Hand-Drawn vs. Computer Animation

As much as I know that I will have to work with computers and doing computer animation throughout my career, I’d rather not. I am much more comfortable with a pencil in my hand. We’ve got some computers at school that allow us to draw right on the screen, but it isn’t quite the same – I am not totally used to the idea yet. I am working on it, though.

Personally, I prefer hand-drawn work. I understand that it takes probably a lot more people a lot of time to do hand-drawn animation, but computer work also needs a lot of time. The thing about computer animation, though, is that – say you want to make realistic leaves. So you hire somebody to simulate the colors, shapes, and behavior of leaves. Once that’s done, no matter how long it actually takes them, you’ve got leaves. Then you can have somebody make a tree, then populate it with those leaves. Over and over again. And if somebody’s already written that program and all you have to do is reuse it, so much the better. Either way, it is much faster than paying a guy to sit there and draw a forest’s worth of leaves for some background shots that aren’t even going to be animated.

Computer animation gets more and more realistic every day. That’s totally great, and some of the stuff they can do right now with computers is absolutely amazing. But that’s not always something that I want with my animation, you know? For example, if I’ve got a talking horse that walks on two legs, then maybe he doesn’t have to look realistic. It isn’t like this is a character that appears in real life, so it’s almost better if he looks more hand-drawn. Another example is skin. That’s hard to animate either way. But hand drawn things allow you to have a little leeway – it’s a drawing, we know it is a drawing, the colorist does their best and that’s that. With computer animation, it all looks so real, and then you get to the skin and there’s just something… too airbrushed about it, honestly. For example, in a hand-drawn cartoon, unless it is a necessary feature, knuckles on somebody’s hand aren’t typically drawn, even if their finger is bent. You subconsciously overlook it, because it is a drawing and you know it’s a drawing. But when you’re watching something that’s animated and you can see individual hairs on the character’s head blowing in the wind, if you see their hands are completely smooth and there isn’t a knuckle in sight, it registers as false – even if you don’t quite figure out why. You just know that something doesn’t look right. It takes you out of the moment a little.

I am in awe of the animation they can do nowadays, don’t get me wrong. But I would still rather draw something by hand than sit at a computer all day. It doesn’t matter how good it looks when its done, if it makes life easier, or allows my drawings to be more consistent. I like the idea of having drawn every frame and watching my creations come to life on the page in front of me, not some computer screen.