Is The 2-D Animation Industry Doomed?

Jaida Topuzoglu, Writer

With an increase in hard-hitting box office films from the likes of Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, and many others, comes a boom in the animation industry. However, this comes at a price, thanks to the increase in specifically 3-D animated films dominating the industry.

Prior to the early 2000’s, film industries primarily focused on 2-D Animation because 3-D Animation took too much time and effort to produce within the timespan between the movie-making process and the actual release date. However, this all changed when Pixar released the first fully CGI-animated film in 1995, Toy Story.

Toy Story was not only a huge success in theaters, but also a huge milestone for animation. At that time, it seemed as if a full-length movie animated without the use of traditional animation strategies would be impossible considering the lack of proper technological equipment to finish such a task.

Alas, Pixar proved everyone wrong by releasing the movie in 1995, breaking records during its first week of release. With this movie alone, Pixar not only brought themselves into the spotlight, but also paved the way for the incoming boom in demand for 3-D animated movies. 

However, with this demand for CGI films and technology specialized for said films becoming more popular, this comes at the price of traditionally animated movies being released in theaters. Since the 90’s, all of the top animation companies have been producing all 3-D animated movies year after year.

In fact, the last Walt Disney Animation movie traditionally animated came out almost 11 years ago, which was The Princess and The Frog, in 2009; and there’s no sign of a Disney-produced 2-D animated film coming out anytime soon. 

This leaves us with one question, is the 2-D Animation industry gone forever? Of course, only time will tell. Until that time comes, all we can do is speculate. However, I suspect that within the next few years, the nostalgic feel of 2-D Animation will be in high demand. 

Each time a decade ends, a strong feeling of nostalgia is present, where people far and wide look back on the successes and failures that encompassed during that time period. 

Within the past year, all of the top performing animation companies had produced films that have come to overall lack-luster content and reviews. Looking at the average Rotten Tomatoes score of the top ten movies from the past year, big-budget companies have been producing films with a mediocre score of 64%. When compared to 2009, the top ten movies of that year had about an 80% average, showing a downgrade in the quality of computer animation films story-wise. 

Not to mention, 8/10 of the movies used in the calculations above were either a sequel to a previous franchise, or an adaptation of one. This lack of originality piling up will eventually cause an overall decrease in the demand for CGI films, in which I believe will start a new renaissance era for the 2-D animation industry. 

When computer animation films first hit the big screen, it was seen as a never before seen technological advancement that could not only enhance, but improve the filmmaking process forever. However, with the onslaught of sequels and adaptations coming to fruition, movies like The Lion King (2019) aren’t up to par with today’s standards. It seems unless companies at the likes of Disney, Sony, and DreamWorks don’t start to create original stories again, the cash-grab sequels of today will forever be in theatres.

However, this doesn’t mean there isn’t hope for traditional animation. “Indie” studios such as Laika, the studio behind underrated gems such as Corpse Bride and Coraline, have said in interviews they want to bring traditional 2-D animation back to the big screens. With time, their film library has increased in quality and popularity, indicating the studio’s successful attempts to make traditional animation popular again. 

We can only guess as to what’s to come for the next generation regarding animated films. Although my theories are based on trends in animation and mathematical calculation, there’s always the chance that there could be an incredible set of new originals to come out within the next few years. Only time can tell, but if the trends that have been occurring in the 2010’s continue, there’s a high chance the top animation companies might have to try something new visual wise.