Three Directors Nominated for This Year's Academy Awards Discuss the Enduring Appeal of 2D Animation

Thirty-three films were submitted for this year's Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature. This is a record number, but equally remarkable is the strength of 2D animation this year.

Films that were either exclusively or largely 2D hand-drawn animation included "The Sparrow," "They Shot the Piano Player," "Titina," "Unicorn Wars," "Perrimp," "An Affair over Marriage," "The Farmers," "The Boy and the Hare," "Art College 1994," "Ernest and Celestine": Robot Dreams, and "The First Slam Dunk. Hungary also entered the 2D animated feature Four Souls of Coyote in the International Feature Film Competition.

Of the 33 films nominated for this year's Academy Awards in the animated feature category, nearly half are 2D animated or make extensive use of CG disguised as 2D animation - "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" and " CG may be the method of choice for many studios whose bottom line depends on profits, but it is clear that many artists still prefer the traditional 2D aesthetic for storytelling. is clear.

We spoke with the directors of three of this year's Oscar-nominated (mostly) 2D films, "Titina," "The Four Souls of Coyote," and "The Great Unicorn War," about their choice to make hand-drawn features in an industry dominated by CG and the challenges and joys of working in 2D animation.


The feature debut of Norwegian director Kajsa Næss, Titina tells the story of real-life Italian airship engineer Umberto Nobile and his expedition to the North Pole with his nemesis Roald Amundsen and his brave canine companion Titina. 1920s bustling streets Titina maintains the calm familiarity of her classic painting style throughout a perilous plot that navigates both the bustling cityscapes of the 1920s and the empty blue and white landscapes of the North Pole.

"Much of the inspiration comes from classic 2D cel animation. 'I think the traditional hand-drawn look is really beautiful. So I wanted to take a cue from cel animation and create a flat look with thin lines. I also wanted to avoid too many shadows and flashy camera movements.

By imposing these constraints, "Titina" was able to develop its own unique sense of humor. The film is always shot head-on, giving it a deadpan feel." The humor is not in the animation. Humor and our support for our characters comes from recognizing ourselves in them. It is classic human humor." I was also inspired by Wes Anderson, who relies on direction, framing, and timing rather than over-the-top moves."

Titina's comedic style put greater pressure on the animators to express human emotions more subtly than was necessary for more physical types of humor. Ness stressed the importance of "having the animators understand the tone and feeling of how you want to tell the story. By backing away from the need for every movement to feel intensely expressive, animators can find more truthful versions of their characters. They should walk like people, look like people, act like people," he said. We wanted quiet humor."

Naess believes that 2D animation is a valuable tool for keeping the audience focused on the story. 'You can't constantly move the camera, you can't change locations over and over. This makes the story feel accessible," she explains. 'I think this obviously affects storytelling, because there is a difference between storytelling in two and three dimensions, and I prefer storytelling in two dimensions.'

Told through the lens of the conflict between teddy bears and unicorns, the Spanish anti-war allegory The Unicorn War is a dynamically filmed and evolving epic. The film is filled with horror that carries the tone from the director's previous films. Alberto Vazquez's "Bird Boy: The Forgotten Children" and "Unicorn Wars" delve into similar genres, but with different budgets.

"There are quite a few differences between the two films because the former was made on a very low budget and the latter on a medium budget," Vazquez told Cartoon Brew. 'For example, I don't storyboard everything myself, or I have a lot of artists helping me at all stages.' Also, you should have the animation matte completed before production begins. It's true that you always make new mistakes, so filmmaking is a constant learning process."

"The Great Unicorn War" opens with a nightmarish sequence in which the unicorn's mother is transformed into a sludgy monster from which the child escapes. In this scene, we see intricate camera movements not seen in hand-drawn animation. In traditional animation, there is always an easier way to do what you want to do. From a drawing perspective, you can look for tricks and ways to mimic actual camera movement in a more intuitive way," Vasquez explains. Drawing is a language and a way of thinking, and technical problems are solved by looking for solutions through drawing."

Other scenes in the film required expanding the technical parameters. As the teddy bear soldiers creep through the enchanted forest, they stumble on centipede juice, changing the entire visual palette of the film. Only this scene was colored frame by frame in a very traditional way in Photoshop to add textures and brushes not available in Blender; Blender was helpful in the more densely populated scenes; animating 12 horses to run toward the camera was not easy was not, so we used Blender Grease Pencil to create the unicorns in 3D. This fusion of 2D and 3D on a medium budget (in this case about 3 million euros) is one of the most impressive achievements of The Great Unicorn War.

For Vazquez, traditional animation techniques stand the test of time and are his favorite. He explains, "Traditional animation ages well and always remains relevant." For example, if you watch a film like "Bambi" from 1942, you can see that its art and storytelling have stood the test of time. On the other hand, if you watch a 3D movie from 15 or 20 years ago, you will see that it has not aged so well because the technological changes have been brutal.

Retelling the creation story through the lens of Native American mythology is The Four Souls of Coyote. Directed by Hungarian artist Aron Gorder, the film demonstrates how well 2D animation lends itself to telling legends. We see the Creator painting the surrounding earth, creating creatures and a peaceful world, which is gradually corrupted by Coyote, the symbol of evil. The ancient nature of this story influenced how Gorder designed his human and animal characters.

"I wanted them to look like totem poles, like wood carvings. I wanted it to be big and strong, like a cave painting, and definitely not the cuteness of a Disney movie."

"Rough outlines are important to me, and in 3D, unless there is a special rendering that simulates them, there isn't," he continued, emphasizing the need for this story to be told in hand-drawn animation. In Hungary, the studios are very familiar with 2D; with 3D, there are so many technicians involved, from modeling to rigging to animation, that you can't control it. With drawing, it's much easier. The path from imagination to paper is shorter. "

Another tool that helped bring Gowder's ideas to the screen was an animation of the entire film produced for the fundraiser. Gowder said, "That animation was so detailed, it almost looked like a movie. Expressing that other means of communication from the director to the animators were not as efficient, Gauder said, "All the animators saw the animatic, and that was the best part. He said, "If you give them too much information, like 'read this letter,' or 'send me a character plan,' people don't read it, and it gets lost somewhere. If they see the animatics, they know what to do. That was the backbone of our communication."