It’s pretty safe to say that Disney is WAY fucking older than me, but I am not one of those people that won’t watch movies – or doesn’t like anything – that came before ‘my time’. That being said, there is a very special place in my blackened heart for Disney Cel animated films. What is cel animation? Well, lemme school you for a second…
Before the advent of the computer and the breaking technologies of Pixar, animation was done entirely by hand on celluloid acetate, or Cels. Inkers would outline the characters on one side of the Cel and send it out to be painted on the reverse side – keeping the outline of the character nice and crisp. Backgrounds were painted on glass or other materials and would show through the blank Cel space. All of these elements were then gathered together and photographed – one frame at a time.
Crazy, right? But also – totally worth it!
Any Disney animated film after 1990 used a computer animation production system – or CAPS – and you can see the difference. I’m not going to delve into which style I think is better or which I prefer – instead, I’m going to tell you to breed your geek with an appreciation of Cel animated films – and here’s why:
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, 1937
Have you seen this movie? Fuck me, it’s amazing. I remember being about 7 when they re-released this movie in theaters and Mama Blitz took me to see it on the big screen. It was incredibly beautiful, and the scene on the cliffs in the rain – when the dwarves chase the witch to her doom is absolutely stunning. The hand-drawn rain and lightning is something to be admired. You don’t get that shit in today’s animation.
The Sword and the Stone, 1963
This is probably one of my favorite Disney Cel animated movies and I think it’s incredibly underrated by most people. But now that you know how Cel animation worked, the scenes in which Merlin and Madam Mim duel, transforming from creature to creature in different shapes and sizes and colors with fast animation flashes – it’s pretty fucking amazing, right? Told ya.
The Little Mermaid, 1989
The Little Mermaid was the last Disney Cel animated film. You could already begin to see a shift in the quality of hand painting, the backgrounds and the colors. But I want to draw your attention to the water. I’m sure most of you – unless you live under a fucking rock – have seen Pixar’s Finding Nemo. And, I’m sure most of you – unless you’re a fucking douche hat – were completely blown away by the uncanny valley effect of the water animation. Take a look back at the water animation of The Little Mermaid. Most specifically, the scene in which Ariel is in her cavern of collectables – the lighting, the bubbles the fluidity of it all – that shit was painted by HAND, people!
So, there you have it. Three examples – from beginning, middle and end of the Cel animated era – to have a greater appreciation for old school Disney. If you don’t believe me, watch the movies yourself. Pay close attention to the backgrounds, the lighting, the character outlines, the details in the animation and remember each frame was inked, painted and then photographed – for your viewing pleasure.
I leave you with this: Breed Geeks so that they can grow up with an appreciation for hand-made and Cel animated beauty – so they will know that not all good things come from a computer. And – if that’s not reason enough, show them the penis spire on the original The Little Mermaid box – you can use it to have the talk about the birds and the bees, or the eels and the octopus. Whatever.
5 Fucks were used in the making of this article.