Next generation of animated films takes audiences into a rich and diverse galaxy.
(Page 2 of 2)
But the very concept of realistic-looking human characters in "Final Fantasy" is proving controversial to some.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"I think we're just fascinated with computers right now," says Hahn, who recently completed Disney's hand-drawn adventure epic "Atlantis." "I think the ridiculous conclusion of computer graphics is to take them to re-create reality. You can create a graphic world on-screen that's like an impressionist painting of life ... it's almost more moving and involving that way."
Mr. Adamson says people frequently ask him about whether it is possible to create a realistic human character.
"I say to them, 'Why would you want to?' " Adamson says. "There's a general public interest in creating CGI humans that I don't think I understand."
Adamson worries that the scientific challenge of being first to do it could prove too much of an end in itself rather than being merely a means to drive the storytelling.
Decades ago, animators didn't have the tools to focus on dazzling visual effects, realistic textures in hair and clothing, and richly detailed surroundings. Bruce Johnson, a former executive at Hanna-Barbera Productions and executive producer of PBS's "Jay Jay The Jet Plane," recalls that in the 1960s, the dialogue and the story came first.
"The look and animation mattered less," he says. "Hanna-Barbera focused on a very flat style of animation."
While dazzling visual effects are still needed to attract kids, viewers will stay in their seats "not because of style, but because of the stories," Mr. Johnson says.
An argument can also be made that flashy visual effects needn't result in stories that are, well, sketchy. Used in the right way, computer effects can enhance the plots.
Darla Anderson, producer of "Monsters, Inc.," Pixar animation's follow-up to "Toy Story 2," says Pixar didn't start out with the intent to make a technological leap with digital animation. Instead, the team thought carefully about ensuring that the technology first matched the requirements of creating creatures for the story, a tale in which a little girl discovers that there really are monsters underneath her bed.
"The one thing about animation is that because it takes a long time, and it's very expensive to do, we really work on our stories," Adamson says. "We really try to hone them."
While "Final Fantasy" is selling its "gee whiz" technical breakthrough as its major marketing point, producer Chris Lee maintains that the raison d'etre of the film's revolutionary animation is to create a new format for telling stories in different ways. "This is not the future of filmmaking," Mr. Lee continues, "just a part of the future of film."
Disney's Hahn predicts that animation will move in a number of directions. For one thing, the lines between live-action and animated films will continue to dissolve. For example, Disney's "Dinosaur" grafted computerized dinosaurs onto real scenery filmed across the world. And stunt actors and extras are getting a reprieve as films like "Pearl Harbor" populate their backgrounds with computer-animated figures.
Will CGI banish hand-drawn animation to the realm of Saturday morning TV fare, instead of as glorious features?
Very unlikely, say industry animators. DreamWorks and Disney, among others, remain committed to traditional animation. Japan's anime-style of animation in movies like "Akira" and "Princess Mononoke," meanwhile, continues to inspire and influence new generations of animators.
"I hope there's always a place for [traditional animation]," says Adamson, "because it's a beautiful art form, and we all grew up on it."
For "Final Fantasy" producer Lee, however, the future may include the bold move of casting 'Aki Ross,' his computer-generated character, in other animated movies - just as one would recast a real actor in another movie in a new role. "It's not for every filmmaker," Lee says, "we don't see Aki in a Nora Ephron movie. She won't be putting Julia Roberts out of business anytime soon."
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor