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Modern American Animation
This article describes the history of animation in the United States of America since the late 80’s until the early twenty-first century. This period is often called the renaissance of American animation, during which many large American entertainment companies reform and reinvigorate its animation department after the decline suffered in the 60, 70 and 80.
From 1988 to the present
In the mid 80’s, the American animation industry fell into disgrace. Toy commercials masquerading as entertainment programs cartoons dominated the evening and the morning of Saturday, and the only experiment was carried out by independent developers. Even animated films were projected in theaters at times, but the glory of the old days was gone. Even the animation giant Disney, which had fought a corporate acquisition in the 80’s, was considering abandoning the production of animated feature films.
Both the enthusiastic audience, critics, and the animators were taken by surprise when the long-awaited renaissance of animation began in the oldest and most conservative corporation, Disney.
Disney had a drastic change in the 80, its new chief Michael Eisner the company relocated to his feet, returning to its roots and revitalizing their studies. With great fanfare, in 1988 the study worked with Steven Spielberg to produce the animated film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, directed by Robert Zemeckis. The film was a success, and gave to the animation industry awaited push for that time. Roger Rabbit not only earned him a pile of money for Disney, but also sparked the popularity of the classic animation that continues to this day. The history of animation suddenly became an object of study (and their fans). Several directors, business legend, such as Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng were suddenly in the spotlight, being acclaimed after decades of being virtually ignored by audiences and industry professionals.
Disney continued the success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? with “The Little Mermaid”, the first of a series of animated films that seemed to recapture the magic of the golden age of Walt Disney himself. The studio invested heavily in new technology of computer animation for such purposes, but could do super-productions like “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin,” which attracted audiences that were not seen in decades, and Once provided a visual feast that has not been exceeded since the 40. The peak of the hit Disney was in 1994 when his film “The Lion King” exceeded all expectations of the study to become one of the most successful of all time. Even later Disney films as “Pocahontas,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, “Hercules,” “Mulan” and “Tarzan” was blockbusters.
Disney has also made inroads into the neglected area of the animated TV series. With the success of shows like “The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh”, “The Adventures of the Gummi Bears Disney” and “Duck adventures”, the “new” Disney made his mark in TV pictures. Through association and repetition, Disney can provide high quality animation for TV. A series of large diffusion was conducted in mid-nineties, with some critics designating “Gargoyles” as the Disney animation project for TV’s most ambitious and best done artistically. The soundtracks of each of these animated films were an important part of its success, because Disney was including in each of these projects a loud voice from the world of music, such as Elton John (The Lion King), Luis Miguel (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), Ricky Martin (Hercules), Christina Aguilera (Mulan), Celine Dion (Beauty and the Beast), Ricardo Montaner (Aladin), Jon Secada (Pocahontas), among others.
Spielberg and animation
Spielberg and Bluth
While Disney gave new life to animation, Steven Spielberg was making his own way. Animation amateur life, Spielberg was also interested in making high quality animation, and worked with his rival, Don Bluth animation producer to produce “Fievel and the New World.” The box office success of this and Bluth’s next film, “In The Land”, Hollywood made him realize that Disney did not hold a monopoly on animated features. The other Hollywood studios resumed production of its own animated features, but still falling into the trap of trying to imitate Disney’s 1997 film Don Bluth, “Anastasia”, produced by Fox, is mentioned as the one launched the Fox Animation Studios and Disney’s rival, however, these studies failed to succeed after “Anastasia” and closed in 1999. Like most successful productions of Disney, “Anastasia” was attended by Thalia, who played the central theme of the soundtrack in its versions in Spanish, English and Portuguese.
Spielberg and Warner Bros.
Spielberg, meanwhile, switched to TV and worked with animation studio Warner Bros. to produce “The Tiny Toon Adventures,” a high quality animated series that paid homage to the great cartoons of Termite Terrace. “The Tiny Toon Adventures” had a good rating thanks to its young viewers, which inspired the Warner Bros to resurrect his dying animation studio and once again a contender in the field of animation. The Tiny Toon Steven Spielberg were continued by presenting “Animaniacs” and “Pinky and the Brain”. The latter not only attracted new viewers to Warner Bros., but also captured the attention of viewers adolescents and adults.
Ralph Bakshi, director of innovative animated films like “Fritz the Cat” and original “Lord of the Rings”, returned to animation after making a brief stop in the mid 80’s. In 1985, he teamed up with the young Canadian animator John Kricfalusi and the legendary British band “The Rolling Stones” to make an animated music video for “The Harlem Shuffle”, which was completed in early 1986. Although the music video did not talk much, he built a production team “Bakshi Animation” project continued with the short-lived but well received, “The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse.” Bakshi & Co, worked on numerous projects at the end of the 80, but the biggest project was “Cool World: a blonde between two worlds”, which premiered in 1992. The production got out of hand and ended up being severely criticized and forgotten by almost everyone.
The main reason for increasing the quality of American animation is the ability to outsource the heavy lifting to cheaper animation houses in the South and Southeast Asia gaining a large number of frames at low cost. The script, character design and storyboarding is done in American offices. The storyboard, models and color books are mailed abroad. Sometimes causes problems because no final product can be completed until the frames are mailed to the U.S.. Although budgets have been reduced, foreign productions houses are chosen per episode, or even per scene, depending on the amount of money available at that time. As a result there is a big difference in quality from one episode to another. This is particularly evident in shows like “Gargoyles” and “Batman”: The Animated Series where, sometimes, the characters seem completely different from one episode to the dismay of its directors.
In the 90’s came a new wave of animated series whose primary aim was the adults, after an absence in the genre over a decade. In 1989, “The Simpsons,” an animated short based on the “The Tracey Ullman Show,” became the first animated series in prime time since “The Flintstones” and captivated a large part of the audience. It was the first hit series for the fledgling Fox, caused little sensitivity, entering popular culture and gaining wide acceptance. In 2008, “The Simpsons” seem to show no signs of stopping, and could surpass “Gunsmoke” as the fiction program on the air longer the history of American television. In 2007 have released their first film, titled “The Simpsons: The Movie”, dubbed in Spanish and Chinese.
Ren and Stimpy
In 1991, Nickelodeon premiered “The Ren and Stimpy Show,” “Ren and Stimpy” was a quirky series run riot violated all the traditional restrictions of correct drawings of Saturday morning and instead favored the quirky style of the short the golden era. Moreover, the series creator, John Kricfalusi, who had worked as an animator during the downturn of Saturday morning, was much influenced by the classic works of Bob Clampett.
Spike & Mike
Alongside mainstream animation nineties there was a strange and experimental movement. In a short animation festival in 1989, organized by Craig Decker and Mike Gribble Spike (known as “Spike & Mike”) and originally located in San Diego. It all started with the representation of a collection of thematic short, known as the Classic Festival of Animation, in places of business meetings and trade throughout the country.
The collections were made mostly by Oscar-nominated short, works of students of the Institute of the Arts in California and experimental work of the National Film Board of Canada. The first festival included works by John Lasseter, Nick Park and Mike Judge. Judge’s work, “Frog Baseball” marked the first appearance of their franchise characters Beavis and Butthead.
However, the festival gradually became a film program called Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation and turned into an underground movement of adult humor and subject matter.
In 1994, Cartoon Network gave consent to a new series called “Space Ghost” coast to coast with a particular postmodern turn, showed live interviews with celebrities, mixed with cartoon animations original “Space Ghost.” The series made the leap with the production of Hanna-Barbera, now owned by Cartoon Network. It was the beginning of a common practice used old Hanna-Barbera characters for new productions, as the surreal “Underwater Laboratory 2021”, based on the cartoon short early 70’s “Sealab 2020.” Also, Harvey Birdman, attorney, on a mediocre superhero, Birdman which was originally the star of Birdman and Galaxy trio had become a lawyer. Its customers, like many of the characters in the series, came completely from old Hanna-Barbera characters.
In addition to large animation files old and cheap, independent animators also began to benefit from new digital technologies. An artist with sufficient technical skills could explore new styles and forms with much more freedom. The traditional animation skills of drawing and painting had given way to digital manipulation and aggressive use new techniques of animation.
Along with these new programs, the American audience, particularly in geographic areas influenced by fusion with the cultures of the Pacific coast, began to adopt Japanese cartoon, or anime, 80. This growing market for anime videos satisfy the public child and adolescent, with a large number of Japanese series translated into English. Initially access was limited to videos, but the anime as it became a mainstream found its way into the film department stores throughout the U.S.. As the animation occupies a different place in Japanese culture, including a range of issues not addressed by the American animation.
“Adult Swim” is a block of animation for adults that is issued at the start of primetime on Cartoon Network, leads the adult industry and has the latest technology in animation. Adult Swim, which originally aired on Sunday night in 2006 was in the air until 5:00 AM, and was broadcast every night except Friday. The series, which is produced exclusively for Adult Swim, as “The Brak Show,” “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” and “Tom Goes to the Mayor”, tend to be surreal and bizarre, but also considered fresh and original. Adult Swim reissued series “Futurama” and played an important role to avoid the cancellation of “Family Guy”. In addition, it also issues numerous popular Anime series such as “FLCL”, “Lupin III” and “Inuyasha.”
Other drawings for adults
Other TV stations also experimented with animation for adults. MTV has produced several animated series especially for young and adult audiences, “Liquid Television” and “Beavis and Butthead”. Even USA Network program found a cult following with his “Duckman show”. But the adult animated series of the 90 most successful was “South Park” which premiered in 1996 as a cartoon pirate on the Internet.
The more fast-paced animation and disturbingly clandestine saw the light, the more dominant force in television animation was, led to an increasingly frenetic territory and perhaps eschatological, for example in “The Tick and Duckman.”
In 2005, adult animation pioneer Ralph Bakshi said he would work on another film, “The Last Days of Coney Island” which he would finance and produce independently.
The decline of the Saturday Morning
After spending nearly a coma for over two decades, the American animation industry experienced a sudden growth in the 90. Several new studies appeared keen to take risks, and found a large number of markets to sell their talent. Along with the animated TV series, the animation used in television commercials, video games and music videos. The small animation studios challenged “Hanna-Barbera Productions” in the market for TV animation.
In fact, Hanna-Barbera could not compete with the new varieties of animation on the market. During the time that dominated the entire spectrum of pictures of the Saturday morning Hanna-Barbera had virtually no competition, causing a deterioration in the quality of its series. In the 90’s, the study could only offer fried as “A Pup Named Scooby-Doo” and “Tom and Jerry Kids Show” to compete with “Fox Kids” and the new “WB Television Network” from Warner Bros. Hanna-Barbera stayed behind and found himself completely bought by Turner Broadcasting.
Hanna-Barbera not only had problems adapting to the changes that are spread all over the TV. The “Big Three” networks (ABC, NBC and CBS) found its loyal audience being eroded by competition from new channels, including new strains of “Cable TV” as Nickelodeon, Disney Channel and Cartoon Network. Video games and movies available on video also helped change the market, to the point that for a time gave NBC cartoons altogether. The ABC was bought by Disney, and Disney turned the grill on Saturday in a series of Disney animated productions.
While the series animated in large networks seemed mediocre, the cable television cartoon achieved several successes. Nickelodeon did see light cult hits like “Doug,” “Rugrats,” “Ren and Stimpy,” “Rocko’s Modern Life,” “SpongeBob,” “Invader Zim” and “The Fairly OddParents.” Meanwhile, a new owner of Hanna-Barbera, Time Warner, the study focused on the creation of new drawings for the Cartoon Network. Hanna-Barbera was an influx of fresh blood and a new generation of drawings of Hanna-Barbera cartoon was born as “Dexter’s Laboratory,” “Johnny Bravo”, “Cow and Chicken”, “Powerpuff Girls” and ” Courage the Cowardly Dog. “
Still, each new piece of animation was not a gold mine. The Disney animated films began to suffer in quality to late 1990, after the producer Jeff Katzenberg left the studio and team up with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen to form DreamWorks. Also, several animated films were released in the 90 trying to imitate the success of Disney, but as in the Years 1930 and 1940, the animations of 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros could not catch a considerable market segment Disney movies that had been dominant. In particular, Warner Bros, had a string of failures “Cats Do not Dance”, “The Magic Sword” and “The Iron Giant” (the latter being praised by critics and audiences, but virtually being ignored by most the public) died at the box office. Warner Bros. also tried to recreate the success of “Roger Rabbit” to “Space Jam”, an attempt to combine the popularity of Bugs Bunny with basketball superstar Michael Jordan.
In addition, the market trend of children continued during the 90’s, almost as ubiquitous as a decade earlier. Two major events dominated toy many children’s programs in the afternoons of the weekend: “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” in the mid-90 and “Pokemon” from the latter half of the 90’s to mid Years 2000. Until the animation suffered another revival in the 2000s, a great deal (and many dollars spent) continued to spend on merchandising.
The growth of computer animation
Yet another wild card is added to this crowded and competitive atmosphere with the emergence of a new wave of “Computer Animation”. The decade of the 90 experienced an exponential improvement in the use of computers to enhance animated sequences and special effects. This new form of entertainment soon dominated the world of special effects in Hollywood (the film “Terminator 2”: “The Judgement” and “Jurassic Park” included impressive computer-animated sequences), and was only a matter of time to find a film produced entirely with computers.
Once again it was Disney who led this area. Disney animators had introduced computer-generated sequences gently in his movies, as in early 1991 in “Beauty and the Beast.” A computer-generated magic carpet played a significant role in “Aladdin.” In 1995, Disney produced with Pixar “Toy Story”, the first completely computer generated film. The film was a huge success and created a new movement, other studies investigated produce their own computer-animated films (CGI).
Perhaps because it first developed as a new method of creating special effects, computer animation was not seen as a form of “children’s entertainment.” After decades as related but separate industries, the line between animation and special effects are eliminated by the popularization of computer special effects, to the extent that the use of computers in Hollywood movies has become a natural. The best special effects are often so subtle they go completely unnoticed. The winner of the Oscar for best special effects with “Forrest Gump” (1994) relied heavily on computer special effects to create the illusion of realism, to the extent that the actor Tom Hanks was seen shaking hands with U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The movie “Titanic” used computer graphics to bring each scene in three hours, which produced a level of realism that helped the film itself to become the biggest movie box office tax collection so far.
The computer animation has also made forays into television. The series of Saturday morning “ReBoot” gained much popularity among adults, this was the first of many CGI series like “Beast Wars,” “War Planets” and “Roughnecks”. The quality of computer animation has improved considerably with each new series. Many non-animated TV series (especially science fiction “Babylon 5”) invested heavily in CGI production, producing special effects of a higher quality of its predecessors could dream at a relatively low cost.
Other studies with Disney tried their luck with computer-animated films and discovered their weaknesses to the monopoly that was putting animated Disney box office successes. While DreamWorks with “Antz” and “Small Soldiers” paled in comparison with the productions of Disney-Pixar’s “Bug” and “Toy Story 2”, finally got a big hit numbers with “Shrek” in 2001. “Shrek” was a huge box office success, attracting the public on the production and mastering summer of that year, “Atlantis”. Even 20th Century Fox pulled the oil when it conducted a CGI animated film in early 2002 entitled “Ice Age”. Not all studies were successful at the box office with computer animation, Paramount with “The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius” released in 2001 they did so well at the box office, but received a nomination from the Academy and later found success with the television series based on the film which was awarded the following year.
But the real star of the CGI revolution seemed to be Pixar. Even before “Toy Story” The study made a name producing amazing animation shorts (his short “Tin Toy” won an Oscar) and when Disney tried to create a CGI film on its own without Pixar (“Dinosaur”) the result was notably disastrous.
Despite this success, the computer animation continues to rely on characters drawn and stylized. In 2001, living first attempt to create a world completely animated using “human actors” digital “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within,” which found a moderate critical acclaim but did good box office.
The CGI special effects increased to such an extent that in 2002 science fiction film “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” was considered by its director, George Lucas, as the first animated film that used real actors. In fact, the CGI effects have become so common that it is difficult to distinguish computer-animated real life. A growing number of films begin using completely computer created characters interact on screen with real parts, as Jar Binks in “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” Gollum in “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” and the main character in “Hulk.” While computer-generated characters have become acceptable actors, fully animated movies with virtual actors seem to lack a few years.
Disney seemed ready to lead the decline in hand-drawn animation, despite the box office success of “Lilo & Stitch”, the failure of its hyped summer “Treasure Planet” seemed to assure that there would be further reductions in the study of Disney animation. The loss was most damaging to Disney in 2002 when the Oscar for Best Animated Film went to the artist (by hand) by Hayao Miyazaki, “Spirited Away” Disney inflicting a second defeat followed the Academy Awards.
Disney settled all their desks and Dreamworks Animation also announced it would abandon the traditional drawn animation and focus exclusively on computer-generated productions from 2003 onwards. While frame traditional animation is likely to remain supported by the TV cartoon and TV ads in the near future. The schools of animation history believe that “the era of classic American design,” which began with the Walt Disney film “Snow White” is about to end. Others disagree, pointing a moderate success of traditionally animated film “Brother Bear” and the fact that Pixar has announced it will produce traditional animation films in their own attempt to revive this art form.
In 2004, he premiered the movie “Sky Captain” and “The world of tomorrow.” Note that the entire film was shot against a blue screen with the background completely computer generated and all were real actors. Robert Zemeckis film “Polar Express” starring Tom Hanks with five characters is done entirely with CGI animation, but uses motion capture technology to animate the characters.
In July 2005, Disney announced it would close their studies in Australia in 2006. That study, responsible for video sequels like “The Lion King III” was the last bastion of hand-Disney artists. However in 2006, Pixar creative chief John Lasseter, told Time magazine that could restore traditional animation unit of Disney, saying that “of all studies should be doing 2-D animation, it should be Disney.”
In December 2009, the last great animated film that has gathered huge profits at the box office is “Avatar” from 20th Century Fox, directed by James Cameron, has received high praise for the quality of special effects are really impressive.
The animation has become so widely accepted that at the beginning of the XXI Century (2001), the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences introduced the Oscar for best animated film. The two main rivals for the first year of this award were two CGI films: “Shrek” from DreamWorks and “Monsters Inc.” Disney-Pixar. The award was for “Shrek.” However, there were complaints that the award seemed to be geared more toward family movies to animated films, “The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius” was the third nominee, not the innovative and critically acclaimed adult film “Waking Life” or visually innovative “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.” Hayao Miyazaki’s critically acclaimed “Spirited Away” won in 2002 and the Disney-Pixar film “Finding Nemo” received the award in 2003.
The Annie Awards were presented at the Los Angeles branch of the International Animation Society (Association international du film d’animation or ASIFA), known as ASIFA-Hollywood, the month of February competing animation for film and TV.
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