Animation historian Harvey Deneroff writes perceptively about animation past and present, and not so long ago, he wrote something about computer animation that caught my attention and which helps to explain the ever-increasing complexity of animation imagery. He calls it “Deneroff’s Law”:
In 1958, C. Northcote Parkinson, famously stated in Parkinson’s Law: The Pursuit of Progress, that, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” And Deneroff’s Law basically states: Given more powerful and complex tools, filmmakers will inevitably use them to make more complex films.” This rather simplistic observation is by no means original and in fact was inspired by a comment John Lasseter made during a phone interview about Toy Story 2. If I remember correctly, he said something like when presented with a computer 10 times more powerful, rather than using the added power to produce animation 10 times quicker, animators will usually opt to make their animation 10 times more complex and expensive.
He explores “Deneroff’s Law” in much greater depth and gives it historical context on his blog which I recommend reading.