When I was a wee nipper, watching animation absolutely mesmerized me. Being a child of the eighties, my little eyes were the target of such great cartoon shows as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, She-Ra Princess of Power, Thundercats and the like. They inspired me to grab my paper, pencils and colours and I would copy those images that flickered across my screen. In that young ’80s child’s mind, this is what he wanted to do when he grew up.
It was a dream that I held onto through much of my young life. I’d read many books and watched many TV programs that revealed the “secrets” of animation. Secrets such as it takes 24 separate pictures to create one second of film. Each picture was hand drawn, traced (or Xeroxed) onto a cel, then hand painted. The hand painted cels would then placed on top of a hand painted background and the studio would then take individual photos of them in sequence, creating the illusion of movement, thus making the finished film.
That was my dream job. Imagine drawing cartoon characters for a living. Or tracing them or colouring them. This was too good to be true!
Well, actually it was too good to be true. As it turned out, my dream career was in its dying days as I became a young adult. In a world that ever evolves, this old style of animation would soon become a dying art. The age of the computer would soon start to replace a lot of these classic jobs. Animation studios no longer needed to hire an endless supply of colourists. All that was required to bring colours to the screen was to simply scan in the pictures and computer colourize them. Whereas it was once necessary to have an animator draw out action scenes, these days you’re more likely to see guys sitting at computers hammering out Computer Generated Images (CGI).
True, a new skill set is required to work in the modern animation industry, but it does leave me feeling somewhat disheartened. The same ink and paint animation technique that had been used for many decades (look back at the classic Disney movies) had suddenly been knocked for a loop. The game changed in the mid-nineties and it eventually left the old methods in the dirt. Very sad. But I guess in this ever-changing world, progress will always win out in the end. It doesn’t mean I have to like it though!