I copied and posted this column on the Max the Mutt thread, but think it's so important for everyone to be aware of, that I'm copying and pasting it here.
Here's a column for you to read!
Hand-drawn animation revived
Pixar's John Lasseter is pumped about the traditional style of pen-and-paper animation used in Your Friend the Rat
By BRUCE KIRKLAND -- Sun Media
Ratatouille's rodent co-stars Remy (right) and Emile introduce the history of their species in the Pixar short, Your Friend the Rat, which segues from computer animation into traditional hand-drawn techniques to tell its story.
Don't abandon tradition, animators say
LOS ANGELES -- Everything old is new again. Thanks to artists at both Pixar and Disney, traditional hand-drawn animation is being revived.
"The fact is, we're very, very excited about the future," John Lasseter, creative director of animation at both animation studios, tells Sun Media.
At Disney, Lasseter approved production of a hand-drawn film, The Princess and the Frog. It is a fairytale about a young girl, Princess Tiana, who lives in the storied French Quarter of New Orleans during the jazz age. This will be Disney's first African-American heroine.
The radical decision overturns an earlier dictate -- imposed before the Pixar-Disney merger -- that Walt's 85-year-old studio would move exclusively to computer generated, 3D-style animation.
"The whole notion that the audience didn't want to watch hand-drawn animation any more was ridiculous," Lasseter says. "It would be like saying the audience didn't want to watch something made with a particular camera. Give me a break!"
Lasseter is also sensitive to another notion -- that the fabulous success of Pixar's computer-generated films, from his own Toy Story to this year's Ratatouille, has killed the commercial appetite for the old ways of Walt Disney.
"You can't say that!" Lasseter says with fire in his belly. "We've never ever believed that! It's not technology. It never has been. It's what you do with it.
"It's storytelling. No one goes to a movie to see a particular technology. They go to see story and characters. They go to be entertained. What it is was that 2D became the scapegoat for bad storytelling."
Traditional techniques are being used even at Pixar, Lasseter says. An amusing 2D "educational" cartoon, Your Friend the Rat, was created as an extra on the recent Ratatouille DVD release.
The 11-minute short tells the history of how two species of rat spread around world, except in Alberta. The film begins in computerized 3D with Ratatouille's rat stars Remy and Emile lecturing in a classroom. The body of the film was done in hand-drawn animation under the direction of Jim Capobianco, who also worked on Ratatouille.
"It's a unique short for Pixar," Capobianco tells Sun Media at Pixar's studio near San Francisco. "It's the first time we've ever done 2D hand-drawn animation here for a short.
"We've done it in the past for our credits. It started with Monsters, Inc. The opening-door sequence was done by hand. On Ratatouille, we did the end credits with hand-drawn animation."
The old ways are still exciting for animators, Capobianco says. "I just think it's a beautiful artform in itself. The fact that these drawings are moving and conveying emotion, I don't think you want to lose that."
Even hand-drawn animation can be done directly into a computer, speeding up the process. But, on the short Your Friend the Rat, his artists really wanted to be traditional, Capobianco says.
"For this, I think we really wanted to go back to the roots of it all and to draw with paper and pencil again, just for the quality of it, for the aethetics of it."
Both the old ways and computer animation have value, says Disney director Stephen Anderson (Meet the Robinsons).
"The differences between the two are like the differences between a painting and a photograph," he tells Sun Media in L.A. "Hand-drawn is more like an impressionist's painting. You are implying everything in hand-drawn animation.
"In the computer, while it is still virtual, while it is an illusion, you have a three-dimensional environment where you are moving your camera through and you are moving your characters through and you feel like you could reach out and touch them.
'SO REAL IT'S CREEPY'
"You have to spend a lot more time on the minutiae in the computer because it is going to be perceived. You are approximating reality much more. Of course, you have the ability to get so real it's almost creepy."
In the end, it depends on what story, in what style, you want to tell. Anderson, like Lasseter, is excited by the future choices.
"I love the notion that, as filmmakers, we could hop back and forth between the two worlds. I came from the 2D world. I love 2D animation. That's what I grew up on.
"But also, especially after this movie (Meet the Robinsons), I have fallen in love with this computer world. It is just amazing -- the limitlessness that you have.
"We all believe that John Lasseter is a big proponent of that, choosing the right medium. Whatever you need to tell the story the best, that's what you do. Whatever you need out of that toolbox, that's what you use."