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A Brief History Of Animated Movies

 From 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the animated feature film has come a long way. Disney’s Snow White wasn’t the first full length animated feature, but it was the first successful one. Each frame of the movie was hand-drawn, a process that came to be known as ‘cel animation’ or simply ‘traditional animation. Stop-motion is another kind of animation that uses puppets or clay models instead of drawings where each frame is a photograph. Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit are two examples of this kind of animation.
While traditionally animated movies needed every frame to be drawn, the modern CGI(Computer-generated imagery) animated movies use powerful software to draw/model scenes and to animate things. Almost all animated movies these days are CGI-animated. The first full-length feature that was CGI-animated was Toy Story (1995) by the studio that revolutionized the animation industry, Pixar. Disney and DreamWorks are the other two giants in the industry, although after Disney’s acquisition of Pixar in 2006, it’s really two studios that currently monopolize the animated feature film industry.
You just have to love Disney. It’s impossible not to. Our generation grew up on Disney movies, and they will always be classics. The Lion King (1994), Aladdin (1992), The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Mulan (1998) are just a few among the 50-odd movies they’ve released so far that are must-watches. They’re the bosses, enough said.
Pixar(Disney•Pixar, if you want to get technical) has given us some real gems; their movies are noted for being visually gorgeous, technically advanced and their stories always strike an emotional chord with the audience. In fact, Cars(2006) and The Incredibles(2004) are the only ones that come to mind when I think of a Pixar movie that didn’t make me want to cry(personally, I prefer these movies for that very reason). Pixar crossed a big hurdle for animated movies, though, they proved that animated movies are not just for children. Before Pixar, the animated film industry was dominated by Disney, whose films, while really really good, catered mostly to the younger crowd and (out of necessity) their parents. Pixar movies contain great depth: WALL•E deals with environmental issues, Up deals with some heavy human emotions and so beautifully that you feel every single one without getting the feeling that you’re being hit over the head repeatedly with them, unlike most live-action movies. Who would have thought that a rag-tag bunch of beat-up toys or a couple of monsters(Monsters Inc.) could reduce adults to tears? That is the magic of Pixar.

 DreamWorks Animation SKG was a part of DreamWorks Pictures until 2004. Their first success was Shrek(2001) which won the academy award for Best Animated Feature that year and since then they’ve made a string of pretty popular movies and given Pixar some competition in the field. I am a huge fan of DreamWorks, mostly because their movies are hilarious. Shrek was followed by some great movies like Madagascar(2005), Kung Fu Panda(2008), Monsters vs Aliens(2009) and How to train your dragon (2010). Although Pixar generally receives all the oscars and critical acclaim, How to train your dragon was one of DreamWorks’s recent movies that was well-received by critics. Since Shrek, DreamWorks has developed a reputation of making movies that capitalize on humor and make several pop-culture or general satirical references. They make more movies than Pixar but only one in three turns out to be really good. The Shrek sequels were indicative of a trend that was to follow in later years, when Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar would be given the dubious honor of a sequel. One sequel usually works well, but after that, the whole franchise just somehow goes to hell. Toy Story 3 (2010) is the only one I know of that escaped the more-than-one-sequel curse. I’m dreading the release of Puss in Boots, a spinoff of Shrek, after watching it’s ridiculously campy trailer. DWA also, apparently, has plans for a total of six (!!) Kung Fu Panda movies and three (at least) How to train your dragon movies ,which is alarming, but we’ll see how it turns out.
   
 Sony Pictures Animation is a relatively new company, founded in 2006 and known best for Open Season(2006) and Cloudy with a chance of meatballs(2009). Cloudy was a great movie, I enjoyed it very much(made me laugh and made me hungry), and I’m optimistic about the future of this company. Their recent release, The Smurfs, may have been a bit of a damp squib, but it made a lot of money and they have several projects in the making, including Hotel Transylvania, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, a sequel to Cloudy, Popeye and Rollercoaster Tycoon - yes, a movie based on the game, I’m not sure how I feel about that. I do, however, like the idea of getting Hugh Grant to voice a pirate captain so I’ll let it go.

Blue Sky Studios(owned by 20th Century Fox) is worth a mention here for the excellent Ice Age (2002) movies, as well as Robots(2005) and the more recent Rio, which did quite well at the box-office, for a non-Disney, non-DreamWorks movie.

The future is bright for the animated feature film. Although it can never replace the live-action movie, it has carved a definite niche for itself in the market, an extremely lucrative niche, you realize upon examining the figures, and is now more than just a children’s film. I would argue that it was never just a children’s film. People tend to look down upon ‘cartoons’ as juvenile, which is ridiculous. Just get over yourselves, haters, what’s wrong with a movie that is good, clean, unadulterated fun for the whole family?

Also, I hope that the next person who calls it a ‘cartoon movie’ gets slapped around and then eaten by a giant walrus.

With most animated movies now being made in 3D, the result is a visually beautiful and grand affair that is a powerful contender for the ubiquitous live-action movie and always a safe bet for your hard-earned money.

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Rachina Ahuja
Writing about myself is an annoying task because I’m never the same. I like change, I’m used to it, but when I go to my favorite restaurant, I’ll always order the same thing. Why take a risk? My ideal occupation would be Captain of a pirate ship with a pet orangutan but I’ll settle for making animated movies.


 

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