Issue: Volume 35 Issue 5: (Aug/Sept 2012)

What’s Old Is New Again

By: Karen Moltenbrey
Not long ago, I was searching for an extension cord and came across a stash of VHS movies that I used to watch with my son when he was young: 101 Dalmatians, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Mulan, Cinderella .... I even found our old VHS/DVD player. It was a rainy Saturday, so I decided to watch some of these old favorites. I tried to get my now-teenage son to join me, but he was far more interested in shooting up something on the Xbox. I have to admit, I enjoyed my trip down Nostalgia Lane, despite the fact that, for years now, I have focused my attention on the very best that CG has to offer.

My little diversion seems especially appropriate now, given the unplanned theme of this issue, as many of the stories seem to take a twist or turn back to a more classical style of animation—albeit still using current cutting-edge technologies.

For the past decade or longer, “animation” to me, as well as most, has come to mean CGI. And we have come to love the bright, bold imagery of Toy Story, Ratatouille, Up, Finding Nemo, Monster House, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, The Guardians, and more. Yet, that does not diminish our appreciation for the hand-drawn beauty of traditionally animated features or stopmotion films. When CGI features took over at the box office, every now and then they were joined by a stop-motion production, such as Chicken Run (2000), Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005), Corpse Bride (2005), and of course, Coraline (2009) and Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009). Things really started getting interesting when stop-motion filmmakers incorporated computer graphics to enhance certain scenes, using the best of both worlds to achieve their vision. This year alone we are being treated to a bevy of stop-motion films: The Pirates! Band of Misfits, which we covered in the April/May issue, and ParaNorman and Frankenweenie, which are detailed in this issue. Each has a different look and feel, illustrating just how diverse stop motion can be today, particularly when present-day methodologies and techniques are incorporated into the mix.

Then we have Hotel Transylvania, a thoroughly modern CGI film, created with the latest tools, that has a hand-drawn, cartoony aesthetic. For this animated feature, it wasn’t about making something physically believable (the crux of CG) but more about design. In fact, the task for animators on this project soon became more about stretching characters (and technology) beyond their limits to achieve what could be described as something visually unique.

Next, we move into the interactive realm with a pair of 2D game titles that use new technology to bring a graphic style from the past to today’s high-tech gaming platforms. Ubisoft’s Rayman Origins and React Entertainment’s The Act take players into rich worlds created by hand, for a different type of gaming experience compared to what we have grown accustomed to of late.

The theme of “What’s Old Is New Again” can also be used to describe some of the offerings at SIGGRAPH 2012, as vendors demonstrated new developments in motion capture, 3D printing, head-mounted displays, and more. Of course, we were also treated to new offerings from some first-time SIGGRAPH exhibitors, as well as impressive upgrades to industry-standard software and hardware. Be sure to visit www.cgw.com for a recap of the show, and read about what impressed us the most as we reveal our annual Silver Edge awards in the Spotlight section of this issue.
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