In the past three-plus decades, the duo John Musker and Ron Clements have been the driving force for most of Disney’s beloved and biggest films. In the year 1986, they brought Sherlock Holmes alive with “The Great Mouse Detective”. The cinema landscape was stormed with 1989’s “The Little Mermaid”, which brought in the golden era of Disney’s animated movies. This was followed by “Hercules”, “Aladdin” and every other Disney animation movie we know and love.
Despite their experience and action of over three decades, November 2016’s “Moana” was a new chapter, a new accomplishment for the director duo. This went on to be Musker and Clement’s first film with 3D animations.
The last Disney 2D movie was 2009’s “The Princess and the Frog”. It was directed by the duo. All animation used were hand-drawn at their studios. In “Moana” lot of traditional techniques were used for production and pre-production, especially with the Mini-Maui character who was entirely drawn by hand.
Moana’s character was drawn using a computer and not by human hands. However, the character of Mini-Maui is a mix of 3D and 2D animation. The film’s Mini-Maui character travels using Maui’s body. This character represents a big technical accomplishment, as it is a 2D character who seamlessly interacts with the 3D animated world all around.
Animation is an art. For a film, after the artist adds the final touches to the drawings then the technical animation team takes over to draft the animations to the 3D model. Now unlike paper, our body is not flat and has curves. The skin moves and the muscle flex, which moves alongside the character. So to avoid any warping or stretching, the technical animators whipped a whole new technology. This would preserve old-fashioned and modern-day animation.
During the film’s production, the adjustments between 3D and 2D techniques did not always go smoothly. At times Musker and Clements asked for some changes, which made the animators push their limits. In fact, as the movie progressed, the team discussed as to how to make the movie more interesting. Now as 2D animators produced new drawings and the computer animation team had to frame and rearrange digital objects.
Combining a balance of modern as well as traditional animation and also of the techniques and ideas wasn’t easy, but in the end, was really worth it. The audiences and the critics agreed that this was the most advanced technologically animated movies ever produced. Not to mention that it had the same humour, charm and warmth for which Disney has been known and loved for over 100 years.
At Magic Elements Studios, we are experts of 2D and 3D animation styles. We appreciate good pieces of art. Disney’s Moana blended the freshness of 3D animation with old-fashioned 2D, creating a new cult. What a masterpiece!