In 1937, Walt Disney brought audiences the very first full-length animated feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. The studio made it’s name in animation, hand-drawn by it’s talented cadre of artists who produced classics like Cinderella, Bambi, and One Hundred and One Dalmatians (to name only a few). These days that type of time-consuming process is being set aside for films that favour computer-generated animation technology and the shift has led to some speculation that 2D hand-drawn films will become a thing of the past.
Fans of hand-drawn animation had their fears about the tradition’s demise somewhat confirmed yesterday when Disney’s chief executive, Bob Iger, told shareholders that the studio wasn’t currently developing any 2D projects in their full-length film divisions. “To my knowledge we’re not developing a 2D or hand-drawn feature animated film right now,” Iger said, adding that there “is a fair amount of activity going on in hand-drawn animation but it’s largely for television at this point.”
Iger didn’t go so far as to say that Disney had plans to scrap the hand-drawn style of animation altogether, though. “We’re not necessarily ruling out the possibility [of] a feature but there isn’t any in development at the company at the moment.” The Guardian points out that this means no 2D hand-drawn films for at least the next few years due to the “long gestation period for Hollywood animated productions.”
However, not everyone is convinced that this means layoffs and the end of an era for traditional animation artists. Blogger Brendan Connelly cites Disney’s Oscar-winning short Paperman as a sign that animators who draw (as opposed to those who model) may stay in demand. “I know for sure that there’s at least one feature in development at Walt Disney Animation Studios that will require hand drawn animation in the way that Paperman did,” writes Connelly. “The new film doesn’t quite use the same techniques as Paperman but part of the process, at least as it stands, allows—requires, even—animators to draw images rather than model them.”
For a look at the type of animation Connelly is talking about, check out Disney’s award-winning short below: