The End of a Magical Era

The Walt Disney Company decided to shutter its last remaining traditional (hand drawn) animation studio this week. About 250 animators will be out of work in Australia.

This is really upsetting to me.

I haven’t written much about it yet in my about page but it is true that I was highly motivated to attend art school because of traditional animation. Specifically, the Disney variety.

I found the art of animation to be so magical and so perfectly crafted that I wanted to learn how to be as skilled someday. My main motivation was to learn how to draw with expressiveness and feeling.

I was so torn between classical drawing styles (Michelangelo, Rubens) and the Disney method which was more streamlined and exaggerated. My personal sketches would be wacky yet my classroom drawings were more controlled. It took a while to finally decide which way to go.

One of the things that helped was when I attended a campus visit from Disney during my senior year. I was sitting there watching them discuss what it was like to work as an animator and describe the environment when I realized that it wasn’t that interesting to listen to.

Eventually they hit upon upcoming theatrical releases and they previewed some rough cuts. When that was finished and people stopped clapping it was Q&A time. I raised my hand and actually asked the question that made my future more clear:

I was wondering how much input animators have over the story line and if that is something I could eventually get involved with?

That simple question resulted in the answer I sort of didn’t want to hear. No. You basically don’t have much input and you are a hand at a desk. Now draw.

While that was sad for me at the time, I felt a burden lift from my shoulders. I had been working so hard on my senior illustrations and subconsciously knew I was veering away from the Disney style but still didn’t want to admit that I might not fit in.

Well, I feel for the animators who are to lose their jobs and wonder about the direction Disney management is taking the company. There really is no comparison between the hand drawn beauty of something like Fantasia and today’s CGI hyper-real creations. The happy accidents and human translation of nature by hand is wholly different from the digital replication of someone’s approved reality.