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J.J. Defends 2-D

Go J.J.!

Animator J.J. Sedelmaier has written an editorial for latest edition of Create Magazine making the case for animation diversity. He raises many good points:

“It’s my opinion that animation thrives in an environment that creates an alternate reality, instead of trying to simply re-create it. You’d think a lesson or two would’ve been learned from all the Saturday morning cartoon disasters of 20 to 40 years ago. These were nothing more than radio scripts in tandem with drawn moving images—badly drawn and animated, at that…”

“There are two more important reasons for techniques other than CGI being valid crowd pleasers: 1. “Warmth of the Human Touch”. Styles that look like they were created, drawn and animated by human beings provide a lovely contrast to the hyper-real, machine made, formulaic approach…”

Read the whole piece here.

  • I would agree with JJ on every point he made. One flaw of CG that he didn’t mention is tied to budget/technology. The 2D animator (and “3D” is “2D” as well, unless your end product is stereoscopic IMax or the like) can pretty much do whatever they want with a film.

    There are a whole slew of really tough/damn near impossible things to do in CG. Water, fur, crowds, wet furry crowds, etc. Over time, these things change, and the list morphs into something else, but there is always this technology bar that must be overcome. Every few years you see a film from a huge studio, or a short film at Siggraph, that raises the bar a bit, but this is a huge time/money/stress issue that the average bean counter would rather not tackle.

    A 2D solution on the other hand can do just about anything you can imagine. You want a hairy character? No problem. You need the character to jump in the water and then braid it’s hair? Sure. Just those scenarios would take a CG team weeks or months to R&D and pull off successfully, and even then there would be meetings about camera placement, number of shots, etc.

    I really wish someone would pull up to the Bar Building in White Plains with a truck full of money. I’d like to see a JJ Sedelmaier feature.

  • When is someone going to finally take the stance -against- animation diversity? What brave soul will stand up and say “2D is dead! Long live 3D”? Well it won’t be me, I value my well-being. That said, I’d say most animation folks seem to be of the mind that hand drawn animation is alive and well. Who are we trying to convince anyways? I guess the guys with the money would be my first guess. Everyone else seems to get it already.

  • JJ Sedelmaier writes in his article: “There’s a place for a technique that has a vulnerable and approachable feel to it…”

    I think it’s as simple as that. If you lose touch with an organic side of art -which is the warmth that comes from imperfection and things that are slightly unpredictable – then you risk yielding a very sterile form of entertainment.

  • “The warmth of the human touch…”

    Those words are the essence of what I feel is wrong with CGI. When recently trying to come up with a satisfactory explanation of why I felt computer-generated animation to be so dissatisfying, I realized it all came down to one word–“cold.” There’s a coldness, an obviously mechanical quality to even good CGI. That medium has yet to find its Tex Avery or Bob Clampett, whose characters–with their impossible, wild, seemingly out-of-control distortion–seemed more “real” than anything CGI has produced so far. I doubt such a degree of “cartoony-ness” is even possible with 3D–but I’d love to see someone attempt it.

  • I’d like to add to the discussion. Mr. Sedelmaier’s article is a positive and realistic view of how we in the profession should be undertaking as well as presenting our work. Technology should not be seen as the be all and end all of animation.
    As I read, along with the comments, I can’t help but thinking of the article recently posted on Cartoon Brew: ‘Oscar 07 the fallout from the happy feet win’. The post created a lot of reaction on a subject that appears sensitive and obviously at heart for a good many in the profession. Personally, I’d like to see more discussion on other areas of the creative process and not to feel stuck in a debate on what is or not is acceptable in the eyes of some animation elite. I sense that a good majority of readers on Cartoon Brew are pro 2D and have justified reservations on the fast paced technological and indeed economic developments in the industry but I don’t think that should limit a discussion on works that use the latest technologies. As an example I want to redirect attention towards an article written some time ago on Design Observer by Jessica Helfand, ‘The Designibles’. The article is a refreshing read because it takes a different approach to how an animated film can be seen beyond our techno fears and reveals some very interesting replies too from its readers.

  • I really DO think that Brad Bird has met the “cartoony sprite” trapped within 3D/CG. Instead of trying desperately to duplicate reality he wrote his own visual vocabulary or dialect with The Incredibles.

    FLASH can be very “cold” as well, but “Foster’s Home”, and even the Esurance commercials, make that marriage of design and movement work very well.

    . . .and how can anyone say that traditional animation is dead with the strong presence of Anime ? isn’t that 2D/cel/traditional ?? weird.

  • While I do believe 3-D is just repeating the studio glut that 2-D experienced in the late 90’s, I also believe that it is and will continue to be the more established medium to create animation. Why is that? Because, generally speaking, it’s easier to create. Just like with graphic design, music, architecture, etc. the computer has enabled an entire army of people without any raw natural talent, ability or vision to come in and create. Go to any art school student screenings and you’ll see it.

    2-D animators can go on and on about “the human touch� in their medium, it won’t make a difference because most of the people who hear it would never have had the skill to produce 2-D to begin with.

  • Steve Wojcik

    Classic movie posters are a perfect example of the difference between CG and hand drawn. Todays lobby posters are cold, perfect, and exact while the great posters of the 50’s – 70’s (even 80’s) have a warmth and imperfection that is inviting and welcomed. Seeing the artists hand and seeing the artists imperfections and flaws is what makes art live and what makes it exciting and enjoyable. Mind you, I have to remind myself this time and time again in the studio when I see nothing but flaws on the canvas.

  • mwb

    Call me annoyingly neutral, but I’m fine with hand drawn and I’m fine with CGI – as long as it is well done and well written. I get tired of seeing the arguments that go “look at Pixar” – CGI is popular. No, I say look at Pixar – good scripts and production are popular. And I’ll cut a lot of slack for a good script and VA work. Let’s face it, the Bullwinkle (TV show) was hardly a reference point for animation, but shone anyway.

    What I find disturbing are the CGI 3D stuff which I find is usually distracting. And productions that blend 2D & 3D badly – often paired with uninspired plots and scripts. I think the the barrier for me in 3D is the loss of iconic value to the characters. A less realistic character is easier to project on and identify when. A too 3D/realistic character is more difficult to accomplish that, and I find somewhat distracting visually. In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud touched on, and illustrated, that very well. The narrator character, a more traditional iconic cartoon character, is talking about that point – then the image is shifted to an extremely realistic image for the character. The effect is quite jarring and changes your reading and approach to the character.

    At the very least when you are trying for 3D or realistic design but not seamlessly achieving it the viewer is focused on the technique, rather than the tale told. But I babble…

  • I’m glad for this article…JJ seems to have summed up what we all have been thinking, and couldn’t really put into words as whole as he did. I, like some others here, feel that too many artists today in the field are overly sensitive to the whole “2D versus 3D” battle. And so on…when we all should know better than to listen to naive statements from people (who usually aren’t even in the field, or possibly are but aren’t actual artists) sparking claims like, “Well isn’t CGI the way to go? I heard all that 2D stuff is dead!” We should know better…we actually DO this stuff. Long live every style of animation.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Thinking of J. J. again made me think back to those “Capt. Linger” shorts he did for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block. I only wish I could see them again, and the only saving grace is this intro sequence someone stuck up on YouTube, though I wish the remaining episodes were snuck in as well (man I wish there was more).

  • Too bad Sedelmaier himself is guilty of making some of the worst, most LOUSY cartoons ever foisted upon the eyes of the world! TV FUNHOUSE? Talk about bad drawings, bad production, bad scripts, and just overall bad ideas! His independent work showed such merit, it’s too bad he got involved with the terminally unfunny Saturday Night Live.. A show that should have been put down in the early 80’s.

    I do however agree on the “warmth of human touch” aspect of his article. 3d cgi just will never express the amount of human emotion that drawings can.

    However, you’ve first got to put pencil to paper and learn to DRAW!

  • Charles Brubaker

    I’ll have to disagree, Chuck. I think those SNL spots were some of the better animation from the ’90s. Of course, the bad animation in most cases were intentional, since it was parodying those actual bad animations.