Is 2D animation still relevant?

In my last blog post I talked about techniques and costs of 2D and 3D animation process. And compared the pros and cons. Now I want to look at future trends and if you should abandon 2D.

First of all, none of these two is better than the other. It depends on own preference and what look you want to achieve. Both techniques need different skills. 2D/hand-drawn animation requires a larger amount of illustrations, because every frame needs to be drawn, while 3D needs to be modeled and rigged so it can be manipulated. 3D doesn’t require drawing skills.

Is 2D animation dead?

Short example from the computer science world:
Machine Learning for example is so extremely popular nowadays because some companies like Google and Facebook decided to focus on that an put all their resources and money in this field. Other companies felt obliged to do the same, knowing they are not able to compete, but they needed to follow along in order to stay relevant.

The same has happened in animation. When companies like Pixar and DreamWorks started to do 3D and Disney decided to abandon 2D animation, that highly influenced the market. Companies push each other to a point where the technology and production costs are getting lower and lower with increasing demand. Even in live-action shows and movies, it is nowadays cheaper and faster to just use CGI. If you put a lot of money in the infrastructure, invest in render farms and dozens of PC workstations you are going to use them.

2D is a form of art it can still be profitably done. Since the early 2000s where many western studios stopped with the hand-drawn style, Japanese anime has become a leader for 2D animation. They value the tradition and the hand craft. ‘Your Name’ or its original title ‘Kimi No Na Wa’ made over $350 million world wide. This movie is a work of art. With its original story and incredible visuals it managed to attract a large audience.

Your Name – ©CoMix Wave Films Inc.

Fewer artists want to go for 2D animation because they don’t think it is worth it and more money is being made with 3D movies and video games.
But that doesn’t mean there is no demand for 2D anymore.

Future Trends

The demand for 2D/hand-drawn may not be in films but there is still a huge market in TV series, commercials, mobile games. Streaming services produce their own animated shows for kids and adults. Social networks like Youtube and Instagram are filled with independent creators. Also nowadays everything is getting niched down and more indie productions come out.

In the gaming industry we see how the technology evolves (ray-casting, better GPUs) and the trend is moving towards photorealism.
The technology is also evolving in animation but in a different direction. With the new possibilities 2D can also profit from that, like we saw in the movie ‘Klaus’.
I think the future is a mixture of 2D and 3D, taking the best of both worlds.