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Subject: The Transition Of TV Animation From Cel To Digital

Written By: aspireone on 07/20/16 at 3:28 am

Traditionally, animation was made by hand-drawing and painting each animation art into which is combined with background to form a frame which is scanned https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditional_animation#Cels
This process was costly,time-consuming manpower-consuming.

Around the late 90s, many tv animation studios started to to shift to digital animation as a way to decrease cost and time and since the technology was now available at that point. The majority of studios shifted to digital during 2000-2001 and by 2003, only a few shows (mostly anime ) were still using traditional cels.

As a kid (well, a 4-year old) during the early 00s, the shift was very noticeable and to be honest, quite jarring. I remember when season 1 episodes of spongebob were played alongside the newer, season 2 ones.

Season 1 Spongebob  1999-2000 ( Cel Animated) ZvkjewgF8GQ
Season 2 Spongebob  2000-2001  (Digital)YSzOXtXm8p0
Character design differences aside, i could tell back then as a kid which were from season 1 because it had an "old" look (faded colors) while season 2 looked brighter and more consistent

If the anime boom was huge in your country, then these 2 shows might have been in the same tv block

Hunter X Hunter episode from 2001 (Cel) vqH6Wd2HAwc
One Piece OP from 1999 ZwXKz2CeHwY

For some reason, japanese tv animation from the 90s look so much older than their western counterparts. To me, cel anime look very brownish in colors which is apparent in shows like these SSX58TglZRs (from 19980
Of course, most shows became bright and plastic-y thanks to digital around 2000 but for some reason, some anime movies were still cel animated up until 2006
One Piece movie from 2000 (cel) BudM-BNRPCo
Pokemon Movie 9 from 2006! 2006! 27L7UA2S1_A The brown color palette must be quite jarring in 2006. By the way, the pokemon tv show switched to shiny digital back in 2002

Subject: Re: The Transition Of TV Animation From Cel To Digital

Written By: #Infinity on 07/20/16 at 1:00 pm

2001 was a huge year for the transition from handrawn cells to digital models. I distinctly remember that once 2001 hit, almost all current shows on Cartoon Network suddenly applied the newer look, from Time Squad, to Samurai Jack, to Grim & Evil, to Dexter's Laboratory. Even the later episodes of the Powerpuff Girls switched to digital models, prior to the post-movie redesigns. Although Whatever Happened to Robot Jones? retained a distinctly retro look in 2002, that program was a big flop and I often forget it even existed.

Having grown up watching Cartoon Cartoons as a kid, I think the onslaught of shifts to digital animation in 2001 is part of what made that year and 2002 feel so different from the Y2K era for me, in addition to the 6th generation of gaming taking off. 2001 just felt so high-tech for these reasons. Had I been a teen in 2001, I'd probably have felt a little more like Jordan regarding the early 2000s.

Subject: Re: The Transition Of TV Animation From Cel To Digital

Written By: Zelek3 on 07/20/16 at 1:07 pm

This transition is one of the reasons why I think the 00s felt like one of the most rapid, changeful decades.

If you watched, say, Pokemon 2000 in 2006 and compared it to the more recent Temple of the sea movie you'd think "Dang! This looks ancient!" Despite them being made in the same decade.

Subject: Re: The Transition Of TV Animation From Cel To Digital

Written By: 80sfan on 07/20/16 at 1:34 pm

Is this why Family Guy started to look so different and 'plasticity' later on? Watch an episode from 1999/2000, you can tell it's different. Watch an episode from 2010, it's very clean looking. The colors very clear.

Subject: Re: The Transition Of TV Animation From Cel To Digital

Written By: Baltimoreian on 07/20/16 at 1:38 pm

The analog and digital transition from the late 90s/early 2000s were historic for the animation industry. Pretty much any cartoon had digital animation in late 2001/2002.


Is this why Family Guy started to look so different and 'plasticity' later on? Watch an episode from 1999/2000, you can tell it's different. Watch an episode from 2010, it's very clean looking. The colors very clear.


Well, Family Guy was rather HD looking in 2010.

Subject: Re: The Transition Of TV Animation From Cel To Digital

Written By: mqg96 on 07/20/16 at 2:26 pm

I noticed this change throughout my early to mid childhood as well. 2000-2002 was basically the transition from cel animation to digital animation in almost every cartoon I can think of. By 2003 new episodes of 99% cartoons were digital. Spongebob went from cel to digital in 2000. Dexter's Lab went from cel to digital in 2001. The Simpsons went from cel to digital in 2002. Rugrats went from cel to digital in 2000 I believe but I'm not sure. The DC Animated Universe went from cel to digital in 2000 around season 2 of Batman Beyond. It goes on and on. You watch many cartoons that started in the late 90's and finished in the early or mid 2000's. You'll always notice how the earlier seasons were still cel and how the later seasons were digital. I think you started seeing signs of cartoons switching to digital as early as 1999, and as late as 2003 with Ed, Edd n Eddy being the last one. The only reason Japanese shows like Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z, or Yu Yu Hakusho might have still been cel in 2002 or 2003 in the U.S. is because those were imported from Japan which were originally made before then. Most anime in Japan were already switched to digital by the very early 2000's as well when it originally aired over there. One more thing I must bring up, you notice how many classic Disney cartoon movies from the golden age or Renaissance era have been remastered? Like, let's say you go to the movies and saw Beauty & the Beast, The Lion King, or Mulan when it originally came out, or bought it on VHS in the 90's, it will have it's original look when it was cel animated, but since the mid-late 2000's to present, get Cinderella, The Fox & the Hound, or The Lion King on Blu-Ray/DVD, it will be remastered and it looks digital. Even when you watch old cartoon movies from the 90's & earlier on HBO or other channels, it will look remastered and not have it's original look.

Subject: Re: The Transition Of TV Animation From Cel To Digital

Written By: Looney Toon on 07/21/16 at 9:30 am

As a person who loves all kinds of animation I'm fine with the transistion to digital. There is no advantage to using cel animation and it doesn't improve much of anything. Cel and Digital don't have anything to do with the way a character is designed or their use of color as it's very easy to replicate the cel look in computer animation. Never did understand the hatred of digital animation. A good artist/designer never lets his/her tools dictate the look of his/her art and animation. Always odd as people love the old 1990s Disney moves despite those being made with computers.

Subject: Re: The Transition Of TV Animation From Cel To Digital

Written By: anything on 07/24/16 at 12:34 pm


Cel and Digital don't have anything to do with the way a character is designed or their use of color as it's very easy to replicate the cel look in computer animation.

It depends. Sometimes, people overdo it with the brightness which makes it seem more soulless in comparison.

Subject: Re: The Transition Of TV Animation From Cel To Digital

Written By: Looney Toon on 07/28/16 at 8:53 am


It depends. Sometimes, people overdo it with the brightness which makes it seem more soulless in comparison.


I wouldn't say soulless as I'm not sure a specific medium can make a character feel more alive. It's all dependent on artistic view and not the tools. At least this is what my college art teachers always tell me. The tools you use don't make the art. Your vision is what makes the art. The tools are just thing you use to create your vision. If the final product looks soulless then blame the person and not the tools. Whether it's computers or cels in the end it doesn't matter. I've seen quite a lot of cel animated cartoons that looked soulless and quite a lot of computer cartoons that have a lot of quality and personality. It's all in the technique. Never mind the tools. Crap is crap no matter what you use to make it. Same goes for Quality.

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