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Stylized CG animation will define the 2020s

Photo by Kyle St. JohnThe technology for computer-generated animation hasn’t been around for a very long time, only becoming commonplace in the late ʼ90s and early 2000s with the rise of Pixar and its main competitor, DreamWorks Animation.

As the years have gone by, both Pixar and DreamWorks along with other CG animation studios, have evolved their craft with the advent of the ever-increasing technological scale of the 2000s and 2010s. Today, while technological advancements are still being made, it has gotten to the point where animation has lost its luster compared to previous films that have touted the same achievements.

However, the end of the 2010s sparked the rise of what could be the next shift in how we look at major Hollywood CG animated movies. Major animation studios have moved focus towards individualized and experimental stylized animation that varies from movie to movie.

The first stage of this shift came with films focusing on being as faithful as possible towards recreating the style of their source material in a 3D space, even if the original work wasn’t meant to be seen in 3D. The result was a style that combined 2D styling and 3D animation, as seen in films such as “The Peanuts Movie” and “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie.”

However, the film that truly opened the floodgates for this stylized approach in terms of cost efficiency and critical and financial success was 2018’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” This film showed the world just how much more you could do with CG animation, with a unique and highly detailed animation style that stood out from the trends in studio CG animation. It also helps that the film’s $90 million budget was only half of the major CG animated films of the same year (“The Incredibles 2” had a $200 million budget and “Ralph Breaks the Internet” had $175 million).

This leads us to today, where more studios are opting to experiment with their animation styles to create distinctive CG visuals on-screen, branching out past style recreations and creating original styles. “I Lost My Body” and “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” are just some of the films we have to show for this, and even Pixar and DreamWorks have experimented with their animation styles, producing films like “Turning Red” and the newly-released “The Bad Guys.” 

The future is showing that this wave of stylized CG animation is only just beginning, and with films such as “Puss in Boots 2,” “Nimona” and sequels to “Into the Spider-Verse” on the radar, this new animation will not be going away anytime soon.

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