Roger L. Simon

Death of the Hand-Drawn

Oddly related to the passing of Barbara Bel Geddes is this WSJ piece of two days ago on the end of hand-drawn animation at Disney. DisneyToon Studios Australia, its last bastion, will be shutting down next year. For most of us, it’s not to difficult to see the difference between digital work, terrific as it can be in films like The Incredibles, and the hand-drawn leaves of Bambi. This is one of the reasons some of us are so in awe of artists like Miyakzaki who are carrying on this tradition. On my most recent trip to Japan, I accidentally visited a small museum where his individual animation drawings for Spirited Away were displayed in giant stacks. It’s hard to conceive one human being could accomplish so much (maybe his day lasts sixty hours).

Why is this related to Bel Geddes? Of course there are many reasons for the cinema’s decline, but sometimes I worry that, for all its vaunted ease of use and accessibility, the digital revolution isn’t a part of the increasing disappearance of film as an art or even as a significant cultural institution. Others vastly more accomplished evidently have the same fear. John Canemaker concluded his WSJ article this way:

As Disney’s great admirer Steven Spielberg recently said, “If storytelling becomes a byproduct of the digital revolution, then the medium itself is corrupted.”