Today’s post is an appreciation for the continued evolution of computer animation using non-photorealistic rendering. The previous post has more details and words, today is more about the embedded YouTube videos.
I first learned about this technique from Disney’s animated short Paperman. (Watch on Disney+.)
Which evolved to Feast, another Disney animated short. (Watch on Disney+)
For behind-the-scenes reasons I don’t know, this technique hasn’t made it to a Disney theatrical release. Concept art were released for Bolt and Tangled showing they had ambitions to adopt this visual style, but both of those final products were rendered in a photorealistic style. We can see bits and pieces of the ambition left in those film, though, in bits of art visible in the background.
Whatever the reason, it left the door open for Sony Pictures to take the lead with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Members of that team followed up with The Mitchells vs. The Machines. (Watch on Netflix.)
Thankfully those were great films in their own right, independent of their novel visual style. I enjoyed them very much and their success opened the door (or more accurately, loosened studio wallets) for more and I am looking forward to them. Not all of them will be great films, nor would they necessarily succeed in pushing the state of the art, but I’m glad to see it happen.
The Bad Guys might be fun. Plot-wise, it doesn’t feel fresh after Wreck-It Ralph. In terms of visual style, it is the least adventurous relative to its contemporaries. Perhaps the technology team at DreamWorks/Universal Studios needed to keep things manageable for their first run.
If so, then I’m thankful that film paved the way. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish has a much more distinct visual style, and this trailer is hilarious. It had its theatrical run recently so I should be able to access a home video digital rental or purchase soon.
And now Paramount Pictures is trying it out as well, as seen in the recently released trailer for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. I love this art style, especially how it is so distinct from the others on this list. (I don’t know my art terminology… “rougher” or “sketchier” doesn’t seem to quite cut it.) This trailer is a lot of laughs and I hope the visual style pair well with another reboot of the TMNT franchise.
Outside of films, there are shows like Arcane (on Netflix)
This will show up in more places, in more formats, in the years ahead. It looks like there’s already too much for me to see them all myself, which honestly is a fantastic problem to have.