Opinion: CGI pushes traditional animation into the shadows

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“Spirited Away” / Studio Ghibli / https://www.ghibli.jp/works/chihiro/#frame / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Studio Ghibli employs the hand-drawn technique with their 2002 film, “Spirited Away,” one of the company’s most popular movies.

In animation, computer-generated images (CGI) have been around since the 1950s and often overtake the traditional hand-drawn animation of the past. 

Big-name companies such as Disney have recently begun only producing CGI animation. As a company that has taken the cake for the best-animated film of the year several times, its exclusive use of CGI has significantly reduced the space hand-drawn animation once occupied in media.

This erasure of the traditional form method can lead to its underappreciation and underrepresentation in media. After all, Disney was built upon hand-drawn animation, but the shiny new films of today may soon leave the long-established movies such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “Cinderella” behind.

However, there are still many animation studios that animate by hand.

A notable animation company in Japan, Studio Ghibli, has employed this technique for nearly all their animated films, primarily because Hayao Miyasaki, the studio director, embraced the hand-drawn aspect.

The Process of Animation by Jazzlin Yee

Japanese animation is arguably the most prominent contender of the traditional frame-by-frame work, with over 430 animation studios using it.

The work that goes into these hand-drawn films is also often overlooked. In “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” which is the first full-length feature film of Disney, over 110,000 frames of animation were drawn and the film took three years to complete.

The intense labor involved in these projects is reflected in the work hours of Japanese animators who work long hours often with minimal pay. 

Hand-drawn animation needs to have more reach and appreciation so that people can understand the hard work put into these films and other media. Larger audiences will create more exposure for these films and studios, allowing a closer insight into the working process of these companies. 

CGI may be considered more realistic due to the ever-improving technology. Still, it will never reach the same charm as the traditional form of animation.

Since each frame is drawn individually by hand, artists put much more care and effort into each one, which is reflected in the overall quality of the piece.

However, CGI animated films have taken the spotlight many times over traditional animation, which is partially due to the fact that Disney’s animated films, at least in recent years, have been all computer-made.

It’s time to shine a light on the beauty of hand-drawn, frame-by-frame animation, as it requires some of the most tireless work to deliver the breathtaking feature films of early Disney and Studio Ghibli.