Animal Logic approaches each film it works on as a new opportunity to evolve artistically and technically. “We first consider the story and then we look for the best way to represent it visually,” according to Johnston. “This has allowed each of the films we’ve worked on to have their own distinctive look.” This includes the Warner-distributed Legend of the Guardians: Owls of Ga’hoole, with richly detailed feathers and foliage, Sony’s Peter Rabbit films with realistic rabbits integrated with live-action plates, and Warner’s LEGO Movie franchise with their unique stop-motion style. “Even within the LEGO universe, each film explored what elements of real world or stop-motion would best suit the requirements of the film. And DC League of Super-Pets has a whole new look of its own, too.”
ANIME CONTINUES TO GROW AND EXPAND
Anime accounts for a growing portion of the global animation business. Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train and Spirited Away have globally earned over $503 million and $396 million at the box office, respectively, and 20-odd titles are nearing or above $100 million, while innumerable series and movie sequels contribute to large totals for anime franchises.
Netflix has invested heavily in anime acquisitions and original programming. Hulu also has a large selection. Sony owns Crunchyroll, which, as of March, had more than 40,000 episodes, or 16,000+ hours, of a wide range of anime, according to Rahul Purini, Crunchyroll Chief Operating Officer. Looking back, he observes, “Animation in the West has primarily focused on children or comedy and the growth of anime and video games has helped create a generation that is much more comfortable with adult dramatic animation.” He adds, “Anime is not new, but it has grown exponentially over the last decade or so with the expansion of streaming platforms and expanded international rights and distribution. Many don’t understand that anime is not a genre in itself – there are many styles within it, like fantasy, action, adventure, comedy and more. And as investment in the anime ecosystem and industry increases, you will see the storytelling growing and expanding in all directions.”
NEW TECHNOLOGY UNLEASHES CREATIVITY
Pixar’s Toy Story (1995) was the first feature-length computer-animated film. This year, Pixar will launch its latest spinoff, Lightyear, about which Ryu comments, “It’s interesting, in terms of software, that we’re actually using lots of spiritually similar stuff! We are still using RenderMan, and our animation system Presto shares DNA with our old ‘Menv’ system used in those days. Of course, RenderMan and Presto are light years ahead of what they were in those days. We’re in a different universe in terms of the scale and complexity of what we can do. And looking at where we’re at now vs. where we were, it’s cool to see the sea change in terms of artist interactivity and how far we’ve come in terms of reducing the technical barriers to entry. Both of these are showing up on the screen in terms of the complexity and quality of what we’re making.”