Magazine article Variety

Toon Boom Blurs the Lines

Magazine article Variety

Toon Boom Blurs the Lines

Article excerpt

Animation field explodes while industry adjusts to new techniques

Last year, the Academy's animation branch sent a message to Hollywood: Just because an animated blockbuster sells millions of tickets and demonstrates cutting-edge technical innovations does not mean it represents the kind of achievement the group wants to award.

By giving two of its five nominations to small, foreignmade, hand-drawn toons - "Chico & Rita" and "A Cat in Paris" - the org appeared to be taking a stand against the sort of computer-animated pics that have become the industry's bread and butter. Although CG "Rango" ultimately took the prize, American toon studios are starting to get nervous again, now that G Kids (the indie distrib that released "Chico" and "Cat") plans to Oscar-qualify four more titles this year - three of which are traditional handdrawn entries.

"Let's face it, a lot of the older members have a real hunger for what they consider to be art in animation," says Bill Kroyer, a governor on die Academy short films and feature animation branch. "Anything hand-drawn and hand-painted immediately has an impressionistic, very unpredictable quality to it that makes it very difficult to come up with a computer film to which audiences will respond in the same visceral way."

That's not to say that the branch members are all a bunch of Luddites opposed to impressive technical leaps in animation, despite the fact they snubbed Steven Spielberg's motion-capture "The Adventures of Tlntin" last year. "We're the guys who make films that are 100% technology," Kroyer says. "I look at 'Avatar' as one of our kind of films. Even though James Cameron didn't submit, it would technically have been admitted, since keyframe animation was involved in every single frame of the simulated action."

Further blurring between performance capture and traditional character animation can be found in such "live-action" projects as Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit." Referring to the role mo-cap played in the production, visual-effects supervisor Joe Leterri says, "These guys just use it everywhere. The animators, if they're assigned to a shot and they have to go in and animate a character, they'll put on a (performance capture) suit and just do it themselves. In the old days, you'd set up a video camera, you'd film yourself as reference and you'd go in and try to match it all. It's really interesting how the technology has fully integrated now with animation."

The Academy's toon branch is spared the debate of whether to award such work in the animated feature category this year, since the 2012 crop of submissions features no mo-cap pics. …

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