Sara's Column: Making a case for hand-drawn animation

As an art buff, I like to keep up with what’s going on at Nashville’s Frist Center for the Visual Arts.
Jun 20, 2014
Sara McManamy-Johnson

As an art buff, I like to keep up with what’s going on at Nashville’s Frist Center for the Visual Arts.

I’m not always into all of their exhibits, but I recently learned about a new one that piqued my interest.

“Watch Me Move: The Animation Show” features more than 100 animated films produced during the last 120 years, showing the development of the genre. 

It looks at something that’s become so much a part of our culture that few of us probably even stop to think about it or the rapid changes it’s undergone in the last two decades.

I had mixed reactions the first time I saw Pixar’s feature film, “Toy Story,” in 1995.

I was impressed with the technology that went into it – the movie was the first animated film that was fully computer-generated – but it seemed plastic to me.

Part of the beauty of animation is that it’s not a perfect representation of reality; it’s art in motion. 

One of my favorite animated feature films, “The Last Unicorn,” bears little resemblance to reality (in addition to the whole unicorn and demon thing). The lines for the figures are more elongated and spare than you would find in reality, but that’s fine. It gives the viewers more of a connection with the artists drawing the scenes.

You can look at the scenes and imagine their progression from something as simple as an ink drawing to a complex motion picture.

Computer-generated animation, especially the hyper-realistic style, loses that stamp of character and connection with the artists.

As more and more fully computer-generated animated films have come out, they’ve become more the standard than the novelty. 

Last year, in fact, Disney – known probably more for its animated films than for anything else – announced that the company had no plans to continue hand-drawing animated films. 

I can’t help but think filmmakers are missing the boat on this one. 

As amazing as the animation is in many of the CGI movies and as cost-effective as the method likely is, I also think there’s still a strong market in the U.S. for hand-drawn animated films.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that as U.S. animated filmmakers turned increasingly to CGI, Japanese anime – which includes hand-drawn episodic series as well as feature films – became increasingly popular in America. 

As much as they like cool special effects and slick productions, people still like cartoons.

And you don’t have to be an art aficionado to appreciate cartoons, either. 

Let’s face it, nostalgia is a pretty powerful force, and most people have fond childhood memories of watching their favorite cartoons.

We were raised to love cartoons.

Sara McManamy-Johnson is the digital content director for The Lebanon Democrat and Wilson County News. Email her at or follow her on Twitter @wilsoncoreports. 


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