Originally created 11/04/04

Quality of pixels outshines ink of animated films



The Pixar/Disney computer animated spectacular The Incredibles' Friday release in no way represents the final nail in the coffin of traditional animation.

No, that baby was driven long ago. Instead, The Incredibles represents the last shovel of dirt turned onto hand-drawn animation's long-dead body, and perhaps the planting of a few commemorative daisies.

Truth is, computer animation offers a wider palette of creative possibilities without the expenditure of man hours and money required for a traditionally animated film. Although there will always be a place for such classics as Pinocchio and Snow White, the future has arrived, and it involves pixels rather than paint. Here's a few of the outstanding movies responsible for kicking traditional animation in the can:

TOY STORY 2 (1999): While Toy Story ushered in the golden age of computer animation, its sequel mastered the craft. Not only did this movie up the ante in terms of technical acumen and visual pop, but the filmmakers operated under an assumption that how the movie looked was no more important than telling a great, imaginative and appealing tale. The result is a classic skewering of pop-culture assumptions that manages to maintain a sense of childhood nostalgia.

ANTZ (1998): This film deserves kudos for reducing the heaviest of Hollywood talent to insignificant ants. Set in a totalitarian ant hill, this film features a Woody Allen-inspired and voiced ant who becomes an inadvertent hero. Other above-the-title talent involved include Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, Dan Aykroyd, Jennifer Lopez and Gene Hackman.

SHREK (2001): Many of the gags already seem hopelessly dated - a Matrix riff, for example - but this movie succeeds because it is timeless. Using fairy tales as a loose lattice for bold and sometimes bawdy humor, Shrek is that rarest of movies, one with true universal appeal.

TRON (1982): The granddaddy of all computer animated efforts, Tron still packs a visual punch. While technical jargon espoused in the film seems ancient, the basic premise, a man trapped in a computerized world, remains interesting and even pertinent.

MONSTERS, INC. (2001): A crown jewel among computer-animated features, Monsters, Inc. accepts the challenge of rendering fur, scales, slime and skin in a photorealistic way, all while keeping the action and laughs moving. It's a testament to the technical skill involved in making this movie that the first time monster Sully's fur ruffles in the breeze, it's a jaw-dropper. The second time, it's accepted as fact.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.