“In the old days, we did everything by hand, and it was better,” says someone every day about everything (and especially advocating for cel animation).
It’s true, most things were done by hand in the old days. And now modern technologies make it easier for us to be more efficient and save time. This doesn’t always mean that the old way was better. Computers make a lot of things better. Sometimes, they make things more exact in a good way. On the other hand, sometimes computers make things look less human and they lose the personal touch.
This can certainly be seen in animation sometimes. Motion graphics artists use computers masterfully to create stunning and original works every day, but there is something about hand-drawn cel animation that just requires a human touch.
Today, we’ll take a look at some beautiful cel style animations created by humans, with a little help from computers too.
Cel Animations We Love
1. Motionpoems – Working Order (Gentleman Scholar)
The talented team at Gentleman Scholar created this lush, hand-painted animation for the Motionpoems Foundation back in 2012, and they put their entire heart and soul into it.
Gentleman Scholar mixed 2D and 3D animation, with broad brush strokes overlaid to paint this moving story. The result is a flowing dream that blurs the lines between fine art and animation.
2. Goodbooks – Metamorphosis (Buck)
Buck took a slightly different approach to this piece for Goodbooks. Here they took on a monologue by the eccentric Hunter S. Thompson, and they brought it to life in beautiful and bizarre fashion.
In their own words “It is not very often that we have the opportunity to create a graphic equivalent of a drug-fueled rant bringing all of our collective skills to bear.” Instead of painting their twisted storybook, Buck opted to design a black ink pen approach, with touches of color popping in for extra spunk. The lines blur between straight-ahead image representation, and twisted dream states, for a flowing roller coaster of an animation.
3. Stickboy (Giant Ant)
The always original thinkers at Giant Ant had a unique opportunity to create this long form piece to back up Shane Koyczan and the Vancouver Opera. Putting graphics to a very human spoken-word piece on bullying, they opted to be as human as possible in the animation approach.
Like some of the pieces above, they mixed 2D and 3D elements but then topped it all with layers of hand-drawn textures, in varying shades of grey to depict the world of the bullied child. Hints of red pop through to hint at the sparks of emotion and anger in the story.
Then the whole thing is animated with the textures moving in an almost stop-motion style, giving the visuals room to breathe and a sense of slowed time.
4. Works With Nest (Oddfellows)
Oddfellows are a team of designers, illustrators, and animators who are no strangers to cel animation. They incorporate cel animation into much of their work in a way that defines the look of the studio.
For this piece for Nest, they had the unique task of building a compelling cel animation and merging it with live-action elements in a way that wouldn’t lose the “hand made” feel. And they did just that.
Oddfellows starts with a well-designed aesthetic of mid-century style graphic design elements, including a family with pets. They built an entire house scene and then subtly placed the live-action elements into their animated landscape without losing focus of the story they were telling.
5. Dana Williams – One More (Caleb Wood)
Who knew watching plants grow could be so mesmerizing? Apparently Caleb Wood did.
In this music video for One More by Dana Williams, Wood builds a beautiful backdrop of almost psychedelic textures that dance over subtle flower animations, perfectly timed to the rhythm of the music.
Wood uses a combination of digitally drawn elements with hand-drawn and captured elements to build this “simple” yet lush look that will leave the viewer hypnotized throughout.
6. Güd : Güd Happens (Buck)
Buck are masters at cel animation, among other things. So, it makes sense to highlight another of their great cel animations that use a totally different approach.
As opposed to the dreamlike ink flows of their Goodbooks spot, for Güd, Buck incorporates a quirky illustrated design that plays out and builds up through a stop motion style cel animation, where a world of grey transforms into a world of fun colors and textures.
Elements that appear simple and straightforward, take on new life as the camera whirls around in 3D space and funky textures start appearing everywhere throughout.
This is so much fun to watch that you almost forget it’s a commercial.
7. Truffle Pig (Gentleman Scholar)
Truffle Pig is another beautiful, hand-painted animation experience by the talented folks at Gentleman Scholar. As usual, they masterfully weave storytelling and animation through their beautiful brushstrokes and textures.
But what makes Truffle Pig unique is that it’s built as a VR experience for Oculus Rift. This means, that now viewers will have a chance to enter into the evolving art and painting of the Gentleman Scholar in new and interesting ways. They can become part of the art.
It seems fitting that the worlds are coming together where old techniques are lifted up and brought into our new worlds to create even better and more immersive experiences like this.
Just because we used to do things one way and we start doing them another, doesn’t mean the old way is no good anymore. All of the stunning pieces show just how beautiful hand-drawn cel animation can be and how personal touches can make all the difference in telling a story.