Aardman Animations

Movie magic hinges on more than dazzling use of technology, study finds

Image credit: Dreamstime

A study by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences has found that despite huge technological advances in animation and other filmmaking techniques, using the latest technology does not guarantee movie magic.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, released in 1937, was the first animated feature-length film. Each frame of Snow White was painted painstakingly by hand to create the fantastical world of the Brother Grimm’s fairy tale.

Since 1937, animation technology has advanced beyond recognition, with most animated films using computer-generated images to bring colourful fictional worlds to life.

However, according to a study in Organization Science, ‘Drawing Snow White and Animating Buzz Lightyear: Technological Toolkits Characteristics and Creativity in Cross-Disciplinary Teams’, a film needs more than dazzling animation technology to impress.

The author behind this study, Professor Pier Vittorio Mannucci of the London Business School, analysed 218 animated films produced in the US from 1978 to 2012, considering the types of animation employed in the films and the technological tools that members of the production team exploited to bring the films together. Two expert critics independently rated the films on a scale for creativity.

Mannucci found that the most creative production teams were not those with the most cutting-edge technological tools, but those whose members collectively possessed a wide range of technical expertise.

“Teams that utilise a new technology as their primary animation tool only found creative success when it was combined with more commonly or widely used tools,” said Mannucci.

“An example of this was the team that created Toy Story, who achieved great success by pairing computer graphics, which at the time was a new tool for animators, with more traditional cel [hand-drawn] animation.”

Despite the prevalence of computer-generated images in animated films today – particularly in Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks films – there has been a continued interest in traditional animation techniques.

Despite its relative rarity, clay animation remains popular thanks to the work of Wallace and Gromit animators Aardman Animations, while the animated film Loving Vincent - compromised of 65,000 frames painted in oils in the style of Vincent van Gogh - was critically acclaimed and nominated for a 2018 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

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