If you’ve not had the chance to grace your eyes with Puss In Boots: The Last Wish, I highly recommend you do. Spectacularly written with beautiful morals of mortality, familial bonds and trust, the movie is well-worth your time. Felicitations to the narrative aside, I’m more interested in discussing the way in which it is presented. Specifically, its animation.

Dreamworks’ latest showing of their seemingly new and rising trend of liberty in animation takes form in the sequel to the now decade old Puss In Boots movie. Released just last December and sparkling with new life and inspiration, the artstyle is a scintillating combination of 3D CGI and hand-drawn paint-brush strokes to more accurately define the textures and striations of inanimate objects as well as the backgrounds.

The grass and the flowers are a mash of differing, overlapping shades of green in paintbrush strokes.

Furthermore, many fight scenes feature a drop in frames per seconds (FPS) in the animation. This refers to how many times the subject of the scene is drawn per second of animation. This was a deliberate decision to italicise the impact of movements, whilst the movements themselves remain dynamic and flamboyant enough to not be mistaken for stiffness. 

Puss is animated expressively yet rigidly, placing greater emphasis on the force of his movements rather than the fluidity.

Previously, the eminent animation studio committed themselves to a hyper-realistic style in CGI animation. Many details such as pores, fur, hair and clothing required countless artists and an innumerable amount of hours to ensure they looked as close to reality as possible. It added a minor aspect of semi-realism to their works, as in spite of the fantastical elements taking the forefront of the narrative, the almost lifelike presentation provided a level of immersion that would captivate its viewer; giving a glimpse of how the abnormal could potentially function in reality.

However, the technique of realism has been slightly overdone in the past few years. After its widespread success, animation studios around the world began adapting the technique, changing it from a miraculous breakthrough in animation to the industry standard. Though the quality of writing varied, 3D realistic animation remained constant. Minor alterations were made between movies to fit certain themes, but there was a period in which many movies failed to differentiate themselves in terms of aesthetic appearance. 

See also  Fast X Trailer Shows Vin Diesel Protecting His Family From Jason Momoa

Then, along came a spider…

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse released in December 2018 with a never-before-seen animation style. Compared to the 3D animated movies that came before it, many of the characters were lacking in detail, but made up tenfold in their animation. The movie was able to incorporate 2D animation along with its techniques into a 3D space as well as blend common comic-book tropes gracefully, many of which include…

Speed Lines: An animation technique used to emphasise swiftness of movement. These can appear as either black lines around the lineart of the moving object. In this case, the blurry background is speckled with blue lines to emphasise direction and movement, whilst the focus is placed on Miles (the one in the Spider-Man costume) and Peter B. Parker (the body Miles is hanging on).

Sudden Colour Contrast: To emphasise an abrupt shift in emotion or impact. Here, it’s used to display Spider-Man’s ‘spider sense’, lending it an unusual feel. This works, because his ‘spider-sense’ was the result of a freak accident, as are all of his superhuman abilities(Save his webs, which are custom designed by him).

Ben-Day Dots: The lighted portion on Spider-Man’s suit on the left are actually numerous small white dots. This was used as a method to display shading, depth and lighting back during the 1950-1960’s era of comic books, though in the example above its use is to display light against the red spandex. It still remains a widely-used technique today, but is relegated as a second option in lieu of more modern shading techniques such as cross-hatching or access to digital art services.

Onomatopoeia: A staple of the comic book industry, these bombastic, colourful and sometimes garishly oversized text is used to represent loud sounds from the preceding action, be it a punch, a kick or an explosion. These work to great effect in the movie, once again, to highlight an impact greater than most others.

Spider-Verse likely acted as Puss In Boots: The Last Wish’s muse, seeing as many were quick to draw similarities from both movies in terms of animation techniques. The sacrifice in frames per second during scenes to accentuate something other than fluidity stemmed originally from Spider-Verse. 

Miles (the clumsily swinging Spider-Man) is animated at 12 frames per second (FPS), which is half the standard frames per second drawn for animation at 24 FPS, resulting in a more clunky and stiffer swinging animation. This was deliberate to display Mile’s inadequacy at using his newly-acquired abilities.

See also  M3GAN: What Critics Are Saying About The Viral Horror Film

At the end of the movie, Miles joins his fellow Spider-Men in 24FPS to display his new mastery over his abilities, resulting in more fluid and smooth movements.

Similarly, Puss In Boots uses this technique of sacrificing character animation frames, though solely as a device to accentuate fight scenes rather than narrative progression. Though the latter would patently serve a greater purpose, Puss In Boots fight scenes are marvels of animation to behold.

When Prowler grabs Spider-Man and they tussle in the air, there is a brief shot of them in a purple-striated landscape. This is a common 2D animation technique used to replicate the feeling of speed known as action lines.

Similarly, in the final fight of Puss In Boots: The Last Wish, action lines are used to demonstrate the rapidity of both of the characters’ sprinting. 

However, even with 3D animated movies as a medium being the now enduring zeitgeist of the animated industry, brilliant minds still toiling away in the 2D industry are still reinventing their methods of animation, the most recent popular example being the Netflix Original animated movie, Klaus.

It would be remiss of me to speak of animated movies and not touch upon the original method used to create them. 2D animation is usually interpreted by the general public as the traditional animation style given its popularisation by Disney in their renaissance era. Films using 2D animation were few and far between in the western film industry after Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks’ shift to 3D animation. Klaus returned 2D animation with a new philosophy. 

Released in November of 2019, Klaus, at first glance, seems to postulate the visage of a 3D movie. Characters are drenched in almost ethereal lighting reminiscent of reality and the depth and shape of the characters are incredibly conspicuous. However, the characters have a level of expression and are so, for lack of a better term, animated, that to see it visually represented in an ostensibly 3D space seems surreal. That irksome feeling of never being able to define confidently the type of animation used seemed to be intentional, as the team behind Klaus revolutionised a brand new AI colouring software.

See also  11 Hot New Shows Arriving On Apple TV+ In 2023

Klaus’ rough sketches. The rapidly increasing numbers that fluctuate in and out of existence represents the amount of times the main character, Jesper, is being drawn in this scene.

Klaus originally was going to look like a standard, beautifully hand-drawn animated movie, which in of itself is already enough considering its scarcity in western animation. However, Sergio Pablos, animator and writer of Klaus, wanted to add an extra layer of quality to the project. They used a software which had an accompanying AI that would add lighting to the coloured finished composition of the 2D drawings. 

Progression shots of Klaus’ animation.

As shown here, Jesper advances from a sketch to a flatly coloured 2D drawing. This is then polished with both background and character lighting, reminiscent of depth and shadows which then lends the impression of a 3D animation. It refrains from the outgoing and eccentric styles of Puss In Boots and Spider-Verse, but its difference and ingenuity from the standard 3D movie tropes leave it distinguished, both in terms of appearance and quality. It keeps the fluidity of a 2D movie whilst having the realistic veil of a 3D movie.

There are a multitude of movies that have strayed the path of linear 3D animation. The new Pinnochio by renowned visionary Guillermo Del Toro released last November features an archaic animation method known as stop-motion animation, Kid Cudi’s Entergalactic takes influence from Spider-Verse with similar art styles but sticking to low FPS animation and Dreamwork’s The Bad Guys which released just before Puss In Boots: The Last Wish, sharing almost indistinguishable characteristics in techniques save for Puss In Boots’ paintbrush aesthetic. However, going into detail with their idiosyncrasies would take an extensive amount of time. These are just a few I’ve enjoyed and would like to share the inventive ways they’ve set out to segregate themselves from the norm.

Hopefully, more studios take an open approach to animation as a medium, constructing new and inventive ways to display its limitless potential.

Images and Videos courtesy of:

The SPA Studios; Klaus; Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse; Puss In Boots: The Last Wish