be other ways to discuss this topic but honestly I haven’t seen an article describing the advantages of 3D realistically with a lot of “it depends” like it’s done here. There are far more texts saying stuff like “In 3D bla is easier” and then don’t actually question it (which this article does). Those texts are in newspapers for the general audiences and yes, these things do a lot of damage. However I really don’t see how the things that “3D supporters have said sooooo many times before” are pushed here without being reflected on.

Pauline

If 3D is easier, that’s what makes it less valuable. I can see why there are so many bad 3D animated films now. You dont have to try AS hard anymore..The industry killed great 2D animators, not lack of great animators killed the industry. Because they became unneeded.

MT

I feel that 2d animation experience is required to fully master the world of 3d animation. However, that may mean that 2d animation will just be a learning process in a path to become a 3d animator. The only way 2d would exsist in the future would be the internet….

…BUT, there is some hope for the future of 2d animation now that a short animation called Pperman has been made. I’ve heard that the program used to make such a gorgeous animation had actually tranferred 2d work to 3d.

I hope I’m not in denial.

James

2d animation should be abandoned? ask that to millions of anime fans out there..

2d animation as an art medium, is getting better and better now days, have you seen 2d movies like ‘garden of words’..
ofcourse, today’s 2d animated animations uses 3d environments and backgrounds, but characters made in 2d are unmatched by 3d. just a couple of companies aren’t making 2d animations doesn’t mean we have to abandon an art medium.

Rahi

Couldn’t agree more .thats exactly what i am doing in my second short animated film .I made envirenments in 3d even the body of characters but the faces in 2d .Why ? I tried the 3d face too but the face wasn’t enough funny (as i wanted to be )in all directions .The same with homer simpson .there are 3 d puppets ,models of homer not funny and comparable with the original 2d homer . Btw Sorry if my english sucks. I am persian.

Abel

Seriously, which monkey wrote this article. I like both 2D and 3D, 2D is the pioneer to animators what is wrong with you? Why must both compete? I love both. I don’t want to see both of these styles being abandoned. Author educate yourself in history and the golden age of animation.

Flaze07

This comment makes me laugh

Estudios Winchery

I am a total beginner in animation, but this is my humble opinion. My passion for animation precisely started thanks to great 2D animation, I just want to be like those great artists that make drawings come to life. Instead of abandoning this type of animation, why don’t we just extract its full potential and make it perfect with the help of technology?

Dayna luka

I personally love 2d animation. It’s not inferior to 3d. And there are a ton of amazing computer programs that can make frame by frame animation efficient beautiful and fast. Leaving it in past is a narrow minded idea. 2d animation comes with its own lovable expressions and styles that appeal to many. And n wen made by passionate talented animators, it can do things that are amazing without being expensive to make. American animation has moved more n more into cheaper ways of making cartoons. N not to say that with the right ideas they haven’t made great things but n many cases it’s made that way so that easier to find, less talented oln skilled people can make it, n therefore be cheaper. It’s true to do traditional animation u have to have skills that 3D doesn’t need but that’s not stopping the Japanese n others from making anime, watch one punch man, or some of studio Kyoto’s works. They are simply beautiful! And they’re relevant. With computers it’s even easier. N also drawing on model traditional animation is no problem for me and I’m a teenager. Which just says that 2d animation shouldnt b dropped because companies are to greedy n cheap to find skilled animators to take the easy way out. And it probably will never be because a well made 2d animation piece is an irreplaceable.

Joe

Dude, that’s not gonna happen. 2D animation is way superior when it comes to convey emotions and gesture

Izzy C

This is an amazing argument! May I quote you in my college research paper about the differences between 2d and 3d animation? You opened my eyes, man!

Rahi

I respect and agree with some of your points however the title is a little bit childish (no disrespect) .What do you exactly mean by “should be abondoned “? Making a law or sth to make it Illegal ?
You are just judgging people/studios who still make 2d with this kind of title as if they don’t know the difference between 2d and 3d .Maybe they just have other reasons to do it .More details thanks to technology doesn’t matter .Nowdays you can make it sooo much detailed that it looks completely like a film (not an animation).Then whats the purpose of animation ?yeah i know you would say the difference could be characters and envirenment that makes the difference between a too detailed animation and a film (and not details) .Then again you can make a film using CG to make the same thing and call it a science fiction film (and not a detailed animation thanks to CG ) .That’s why i say the details only matters when you know how much you need them and more details don’t always mean “better ” . A car is faster/new vehicle than a bicycle but some times you would like to ride a bicyle to get somewhere for some reason that only you know.However most of the times you and me use cars .And I agree with you that in future most of animations will be +3d (3d 4d xd…) and it will never be vice versa again but it doesn’t mean 2d will be abondoned .Bicycles are not abondoned too and they are better for your own health if you use bicycles sometimes (it would help you in some ways in 3d and CG if you use 2d techniques sometimes too )
Sorry for my poor english .I am persian actually.Your answer will be appriciated.

Jane M

I have to say I disagree with this article. I think it’s a little naive to say that we should abandon 2D animation for CG just because CG is “easier”. We can’t abandon 2D just because it’s difficult; I think quantity over quality is really relevant in the field of animation. I also think we’re confusing the goals of both types of animation. The way I see it, 3D animation aspires to be as realistic as possible, whereas 2D animation aspires to be more of a serious art medium (which it already is!). I don’t know, I just think you’re underestimating a lot of talented people and oversimplifying an amazing art form. If anything, I think 2D is a much more enduring art. While 2D animations from a century ago are still beautiful, 3D animations from less than a decade ago look blocky, dated, and obsolete (IMO!).

Nat

I’ve been searching the internet to validate my argument (reality bubble style) and this is the closest I’ve found, although the opposite conclusion. Excuse me for the belated commenting!
I talked with an animator the other day and we were both in agreement on this: 2D can and never will die, or at least will arise from the dead once it is gone, and is superior to 3D. I’m going to raise some points that i don’t see considered anywhere. Excuse the roughness and informality of my arguments, but this is just a first salvo and in a comment thread, so why edit? 😉

So why exactly? Well, for very similar reasons as to why analog music is superior to digitally recorded music (old argument that I won’t rehash here) — or mp3 vs. vinyl for a simpler metaphor — or how older cars are more beautiful than newer cars (because older ones were drafted and newer ones are designed in VR), AND even the argument that Uber/Lyft/etc are detrimental because they remove the interaction and contractual agreement between employee/worker and customer/passenger (not to mention Uber’s endgame to get rid of all drivers and use AI/Driverless cars, which is every 3D animator’s future. good luck competing against algorithms that can work extremely fast and have instant access and knowledge of every film ever made [in the future i’m talking])
Now excuse me while I have to click on this box that says “I’m not a robot” in order to post this. 😉

Ferdinand Engländer

Thanks for your comment. I really appreciate the discussion.
This is a very important characteristic of 2D animation. And I am not sure if you have read part 2 but I think JK ends with a very similar argument (keep in mind that we, the owners of this website, are both 2D animators).
3D can create a beautiful version of reality. Simulations and maybe even AI will make the creation of walkcycles and physical animation easier and more accurate than ever (although it probably will need human input for a long time still). However, if you want a very hand-crafted feeling, it doesn’t come easy in 3D.

Luiz Paulo Bruggemann

I read somewhere that human eyes don’t like too much the perfections of a realism. It’s too perfect. We see these perfections in 3D animation. It’s boring. When we watch a 2D traditional animation, we can see the artist effort. It’s not boring. It’s beautiful. We keep wondering: “how did someone create this.” When we watch a 3D animation, sometimes we think: “ohn, it’s just a computer generated animation… boring…” The same happen with animations created by Toon Boom. Sometimes those puppeta are boring. But I think a merge between drawing and puppets may be wondeful.

Cameron

Thank you.

Cameron

I just watched the movie Balto on Netflix and I saw Alpha and Omega a while ago, and to be honest, the Alpha and Omega 3D was terrible to be honest. It was very flat and unappealing. I’d rather watch Balto 10 times than Alpha and Omega once… I also think Balto has a way better story than Alpha and Omega tbh… I dont know about you guys but I’m sticking to 2D ON THIS SITUATION. I really like 3D but I don’t think 2D should be abandoned.

Cameron

I know a lot of this is not really relevant, but I was just trying to make an example.

Scarlett

Whenever a software gets to update, the previous version always gets abandoned after some time. 2D animation has been used widely but now it’s time to move on and work on current technologies like 3D animations, motion graphics etc.

jeff

3d animation is good but cartoon in 2d animation videos was best and still best

mac bryan

Really the 3d animated video production is much easier than producing 2d animation.

muhammad Atiq

Practice makes man perfect .easier or toughly is just depend on your practice.But this type of cartoon 2D/ 3D animation article is helpful when you are in trouble. thanks for the article

sunthn

I’m not going to say “I’m totally not biased against 3d” because, for one, every opinion or statement has an element of bias or it isn’t a statement at all, and two, as an artist who use both 2d and 3d animation in a wide array of projects, I have actual reasons to back up my bias.

To this day, 3d animation has relied primarily on rigs to animate characters (a.k.a. puppet animation with a third dimension). Puppet animation, whether 2d or 3d, has a wide set of limitations, both in anatomical realism and surrealism. Skinned meshes ignore many physics related constants, and movement is often robotic and unnatural without very experienced animators or the use of mocap. With just a skeleton, 3d is easy, but including muscle groups and veins require technology that is to this day too primitive to be sufficient (things like adaptive normal maps and deformation). In 2d, any shape can EASILY be morphed into another. Any object can be skewed and stretched in any way, shape or form (I’m aware most animation rigs contain some elements of stretch/skew), and, in general, any object will behave exactly how you want without relying on technologies created by others. For anything that isn’t exactly a non-deforming solid, considerable coding has to take place to make an object with different properties to be simulated. This however, limits what can be done with those objects even more, which is especially the case for fluid simulations, and are terrible for artists, as they rely on values set at the beginning of the simulation in the hopes that it will map out desirably, long times waiting for the simulation to both complete baking and then rendering, and the tedium of repeating that process until it looks tight. The real challenge is that everything in 3d that can be animated needs a formulaic algorithms to define a set of animated states that the formula can output, and anything that doesn’t fit inside that set of possibilities needs new code to complete it. Waiting for non-existing or overly expensive technologies to manifest before you can animate an object with specific qualities is very unnecessary and inefficient.

3d limits what can be animated and how it’s animated, in turn diminishing creative freedom, which I’m sure is of much greater concern to anyone who calls himself an artist than pumping out as much frames in as little time as conceivably possible. Don’t let corporate lies get to you. The prominence of the misconception that “2d animation is dead” – this is only true if you look at the major studios only in the west where animation is to this day still very monopolized – is because 2d is “bad for business”.

Emma

I agree with some of your points, but 2D cartoon animation is always great as compare as 3D animation, but in most places, 3D is the best. Whenever a software gets to update, the previous version always gets abandoned after some time, so don’t waste your time doing this type of argument

Alyxandra Lara Colgrove

I am not an animator, although my dream is to secure that career, but I will say I am deeply passionate about 2 dimensional animation. Although I admire 3 dimensional animation, I very much devote my heart and soul to the old school ways of 2 dimensional animation. I do understand it is ‘going out of style’ as they say but I am a diehard representative of all of the full-hearted effort that is, or should I say was, put in to make 2 dimensional animation possible. It was an incredible feat to not only commit to significant research but to also display it creatively in story lines that are made with all the ingredients of captivating feature films. I have nothing against the new age 3 dimensional animation but I think 2 dimensional animation is worth fighting for. I truly hope 3rd is a moment in time where it makes a comeback and impacts people the way I was struck in such an inspiring way.
PS: I have been working on my own spec script to pitch to animation studios as well as its sequel. Although it may come to pass that it is produced via 3 dimensional animation, assuming it comes to fruition, I would very much like to see it bring back the magic of 2 dimensional animation, of which I am so proud.

Swati Mane

Great Article. Thanks for sharing. This blog is really helpful for me

tyler johnson

That’s a good point that computers make small details in animation look a lot better. I feel like having a CGI animated movie makes it a lot easier to make stunning movies as well. especially now that the technology has advanced enough I feel like 2d hand drawn movies can’t keep up. Even though they still have their place, for the most part, computer animation is superior.

Aaron

Thanks so much for writing this. After studying 2D animation and working for many, many hours only to produce a few minutes of animation, I’d started considering switching to 3D, but I didn’t know much about it. Thanks to this article, I’m definitely learning more about 3D.

Ben

I disagree with you, 3D animation is the biggest pain in the butt to create, I have tried creating 3D animation myself and I keep giving up because it’s too freaking hard to do, it’s literally hell to create 3D frames and rig them. Seriously, how on Earth can anyone including companies like Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, Universial Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Fox Studios, Warner Bros, Nintendo, Square Enix, Benesse, Ocon Animation studios create all of that in 3D. I mean holy cow they churn out animated movies, TV shows or video games year after year and they have way more money than I’ll ever have in my lifetime.

With 3D animation I think it’s very boring and tedious doing 3D animation and there’s too much to learn that it has overwhelmed me very much to the point I give up and it’s literally hell to create animations, I have taken an Animation camp class that taught both 2D and 3D. 2D was easy for me to get into, however, I struggled with 3D so hard with it that I finally gave up on it. I also struggle with doing rigging. I also don’t like the rendering or creating wire frames, or getting so lost I forget what cartoon video I was going to make. I’m surprised to see 3D animated films out there, I’m not sure I’ll ever get to make my first 3D animated cartoon.

But with 2D animation however I can easily get into and literally make a cartoon video all by myself drawing frame by frame. I can make 2D animated videos and I’ve made a few cartoon videos. I want to make more, I have so much fun doing 2D animated videos and video games. I made a video called Hover Age Delay, and Fur Wears Fun Park at my youtube channel CrosswalkX and I can create whatever fantasy world or make believe world I want even though I have to draw each frame which can take alot of time to do.

I also do alot of stop motion videos all by myself using action figure characters and mini props and it looks just like a 3D animated movie but looking very realistic. I like that you don’t have to draw each frame but take many frame pictures, I don’t have to deal with wireframes, rendering, rigging, and I can easily rotate my camera around. Although there are some limitations when you can’t move their arms or legs and you have to use clay or something to hold them in place as in my youtube video Castlelot Siege on my CrosswalkX channel, you can still create a fantasy or make believe worlds even though there’s limitations as they’re still set in real life, they move funky and you have to take frame pictures and get them to hold up which is tricky to do at times.

Live action is very hard for me to do as I have to get people gathered together and then I have to boss them around to do it my way and work with their schedule and tell them what to do and I would be very responsible for them including if they call in sick and I would have to deal with actors yelling at me or swearing at me or getting into fights, rebelling against me or quitting on me, also Live action is too limiting for fantasy or make believe world stories. Although I get my film scenes done in a few days as you can rush through them very quickly.

So no I strongly disagree with your article, not everybody should conform to 3D animation since I hate the complexly of making 3D animated videos. 2D animation should not be abandoned. I will always stick with 2D animation and Stop Motion videos. I’ll do Live Action if I can afford to pay people but I’m worried they’ll rebel against me and quit on me, or they’ll call in sick and if they have problems with stage fright like I’ve witnessed at my school plays.

JD Miller

Why can’t both traditional and CG elements be mixed, some of the more complex intricate background motion could be computer generated but the characters could remain 2 dimensional.

In my opinion the character designs are some of the worst aspects of 3D animation, they come across as stilted and un lifelike. Also like video game graphics they tend to do date very quickly.

Yuki Terumi

The overwhelming majority of the animation content comes from the Anime medium and it has always been almost exclusively 2D. The 2D animation will always be the core of animation, 3D is not really animation in the first place its more like video-games

2D animation is a lot more cheaper and personalised since it does not require the expensive equipment and training in whatever devices, moreover 3D Animation is incredibly ugly and extremely limited when it comes to characters, environments, emotions and so on because it is locked into what the pre-existing models can do and it is unable to become fluid like 2D Animation

2D has always been more superior in every level and since Anime and Manga are the core of animation with the most perfected aspects the only one that must be abandoned is the ugliness of 3D

Crapost

this article is cringe