Carlos Ramos on The Beatles Rock Band trailer Carlos Ramos on The Beatles Rock Band trailer

Carlos Ramos on The Beatles Rock Band trailer

Beatles Rock Band

Carlos Ramos, the creator of Nickelodeon’s The X’s, ponders on his blog, Why can’t we have more hand-drawn animated features like Pete Candeland’s trailer for the videogame The Beatles Rock Band:

It’s such simple animation but with so many great tricks your eye can’t see the strings. Things like blurred focus, CG instruments and props, fast camera moves, quick cutting and gorgeous held drawings make this some of the best animation I’ve ever seen. The shame is that there isn’t a feature in our near future in this style. I swear it could save 2D but I’m sure that money is currently being spent on the next CG feature based on a children’s book with shrill celebrity voices.

I’m in complete agreement with Carlos. The trailer, which we wrote up earlier, is one of the most daring and dynamic pieces of commercial animation I’ve seen all year long. What prevents Hollywood from producing modestly budgeted animated features that have a clear directorial vision like this piece?

  • Absolutely – it beggars belief that they’ll supposedly be pouring pots of cash into a pointless CGI remake of Yellow Submarine when they should be taking the style and substance of this fantastic trail and making an all new Magical Mystery Tour instead!

  • I’m all for a feature done in this style. We have the technology, we have the artists with the capabilities to do it, but no funding from the higher ups.

    I have to agree with Poptique; I would much rather see a film like this than an all CG Yellow Submarine.

  • Tom N.

    Commercials have probably around 20 times the budget per second of film that a movie or TV show has.

  • Dave O.

    “What prevents Hollywood from producing modestly budgeted animated features that have a clear directorial vision like this piece?”

    The short answer is:
    – A studio system that rewards repetition and formula.
    – Executives that persistently believe that they should have input in creative.
    – An artist training school system that emphasizes developing a ‘style’ over critical thinking, storytelling and drawing from life.
    – Moviemaking gimmickry such as motion-capture, CGI and 3-D.
    – Lack of foresight and a complete disregard of, hatred toward, and pandering to the audience.
    – The ongoing misconception that animation is only a means to an end ($) and not a unique art form that needs to thrive and develop, lest it atrophy like it has for the past 30 or so years (with a few notable exceptions).

  • Chris D.

    If you aren’t worried about spoilers from the game, you should check out the equally awesome ending to the game here:

  • Great trailer, but don’t expect the game to be full of 2D animation. The animation in the game is essentially CGI but it is awesome and very well detailed including some impressive details on the Ed Sullivan and Shea Stadium parts. Hopefully this game will open the door to Led Zeppelin Rock Band or Rolling Stones Guitar Hero.

  • FP

    This thing fried me when it was first posted on YouTube a few months ago. It’s good to see the above-linked version is a better transcode than the old one.

    It would be best if these guys would make the new YELLOW SUB… as a sequel, not a remake. Ah, well. We’ll just have to make do with Robert and his Rambunctious Meat Puppets.

  • spencer drew bogart

    that trailer was/is amazing! a great example of good animation that uses technology to enhance good drawing, concept, and character design — rather than as a crutch to simply get the job done. i don’t think i’ve ever been so tempted to go out and buy a video game.

    zemeckis is undoubtedly capable of doing good stuff, and i find his decision to remake Yellow Submarine more than a little confusing. that movie has a unique spirit and is such a distinct product of its time. a new mocap “animated” version would more than likely feel insincere, and there’s a grave possibility that the characters will creep the hell out of people (like they did in Polar Express and most likely will in A Christmas Carol). robert should fire himself and hire pete candeland to make his own beatles feature; visually speaking, he already has a very strong and unique vision.

  • Because it seems the only people interested in this sort of thing are us animators and film makers. The general public, in my opinion, doesn’t give a damn about “style” or “substance”….

    Again, it all seems to come down to which celebrity’s name is on the screen, or whatever their KIDS drag them to see. Most parents, mine included, don’t know or can’t tell the difference (or care) between 2D or 3D in the sense that “it’s still a cartoon, and thus is “all the same to them.”

  • Hannah

    That’s by 4 degrees, the Gorillaz animation studio, right? I rather liked this commercial they did as well:

  • Marc Baker

    I’d like to see someone turn the the animated cult film ‘Rock & Rule’ into a ‘Guitar Hero/Rock Band’ type of game. Getting back on topic, I’m also getting sick, and tired of the over saturation of CGI in the theaters. As well as Hollywood’s ‘assumption’ (read: pandering) that the ‘movie going public’ wants to see everything in 3D because ‘pencil, and paper is a thing of the past.’

  • it’s all a matter of trust. trust in the filmmakers. Brad Bird used to say he’d rather his investors not sleep for 4 years of a films production and wake to a dream rather than sleep comfortably for that time and awake to a nitemare of a feature.
    When it comes to 2D execs panic and scrutinize every frame more so than if it was being handled by the 3D folks. So the films are rarely about characters and more about “the world”. It all comes down to endearing characters and if a 2D director could be protected by an executive to fight the big fights (like Peter Jackson on District 9) then a true vision could hopefully get through.
    I see the work that is being done by Pete and his crew and it gives me hope. The closer we get to producing things cheaper and the tricks getting more affordable (like in After Effects) I believe all of this is possible.
    It all comes down to a compelling story and good characters and making sure it gets from the concepts to the screen and with execs giving out the cash up to 100 million they are not prone to trust a 2D crew.
    I’m a 2D whore: love it and breathe it and seeing something like this Beatles animation gives me hope that there’s enough audience money around to give to the celebrity voiced children’s book stuff AND to solid 2D productions.

  • Danny R. Santos

    This is one of the most outstanding animation I’ve ever seen in a long time, CG animation cannot duplicate or come close to this kind of style. Kudos to Pete Candeland. Can we see some more?

  • For sure, that trailer is a WORK OF ART!

    Top-notch, from A-to-Z,
    and completely inspirational.

  • fishmorgjp

    The opening and closing trailers are sensational. I’d sure rather see a ‘new’ Beatles flick done like this instead of (shudder) Zemeckis remaking Yellow Submarine in CGI.

  • Marc Baker

    No wonder studio execs favor 3D, over 2D. With 3D, they can make changes on the fly as oppose to physically redraw, or redesign things.

  • Brilliant, daring 2D features with strong designs and a good story come from Ireland, Belgium and France (all at once).

  • The amazing and talented illustrator, animator, and story artist, Robert Valley worked on this. Check out some of his work here:

    And listen to an interview with him here.

  • It’s lovely to see the avalanche forming at the peak of the mountain on this issue. I have a feeling the next few years won’t disappoint, if the cultural trend is any indication. It’s easy to see firsthand how a 2D feature as good or greater (not that it would necessarily need to be) in detail than the Beatles video could be made. 2009 has already been an incredibly wide-ranging and successful year for animation, compared to just 2006 and 2007 when the climate seemed quite different. Yes we can.

  • It’s simple really.

    The big majority of the adult ticket buying public is not enthused about 2D and art the way animators are. They regard that form as something of childhood and they are not comfortable being consumers of it. For free on FOX… or when a Disney blockbuster comes out… they’ll say they watched it with their kids.

    But without that available cover story they won’t take it. I have NEVER met a non-animator adult who admitted going to an animated feature without explaining they saw it because they took a kid to it.

    But 3D CG is easier to digest for the average consumer. It hasn’t abstracted things into flat colors. In 3D, a tree looks like a tree and they don’t have to work their minds so hard.

  • Here’s the thing: most of the things that make the Rock Band trailer so cool are neat enhancements to limited animation combined with bold design choices. If that’s what floats your boat there is a ton of anime that meet that criteria. As I write this it dawns on me that Cartoon Brew seems to have a bit of a chip on it’s shoulder when it comes to anime. What’s with that? Clearly the average OVA anime is as dreadful as the average animated Hollywood feature but Brew still gives tons of digital ink to the Hollywood schlock while ignoring cool anime stuff. I know it’s not xenophobia and I’m not going to imply any racist conspiracy here but are we all so set in our ways that we are tuning out some really cool thing because they are a bit outside of what is considered orthodox? FLCL anyone?

  • Perfect amount of mix of 3d with 2d

    …and that makes me think …

    …did they actualy animated in 2d george harrison doing air guitar ? hehe

  • Leedar

    ‘we have the artists with the capabilities to do it’

    Rob Valley would probably disagree. He felt the production on this video was hindered predominantly by a lack of skilled 2D artists (to paraphrase the Storyboard Art interview). You can definitely see it in the outro.

    Valley could make much greater stuff but nobody can draw it apparently!

  • I wouldn’t call it a conspiracy, just jingoism.

  • Redkanary

    Speaking of the Gorillaz, weren’t they kicking around the idea of a feature after their last album?

  • Marc Baker

    Thanks, robcat2075. Your analysis just confirmed my suspicions why CGI is so popular with the mainstream these days. they want to feel like what they’re looking at is ‘real’, and not look like something they made from they’re childhood.

  • ask

    I get antsy whenever I see a discussion about The Beatles RockBand because of how great it looks. Not just the gameplay, but the trailer, animation, and every other game in the series. The reason for WHY this doesn’t look like what Hollywood loves to do nowadays has a lot to do with the fact this trailer was produced in Massachusetts… on the OTHER side of the country. As for me, I have to live with the fact I know someone who works at that studio, which has a constantly growing reputation by everyone from critics to the public, and I can’t even get my own foot in the door.

  • I’m with Dave O. on all this stuff.

    I’d love for more animation following the suit of the Beatles Rock Band trailer which seems to borrow heavily from Studio 4C techniques. This is the kind of stuff animation needs. Zemeckis on the other hand needs to retire. Maybe something terrible can happen to Disney and Dreamworks putting them out of business and only then can we have our “renaissance,” but it’s highly doubtful.

  • I’d actually love if the game had the option of view it entirely in that sweet 2d mode :)

  • Jay

    Pete Candeland’s team of artists at Passion Pictures have been doing this kind of quality work for many years now. It’s a just a shame the health of the UK animation industry doesn’t reflect the amount of talent there is around.

  • G Melissa Graziano


    It’s strange that CG studios are so willing to use 2D in their gorgeous credits sequences and not jump headfirst in a 2 1/2D feature. Maybe it’ll take a smaller studio, or a bunch of them, to make one.

    Hell, I’d love to be a part of that!

  • aaron

    “Rob Valley would probably disagree. He felt the production on this video was hindered predominantly by a lack of skilled 2D artists (to paraphrase the Storyboard Art interview). You can definitely see it in the outro.

    Valley could make much greater stuff but nobody can draw it apparently!”

    Having animated for Robert once I can say this is true. He had to redraw most everything I did because it lacked the grace and stylization he puts into his design. It would be tough to pull this sort look off in a feature without the designer/director re-drawing tons animation ala Richard Williams. You can get all the drawings right if there are just a few minutes, more than that… good luck.

  • vzk

    Zemeckis should remake Pink Floyd’s The Wall as well; we need a motion-capture version of the Judge.

  • I completely agree with the sentiment of Carlos argument too, but the answer is obvious. The answer is us.

    It might be confortable and easy to blame the executives, but Carlos is correctly highlighting techniques and filmic devices as what makes this work stand out, so this is an animators question.
    What is stopping a film like this being made, is YOU GUYS and your engrained cultural belief in the universality of Illusion of Life techniques, as being the only way to animate well.

    Everything that is making that piece work, is outside the teaching of traditional American animation. Held frames, isolated movement, treating each shot as a sequential illustration instead of slavish adhering to model, loops, flat colors. All those things are anime tropes, and usually maligned by western animators as being ‘cheap’. They are things that you continually DON’T do, deliberately and with intent (except in Iron Giant).

    America has been making limited-budget animation for more than half a century, but still not come to terms with this fact. We continue to try wedging ‘full animation’ into budgets that don’t allow for it, with an effect of overall blandness. Look at what happens when Family Guy suddenly goes all Disney? You wet your pants and cry to the gods “Why, why can’t it ALL be like this?”

    Because it CAN’T. So deal with it and find a god damned middle ground!

    This film being a short, commercial project made in Britain, outside of a studio system, the film makers were actually free to ‘film make’. By traditional law, this would have been shipped out to whichever country offered the most frames per second the cheapest. It would have been tarmac-ed over with tweens.

    The reason is YOU, guys. You need to unlearn.

  • Actually to paraphrase myself, The problem wasn’t that there were no quality 2d animators around, there are plenty of them, it’s just that more and more people are jumping ship onto the 3d boat. There aren’t enough 2d jobs to keep people employed on a regular basis any more.

  • nobody remembers the triplettes de belleville ?

    strong 2D look, based on a graphic novel sensibility. hand drawn backgrounds. hand drawn animation merged with 3D elements.

    creator driven – the director storyboarded the whole thing and pencil animated a lot of it with an international crew.

    low budget and it made its money back. i remember thinking “this is it – a watershed moment. investors will now consider these kind of projects more seriously.” it was almost 10 years ago. maybe i was young and hopeful ?

    the one comment about trying to ” wedging ‘full animation’ into budgets that don’t allow for it” is certainly true. but lots of “B” animation pictures – like the triplettes and many dtv disney projects prove somewhat contained – in my mind, its a trick about limiting colors, shadows, and fx modelling that distracts anyway, and the old “hire talent not celebrities ” idea for voice casting. something will come around. maybe rob valley will be involved. i know thats what i want to see.

  • Leedar

    Oh, I was hoping Mr Valley wouldn’t come on reveal my complete lack of comprehension. -_-; Although, the end effect is the same; those people just aren’t there.

    I realise Hollywood animation budgets are morbidly obese, but stuff like Triplets confounds me. $8 million to make a quality, unconventional feature in Europe. I am under the impression they didn’t outsource any of the work. Why have so few been able to replicate this? Chomet is a business genius? :-S

  • I KNOW, I literally JUST saw this intro a couple of hours ago when I played the game, and as I was watching it, I mentioned to my friend how I wished Yellow Submarine was animated like that.

    I would be thrilled to see more things like this..
    and will see what I can do to make some of my own.