Was It Really Our Fault For The Death of 2D Animation?

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

Around the mid-2000s, 2D animated films were struggling, with a majority of the flops coming from Disney and DreamWorks. This was when their 2D animated films were not bringing in waves of delicious greenback bills, and were instead being critically panned, and flopping/underperforming. This list of films include Home on the Range, Brother Bear, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, Treasure Planet, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and you get the idea. The only 2D animated films that were doing really well during this time period were the films made by Studio Ghibli, like Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle. When Home on the Range and Sinbad came out, both Disney and DreamWorks told the world that 2D animation was not a profitable way of filmmaking anymore, no one was seeing 2D animated films, and the new profitable form of animation was CGI-animation. This was essentially throwing 2D animation under the bus. So, was it really the public’s fault that 2D animation was dead? Is there a reason Europe and the rest of the world is keeping it alive and not getting wide releases? Well, let’s talk about what was going on around this time period.

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On one side of the spectrum during the early to mid-2000s, the only financially/critically successful animated films that were being made were of CGI, and Pixar and DreamWorks were leading the charge. This was when we were getting films like Shrek 2, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles. All of these films were critical darlings, and are pretty fantastic films. On the other spectrum, you were unfortunately getting Disney and DreamWorks 2D animated films that were not doing well with audiences and the bank. Like I said above, the 2D animated films were not making enough of a profit, and were getting critically panned at the same time. Sure, you would get a film like Lilo & Stich, Emperor’s New Groove, and Spirits: Stallion of the Cimarron, but those films were few and far between in terms of being successful 2D animated films. The point is Disney and DreamWorks were losing money, and the only thing that was bringing in the cash besides their live-action films were their CGI animated films. Not to say that each CGI animated film during this period was a success, since this was when DreamWorks was trying to compete with Disney/Pixar, but the numbers and money talked.

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So, does this mean that 2D animation was 100% dead? Of course not! Even if Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks were moving toward full-on CGI animation, due to the masses leaning more to CGI animation by overall audience appeal, there were a few studios and directors that were passionate or really stubborn about Hollywood’s sudden lack of 2D animation. This was when we were getting a lot of the Studio Ghibli films brought over by Disney, like Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Porco Rosso to name a few. Other directors like Sylvain Chomet gave the public The Triplets of Belleville, one of the best pieces of 2D animation around, and was a critical and Oscar winner. Japan has a multitude of amazing animated films during this time period, and even today we have incredible 2D animated films, like the late Satoshi Kon’s Paprika, Mamoru Hosoda’s Wolf Children, The Boy and the Beast, and Summer Wars, Makoto Shinkai’s The Garden of Words, and of course, Katsuhiro Otomo’s slew of films like Steamboy, and anthology project, Short Peace.  Europe has been rocking the 2D animation, with films from France, Spain, Scotland, and other areas including Song of the Sea, The Secret of Kells, A Cat in Paris, Phantom Boy, Ernest & Celestine, The Illusionist, Nocturna, Wrinkles, and Chico and Rita. Even Disney came back with two 2D animated films, with The Princess and the Frog and Winnie the Pooh. Sure, they didn’t break a gigantic amount of bank, but I love that Disney at first was going to do one 2D film, then a CGI film, and go on like that until they went full-on CGI animated. Even Brazil gave us Boy and the World, one of the most visually amazing films, not just animated films, I have ever seen.

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So, if 2D isn’t technically dead, since the rest of the world and the indie scene are treating it with the respect it deserves, then what really killed it? Well, it’s actually pretty obvious and simple. There is no reason to go into a college-based philosophical journey for the answer. Really, it’s the Hollywood machine, and the studios’ fault for killing off 2D animation.

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Yeah, I know it sounds like a hipster thing to do, and blame the bigwigs for killing off a style of animation, but it’s quite frankly the truth. So, during the mid-2000s of 2000-2005 or so, what were the companies releasing during this time that was 2D? This was when Disney was releasing films like Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Brother Bear, Treasure Planet, Lilo & Stich, Emperor’s new Groove, and Home on the Range. On top of that, this was also the tail end of their Straight-to-DVD fling, where they released a bunch of mediocre sequels to their popular Disney films. I’m sure you can find merit and something positive to say about certain elements of these films, but they were really scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of quality with these straight-to-DVD flicks. DreamWorks on the other hand only released about two 2D animated films, with one being a hit, and the other causing the infamous “2D animation is dead” quote with Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and Sinbad. Now then, we’ve got our suspects from the 2D side of things from both companies, what went wrong with the studios making these films? After watching them recently, with the few exceptions that I have mentioned above, the rest feel like movies that were ruined by the higher-ups putting their focus-grouped hands into the mix. Films like Brother Bear, Sinbad, Treasure Planet, and Atlantis: The Los Empire could have been incredible movies, but what you get are films with bits and pieces of greatness and things to like, but then have to get past the elements that are distracting or not very interesting. Most of the time, the biggest blunder these films made was within its dialogue. When the characters talked like they were part of that time or setting, it was great and engaging. You felt like you were there with them. However, when the modern dialogue, Disney whimsy, and hip lingo pops into time periods where it isn’t remotely appropriate, and is only put there because some idiot higher-up thinks everyone would like it, it’s frustrating. It’s like they couldn’t fully stay invested in their own tones. If you want to be dark in Atlantis, then you need to keep the mature tone, and not throw in so many side characters, humor, and a weak bad guy. How much better could Brother Bear be if he didn’t turn into a bear and he was kept just as a human? I could say all of this with the other films like Treasure Planet and Sinbad. These studios, for the most part, would rather throw someone or something under the bus to avoid the honest truth that they made a bad movie that no one wanted to see, or have to admit that they were trying to cater to the lowest common denominator, and it wasn’t working. Oh, and was anyone really asking for Home on the Range? I mean, really?

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Yeah, I don’t buy that 2D animation died because people stopped caring about it. I think it died because studios here in the states kept giving us films that either couldn’t stay in the tone they set out for, higher-ups got their meddling hands into the pie, or were just terrible movies. Luckily, with the huge success of films like Zootopia, The Secret Life of Pets, Finding Dory, and the animated films distributed by GKIDS, animation has become a huge success during 2016, where with a few exceptions; a mass majority of the 2016 big Hollywood flicks are not panning out. Sure, you could argue it’s just the summer movies, but I feel like the animated films and indie films have been getting more of the spotlight and praise. Hopefully, this means that the bigger companies can try and come back to 2D someday, but due to how current Hollywood is run, it will probably take some time. Just remember, it’s not always your fault Hollywood made a stupid mistake. Thanks for reading, I hope you liked the article, and see you all next time.

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The Other Side of Animation: The Triplets of Belleville Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

WARNING/PARENTAL HEADS UP!: There is some female nudity, but not a whole lot of it. Viewer’s discretion is advised. Enjoy the review!

So, we have seen crazy and insane storytelling done badly that was entertaining to watch in a “so good, it’s bad”  kind of way, but what about watching an animated film that is all sorts of crazy, but was done well enough to be considered one of the all-time great animated films? As we have seen in a lot of animated movies and shows, it seems like the most popular form of comedy is being fast-paced, over-the-top, or flat-out crazy. Even then, there is an art and style to said creative comedy. You can’t just be loud and visually weird and unusual. If you are all just flash and no substance, why should we waste our time with you? Yeah, shows like Adventure Time, Steven Universe, and films like The LEGO Movie are over-the-top, unique in their visuals, and have interesting senses of humor, but they all have good stories and characters you love and want to invest into. This is why, after that trainwreck of glorious/horrible animation that was MD Geist, I wanted to look at an odd, surreal, but amazing movie like The Triplets of Belleville. This movie was released back in 2003, winning critical acclaim and multiple award nominations. The Triplets of Belleville was directed by Sylvain Chomet, the man behind the 1991 animated film, The Old Lady and the Pigeons, and the 2010 animated, The Illusionist. So, is this film as good now as it was back in 2003? Well, let’s find out!

The story revolves around a grandmother named Madam Souza and her grandson named Champion. They live a simple life, until the day she finds out her grandson has a fascination with cycling. After getting her grandson a tricycle, the years pass, and we see the son is training for the grand pike race known as the Tour de France. During the race, Champion gets kidnapped by the French Mafia, and taken over to a romanticized version of New York. Madan Souza and her dog go after him, only to find themselves lost in the big city. Luckily for them, they end up encountering the famed Triplets of Belleville, three famous vaudeville singers from back in the day. Can they get Souza’s son back from the French Mafia?

So, this is a French 2D animated film about a grandmother, her dog, and three old ladies taking on the French Mafia to get the grandmother’s grandson back, with some of the most unusual and ugly (in a good way) artstyles ever implemented. Yeah, it’s a weird and sort of crazy film, but it all works! Why does it work? Well, maybe because while it has some unusual and crazy visuals, the story and characters are kept simple and easy to understand. You really get invested in and charmed by the individual characters, and this is amazing since there is basically no dialogue in the film. There is some at the beginning and end, but they are there to pretty much bookmark the start and end of the film. The only dialogue you hear is from the radio. Luckily, the execution of the animation and art design makes it quite clear to know what is going on with all of the character’s goals and intentions.

Speaking of animation, it is beautifully done. The art direction is what really makes this film stand out. It’s about as anti-Disney and DreamWorks as you can get, with humans that are quite frankly over-exaggerated and gross-looking. However, I mean that in the best way possible. Unlike the third-party tripe you get, the characters are well designed and have very memorable looks and diverse animations. I think some of my favorite character designs come from the grunts of the French Mafia. They look like walking dominos, and are just cool to look at. The overall presentation, like I have mentioned, is over-the-top and reminds me of caricatures. It’s rather beautiful in that regard. I love it when I get to see different art styles put into play, and in my opinion, more films need to do this instead of trying to be another DreamWorks and Pixar knock-off. The music is just groovy and jazzy. I love the original song that was nominated for best original song. It’s catchy and just a fun song to listen to.

If I had to complain about something, it would be this weird little hiccup that I saw with the English subtitles. Even though there is no talking, when you see the TV or radio sequences where there is dialogue, the English subtitles turn to French subtitles when you watch the film in English. Why is that a thing? I even watched it in French and the English subtitles are still French. That is such a huge hiccup in terms of the tech department that it’s kind of baffling that some employee didn’t quality control this part. Hopefully they fix this with a Criterion or Blu-Ray release. Heck, why isn’t this film part of the Criterion collection? It would look amazing.

The Triplets of Belleville is nothing short of a modern classic. It deserves to be talked about more than it does. I know it’s a famous movie, but man, this film got better the more times I watched it. Sadly, you can only get this movie in a DVD format, but if you can get it, I would highly recommend it. It’s pretty cheap and I even found a collector’s edition of sorts that had a ton of extras and both the French and English version of the film. I just want to keep praising this film for hours, but I would then be repeating myself. So, let’s move onto a film that could have been something better than expected, even with bad advertising, but was just a bad film overall. Next time, we look at Hell and Back. Thanks for checking out my work, and see you all next time!

Rating: Criterion/Essentials