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The war between 2D and 3D animation

The war between 2D and 3D animation

The war between 2D and 3D animation
October 15
18:45 2019

Animation is one of our world’s most captivating and breathtaking arts.

Originating from the Latin’s “anima” meaning “soul” or “breath” to “animate” almost means to breathe life into something. It’s truly a fitting term, as the cartoons and movies we’ve been gifted throughout history are pictures infused with life. 

As time has progressed, the term “animation” usually refers to one of two varieties: 2D or 3D. 

2D Animation usually refers to hand-drawn images that are pasted onto sheets called “cels” and are then shown one after the other in rapid succession to give the illusion of movement. Nowadays, there is specific computer software that has helped to ease this process. 2D animation allows for more abstract and creative expressions of ideas, however, this can be jarring and intimidating to some.

3D animation refers to animation done completely in a computer generated software that has a “world” containing all x, y and z-axises. It is also referred to as “CGI,” an acronym for “Computer-Generated Imagery.” Here, an animator needs to create models for all the objects and characters. After they’ve been created, the models can be placed and moved anywhere in the world like dolls. The software lets the animator place the camera anywhere in the world and can also generate textures and lighting to help the models feel more life-like. CGI can present more realistic and grounded works of art but restrict creativity. Mistakes are also more highly noticeable in 3D than in 2D.

So with both of the options available to animators in this day and age, it begs the question: Which is the future of animation?

Well, before we predict the future let’s look at the past.

The first 2D animation was released in 1908, called “Fantasmagorie” by Emile Cohl. 20 years later, Walt Disney released the classic short “Steamboat Willie.” The company then moved on to make famous animated features such as 1937’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

3D animation first began near the later half of the 20th century.  The first film to be made entirely from CGI was Pixar’s “Toy Story” in 1995. A majority of film animation studios are most famous for their 3D animated films, like Dreamworks, Blue Sky and Illumination.

Now a majority, if not all, of Disney’s modern films are 3D animated, such as “Tangled,” “Frozen” and “Moana.” It seemed that movie audiences just prefer 3D to 2D as time progressed.  

So does all of this mean that 3D is the sole future of animation?

Absolutely not. While 2D animation doesn’t thrive in Hollywood , it is certainly still alive and well on TV and streaming platforms.

2D animation has always had a strong presence on television. From “Looney Tunes” to “The Flintstones” to “The Simpsons” and “Spongebob Squarepants,” these cartoon shows have been entertaining viewers of all ages for years. Disney’s movies may have moved to 3D, but they still produce many cartoon shows like “Phineas and Ferb” and “Gravity Falls.” Cartoons aimed for more adult audiences have also thrived with shows like “Family Guy” and “Rick and Morty” gaining a considerable audience. 

Let’s also not forgot eastern animation from Japan.   

Anime has also been thriving over the years ranging from classics like “Dragon Ball Z” and “Sailor Moon” to the newer shows like “My Hero Academia” and “Mob Psycho 100.” Anime has also become wildly more accessible through streaming services like Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Speaking of streaming services, Netflix has also been sponsoring its own variety of animation. They’ve picked up adult shows like “Bojack Horseman” and even a few anime shows like “Devilman Crybaby” and “Castlevania.”

So while 3D animation rules film, 2D animation still has a strong grasp on TV and streaming platforms.

That isn’t to say 3D animated shows aren’t also present. The company Roosterteeth produces many popular 3D-animated web shows such as “Red vs. Blue.”

3D animation is also very prominent in the gaming industry, with it being used for almost every Triple A game release, from “Call of Duty” to “The Legend of Zelda.” 2D animated games are more likely to appear from indie-game developing studios such as Wayforward’s “Shantae” series. 

There are a lot of shows that also use a mixture of 2D and 3D animation. A lot of western cartoons use them for action or chase scenes. A recent exemplary blend of both 2D and 3D animation can be found in the anime “Demon Slayer,” where the two blend together fluidly and naturally, producing a true work of art. 

Whether it be 2D or 3D, animation is still alive and being brought to life in spectacular fashion. While CGI has stolen cinema and the gaming industry, the traditional 2D animation thrives within television and online streaming.

Featured Illustration: Miranda Thomas

About Author

Matthew Payne

Matthew Payne

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