Animated Films that Combine CGI and Traditional Animation


Today I watched a movie with my class.  It was a Japanese anime movie called Origin: Spirits of the Past.  I’m not going to comment on the movie as a whole because it was very formulaic and very slow moving.  I chose to show it because it highlights our unit on plants, as it’s a movie where plants have taken over the planet.

origin cgi

A CGI image from the movie

I like animated movies, and I think CGI (computer-generated imaging) has revolutionized the animation genre.  I also think there’s a place for the more traditional, drawn, animation on which the industry was built.  It is when the 2 are combined into one movie that I have an issue.  This “Frankensteining” of the 2 creates an amalgamation that neither showcases what CGI can do, nor pays homage to the artists involved in drawn animation.  These movies are neither one or the other, but they are all bad.

Even my beloved Disney is guilty of combining CGI and drawn animation.  Albeit at a much higher quality than the anime studio that made this film.  In The Lion King, the scene where Mufasa is killed by a stampede of wildebeests is drawn animation placed on top of a CGI background.  The wildebeests were computer generated, and Mufasa was drawn.  Aladdin’s magic carpet ride with Jasmine was traditional animation on a CGI background.  Even Pocahontas had some CGI parts!  It’s not as obvious in these films as it is in the anime film, yet still not too difficult to spot.

CGI wildebeests behind a drawn falling Mufasa

CGI wildebeests behind a drawn falling Mufasa

I appreciate the detail and life-like movement that computer animation can accomplish.  Movies that are totally done in CGI are amazing, and very realistic.  When CGI is mixed with live-action, the result is often amazingly good, and it can bring things like aliens, dinosaurs and giants to the big screen with believable reality.  Even George Lucas appreciates the possibilities that can occur with CGI animation.  After making Star Wars with mini models and giant backdrops, he now uses teams of computer animators to create his other worlds.  I like CGI movies, but I don’t like when CGI is mixed with traditional animation.  It looks sloppy and destroys any of the “crispness” that CGI might bring to the movie.

I also love traditional animation and I’m always amazed at how well it’s done with several hundred drawings that are each slightly different than the last to give the illusion of movement.   It’s an artform that’s slowly dying in favor of computers.  It has its merits, though, and CGI should not be constantly used.  The traditional type of animation still captures a little of that imagination that led to its conception.  They both have their good points and their bad points, but, let’s face it, animated films are still awesome!  It’s when the 2 techniques are combined in one film that the cache of animation is lost.  Movie studios need to decide on one type of animated film; traditional or CGI.  Putting them together sometimes looks ok, but it’s all the time wrong.


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