Monday, March 15, 2010


When I wrote this post a little over a week ago, I was literally seized by a gut reaction I had looking at a drawing and musing over the fate of cartoons in a world of encroaching realism.

I did not expect Cartoon Brew to link to same but was interested by the comments generated there and was pleased that Amid went to pains to extract quotes that went to the heart of the issue. Namely: is the appetite for cartoon art shrinking in Feature Films (including lots of fine CGI cartooning) in favor of more realistic styling, whatever the medium? Most people seemed to get the gist of the whole thing and the varying opinions were interesting to read, but frustratingly, many who commented seem intent on reading it as me championing (to oversimplify it a bit:) "the holy hand-drawn animated image versus the evils of CGI."

That just isn't the case.

Maybe because I am associated with 2D, maybe because people didn't read the whole thing, maybe because people read what they want into things, or maybe because I did not express it well enough, (though I admit I have re-read the thing several times and don't know what more i could have said without going on a lot longer).

Normally I would be content to let people make of it what they may, but at this point, with my intent still being misconstrued, I realize I run the risk of being associated with a "crusade" I don't actually endorse. So if I was not clear enough in the first place, let me add to the confusion by championing some of the cartoony CGI I have enjoyed:

First up is my absolute favorite CGI character:

"PATO" , from POCOYO, a series of shorts for toddler aged TV. These are pure perfection.

Second, Dreamworks' MADAGASCAR franchise. Probably the cartooniest characters yet in CGI features. What's not to love?: Beautiful Craig Kellman designs, expert animation and wonderfully warped humor from directors Tom McGrath and Eric Darnell and co.

My favorite design work on a PIXAR movie is probably in RATATOUILLE, which owes a debt to both director Brad Bird's keen eye and originator Jan Pinkava's sensibility, first on display as early as the wonderful GERRI'S GAME.

Another Rat movie (which I think was sadly under-rated) was Dreamwork's FLUSHED AWAY, a CGI version of the wonderful Aardman Studio's look.

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS was the most thouroughly satisfiying CGI Feature Cartoon experience I have yet had. Funny, smart writing and direction, with great characters, very specifically designed and animated with genuine wit and enthusiasm.

I could go on a bit, but hopefully these make the point. I've enjoyed all the CG projects I have worked on and hope to enjoy working on many more. By the way, I don't hate many of the more realistic ones either, or the hybrids. As a concept, it's fine, there's a lot of room in the entertainment playing field, hopefully. My concern remains that as animation continues to be in demand as a commodity, that the space for cartoony animation in CGI, Stop-Mo, Drawn, whatever, still has a place.

Because in my opinion, even the best of what has been done has only scratched the surface of what could be... An exciting thought as long as there is room enough for that which is below the surface to be beckoned forth...

As a final point, I have a weak spot for live action films that are cartoony in a certain way (THE [original] PRODUCERS, THE LOVE BUG, HARVEY, HELP!, LITTLE MURDERS, BARTON FINK, etc) to name a few. Recently I watched Jared Hess' GENTLEMEN BRONCOS, probably the most enjoyable "cartoon" feature I have seen in a while (and I pay the "c" word to this live action film as a compliment, I hope that's obvious). Alas I learned it was so badly received that it was not even released theatrically and was unfairly and savagely reviewed...

So I am back to worrying about the fate of cartoons... ALL cartoons of all mediums....


warren said...

'Raising Arizona', 'Young Frankenstein', The 'Evil Dead' trilogy and 'Airplane' are some of my favourite cartoon movies too.

Mick said...

hey man. I didn't know it was you wrote that... i thought you had a point but i also immediately thought of madagascar. reading this new bit i also see your point and share your love of pocoyo.

basically i found you were right on both points

don't worry old tater

Will Finn said...

Thanks guys. Favorite films of mine too Warren, and Mick, the old POCOYO is just as perfect as could be--who want to see it done in any other medium? Not me and I suspect not you also...

A lot of it has to do with who is doing what and how, (and of course WHY....)

RooniMan said...

I've noticed a very slow, steady rise of cartoony-ness in CG films, but is still alittle unsustainable.

Cloudy, Madagascar, and Pocoyo are good examples of how cartoony-ness could be achived in CG, I can only imagine.

Willem Wynand said...

=) don't worry mate, as long as there are kids there will be cartoons, the low quality childrens live action shows are still terrible and way to moral so kids will be wanting more wacky cartoons =)

I would love to see more wacky wel animated funny cartoons tho, and sooner or later we'll get them back =)

Ricardo Cantoral said...

Even the CGI "cartoony" still seems flaccid puppetry IMO. I am surprised you didn't post The Horton Hears A Who Designs Will, those have to be the best designs in CGI ever.

Will Finn said...

Rick i have to confess i have not seen HORTON, so can't comment one way or the other. it's on my "to see" list tho.

Ricardo Cantoral said...

It's a crap movie but the designs were terrific and the animation was impressive at times.

Pouch Junior said...


Will finnainious song better ehehe.

love this movie

Elliot Cowan said...

Pocoyo is brilliant stuff.