There’s a buzz around animation at the moment – and not simply because the most recent UK budget contained a government promise that the animation industry would be granted the same tax breaks as film companies already enjoy. Accompanying this is a widespread sense that what is possible within animation is entering ever more exciting territory.
If there is one overarching theme, it is that the artificial boundaries between the different genres – CG, motion graphics, handcrafted, stop motion – are being torn down. Creatives are increasingly working in whatever animation medium suits their project, rather than confining themselves to one. From such explorations, unique styles are being born.
“It’s not super-new, but there definitely seems to be a trend in mixed-media animation,” says California-based animator Gabe Askew. “Animations are no longer stop motion, or 2D, or CG or puppetry; they are all these things blended together – and a small team or even one person can be proficient in all these mediums.
Brazilian animator Guilherme Marcondes, who is based in New York, agrees. “Style-wise the new trend is not having a trend – it’s everything at the same time, all the time.
The boundaries between CG, 2D and handmade – and between what is considered animation and motion graphics – are blurring. Projects that span genres including Glenn Marshall’s programming-driven The Nest That Sailed The Sky (below) and Ticktockrobot’s Me, Marionette (above)
Part of this shift is down to creatives getting bored with the perfection of entirely digital work. “The gloss of CG has become commonplace,” Gabe says. “What is exciting is to see it disrupted by other techniques.”
Guilherme notes that less elaborate 2D or handmade work is now seen as having charm if the concept is good (think Robot Chicken or Archer), whereas straightforward CG can just look sloppy.
“After getting tired of the limitations of 3D animation, where characters tend to look beautifully rendered but to act as stiff as zombies when not animated in painstaking detail, we are again appreciating the qualities of spontaneous DIY hand-drawn animation,” he adds.
Another thread is that creative tools are becoming even more powerful and accessible. Motion graphics artists can explore pro-grade 3D using After Effects, while it’s possible to capture and create stop-motion animation even with an iPad.
All this means it is an exceptionally exciting time to be involved in animation. Over this series of articles we’ll explore these developments in depth, take more soundings from cutting-edge practitioners, and discover how the UK animation industry could be set for a boom.
Animation trends 2012