“Animation can explain whatever the mind of a man can conceive”

A legendary quote from Walt Disney that is in all respects accurate. But have you ever wondered what exact tools help animators bring their vision to life?

Buckle up, because it is going to be a long ride.

Metaphorically, to animate means to give life to something, and to accomplish that two basic methods are used – computer-assisted animation, also known as 2D (frames are either hand-drawn with a pencil on paper or interactively drawn with the computer), and computer-generated animation also known as 3D animation which includes digital and stop-motion animation.

Let’s briefly travel through time and see the history of animation in order to get a better perception of what it was and what it has become.

Beginning era of computer animation

2D animation has come a long way and although Walt Disney is widely considered the first one to have produced 2D animation with Mickey Mouse, it is not actually the case. The very first 2D animation was called Fantasmagorie, a short cartoon made by Emile Cohl in 1908.

It is one of the earliest examples of traditional hand-drawn animation.

Fast forward to 1928, when steamboat Willie became the first cartoon with the sound printed on the film. It was the first Disney animation with synchronized sound and it also featured a fully post-produced soundtrack that distinguished it from earlier cartoons.

A page from original storyboard of Steamboat Willie.

The time-consuming process of 2D animation was made easier as the years went by. 3D animation revolutionized how the animation industry looks nowadays. Adventures of André and Wally B. by the Graphics Group was the first computer-animated short film produced in 1984, and it was the first time complete 3D characters and backgrounds were seen in a film.

Soon after that, Toy Story was created by the same company, however now named Pixar Animation Studios. It became the first feature-length computer-animated film, redefining the animation industry for good, however, it was just a starting point for how far computer-generated animations would go.

Behind the scenes of Toy Story (1995)

A primary difference between CGI animation and a traditional one is that drawings are replaced with 3D modeling, almost like a virtual version of the frame by frame approach.

Walt Disney Studios created a technique called deep canvas for Tarzan (1999) to help alleviate the limitations set by 2D animation. Ultimately, it allowed artists to make 3D objects that gave the 2D scenes more realistic depth.

Tarzan and Jane Hand to Hand
Tarzan (1999)

With the enthusiasm of artists and industry experts, new developments are reported each year and the future of animation seems to be headed on a very interesting journey.

Now that you have a historical background of how 2D and 3D animations came to be, stay with us for the next part where we will define their assets separately and explain how blending both mediums together can be a great solution for a video project!