When new goes old and old goes new...

When new goes old and old goes new…

My grandmother has trunks of her old dresses in the basement of our house. She always says they will be fashionable every 10 years. At a BFI Raw Shorts event on November 22nd, titled How To Frame Roger Rabbit – Animate Your Movies!, the lecturer was explaining how trends repeat themselves every 10-20 or so years. The event was about animation software and techniques. The lecturer explained how at present time, after a cycle of three-dimensional appeal, the industry is now trying to bring back the two-dimensional appeal. His guess was that within the next five years, animated films will resemble the style of the first animated features.

Image source. Screencap from Bambi (1941, dir. ). Note: image link has a virus, I wouldn't click on it.

Image source. Screencap from Bambi (1942, dir. James Algar et al.). Bambi was made in the early days of animated feature film production, and is completely hand-drawn and inked. Note: image link has a virus, I wouldn’t click on it.

Image source. Screencap from Shrek (2001, dir. ).

Image source. Screencap from Shrek (2001, dir. Andrew Adamson & Vicky Jenson).


I suppose this is the case with most things. Take photography for instance: not long after everyday cameras had achieved top high definition quality, previous photography methods return to the market. Instant cameras for lomography and polaroids rose to fame instantly (how ironic). The web is crowded with Photoshop tutorials on how to achieve vintage photography filters, while applications like Instagram promote the styles even further. At some point, things get so outdated that a new generation no longer know of it.

Image source. Lightbox with peg bar.

Image source. Lightbox with peg bar. Similar to the ones at the CSM studio.


All of this occurred to me during another event: Mindfulness Through Animation  at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. We started the session with meditation, before moving into the MA animation studios. The studios were equipped with old-ish lightboxes with pegbars, and they actually worked. I was talking to one of the students on the course, and she said a lot of them prefer using the pegs rather than drawing tablets. This course seemed very different from other ones I’ve been looking at. Their studio was like going back in time, -and I mean that in a good way. From the posters on their walls, you could tell that student work was of great quality, but there was this rusty feel to the studio that showed both respect and awareness for the traditional, hand-drawn animation.

Within an hour-or-so long session, me and the others got to try out the equipment. I’ve been drawing on a Wacom tablet for the last few years. Last year I made a hand-drawn-on-paper animation, but I had no peg bar, and no peg scanner, and so it took me a week just to scan and align my drawings. Which I now know, was a complete waste of time. Well, nearly complete. Nothing is a complete waste.

At the BFI event, the lecturer discussed the latest short of Glen Keane. I have been watching the short over and over since then. Every camera angle and rotation, every movement, all of it, is 100 per cent hand drawn. As I flipped through more and more pencil tests on YouTube, I came to realise that hand-drawn is becoming a craft. Like any other craft which was once a common profession: as drawing on paper decreases in trend, it increases as a rare craft. Like the film camera or the typewriter, I liked it because it is becoming rare. New technology is overrated in a sense: soon enough everyone will have it. Old technology on the other hand, at some point becomes art. Or in hand-drawn animation’s case: a craft.


Pencil test by Glen Keane:

And for the most impressive pencil test I have ever seen, here’s another work by Glen Keane: