Speaking with “Monsters University” producer Kori Rae the other day, the conversation turned to the possibility that digital animation may have hit some sort of plateau. While I don’t expect Pixar to stop pushing the boundaries, it was nevertheless surprising to hear Rae say the following: “We are getting to a point where photo-real is pretty close to possible in computer animation. But is that what we want? Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should. But with technology, there are swings in both directions, right? I can definitely see other forms of animation — hand-drawn, stop-motion — coming back. Creatively, people always want what’s not there. So if everybody’s doing computer animation, there’s gonna be a hole, something that people are craving.”
Hand-drawn animation is still very much alive in cinema and a welcome alternative to the digital diet. You just have to look beyond the ad-driven dominance of the U.S. studios; Japan embraces the medium fully in films by Studio Ghibli and plenty more, while France has seen Sylvain Chomet (“The Illusionist”) and codirectors Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud (“Persepolis”) succeed with hand-drawn.