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Cartoon past, cartoon future?

Two views of animation facing off this summer

Atlantis
The studio calls the blending of Mike Mignola's flat graphic style with Disney's traditional animation "Dis-nola"  


From Paul Vercammen
CNN Showbiz Today Reports

(CNN) -- If you're a fan of animated films, this summer could be the Golden Age of the art form, a convergence of old and new, art and technology.

One style of animation -- two-dimensional hand-drawn -- could be heading the way of the dinosaur, but it's still raking in bucks at the box office with films such as Disney's "Atlantis: The Lost Empire."

And another style -- three-dimensional computer animation -- has a new box office hero in "Shrek," who took the computer-animated torch from the "Toy Story" series.

"Shrek," in fact, marks a stepping away from the old guard in more ways than one. It was created by DreamWorks, which has set its sights on overtaking Disney as animation's leading studio.

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Former Disney head Jeffrey Katzenberg led the DreamWorks effort on "Shrek," which is credited with displaying lifelike emotions and expressions through computer recreations of actual facial muscles.

"This is state-of-the-art for right now," said Andrew Adamson, who co-directed "Shrek." "As Jeffrey likes to put it, it's probably state-of-the-art for two and a half minutes, until the next film comes out that's state-of-the-art."

Other groundbreaking films due this summer: Sony's photo-realistic "Final Fantasy" and Warner Brother's mix of live action, animation and computer animation, "Osmosis Jones."

Shrek
"Shrek" is an example of how DreamWorks is competing with Disney using three-dimensional computer animation  

Drawing talent still necessary

On the flip side, Jules Engel, the founding director of the California Institute of the Arts and a contributor to Disney classics such as "Fantasia" and "Bambi," argues that true animated art should not be discolored by too many digital effects.

"If you take a master painter -- Degas or Picasso or any of those people -- you're looking at art and this to a degree could disappear if everything goes onto a computer," said Engel, 85.

Engel says you still have to know how to draw to make it in animation.

"Generally, you still have to do a storyboard, and a storyboard is all drawing," he said.

However, in this business there is the constant movement forward toward new technologies. And some, including Anne Thompson of Premiere Magazine, feel two-dimensional animation has finally met its match.

"I think there are cycles in the film business," explained Thompson. "Two-dimensional animation is coming to an end in terms of what was the height of Disney storytelling."

But for now, there's this summer, with a mix of styles of the past and future.





RELATED STORY:
RELATED SITES:
• Atlantis: The Lost Empire - Official Homepage
• 'Shrek' - official site
• Walt Disney Pictures - The Official Homepage
• DreamWorks SKG

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