The Draws of Animation (Or: Looking Over Your Shoulder to Move Forward)

Going back to when I was a whee-lil lad, I loved cartoons, comic books and video games. None of that has really changed, now that I’ve passed the “30” bump, but my life has gotten more complicated and involved, as tends to happen when one reaches adulthood. I’m still amazed by the progression of animation and special effects and appreciate the hard work that goes into it.

As the animation gets more fancy, the explosions more explosiony, the dollar signs sky rocket. Triple-A video game titles are looking to be more of a rarity, as high-end game costs have gone into “Hollywood movie Blockbuster” range. Grand Theft Auto V, just released last week, apparently cost more than $200 mil. to make, making it the most expensive game ever. That’s a lotta Hot Pockets.

Luckily, with all of the impressive CGI shows, movies and 3D model-driven gaming out there, the 2D/ hand-drawn style still shines. Sure, the shows are a lot more stylized now and many from my generation hrrumph at some of the reimaginings of our childhood nostalgia gone arye, but I still like a lot of it.

Animated shows like “Gravity Falls” are good demonstrations in how animated entertainment, even hand drawn, has evolved. There are intricate and dark messages in that show that is best described as a goofier, animated Twin Peeks. Even CGI animation has shown that their stories aren’t some of the best in animated history, but in cinematic history.

2D in gaming comes in many forms. Those few who still play Japanese fighting games are familiar with the intricate hand drawn sprites they control to beat the ever living [snot] out of their opponent. A lot of that has been modernized (3D-fied *snort*), but we still find the ones that continue to be made the old hand-drawn way.

In the indi scene, developers are blessed with having access to cheap game engines and dev-kits to work with. Some of the best, most innovative, games these days are lower-budget projects. Even those who work to build their own engines, like those at The Behemoth (Alien Hominid, Castle Crashers) and Supergiant Games (Bastion) show us that a good way to move forward in the industry is to look over your shoulders at the past. They provide mixes of both new and old mechanics and concepts that show a game doesn’t need to be either all 8-bit pixels, or all demanding 3D imaging.

I remember playing Rayman when I was a mentally troubled teen on my Game Boy Advance, and it was considered a classic even then! Now, seeing and playing Rayman Legends takes me back to that time, not just because it’s the 2nd modernization to send the limbless hero back to their sidescrolling roots, but because of how well everything (well, most things) are hand drawn and animate.

It feels like all of these years later, people are starting to see the potential of story telling through all kinds of animation. Even the Ninja Turtles have been given depth and character I never imagined them having. A lot of it takes maybe too many liberties from the power of “nostalgia”, but the tech, growing knowledge, and what they do never ceases to amaze me.

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