Good ol' Google Images. Six seconds of searching, and look at the gems unearthed! These freeze-frames from the Croods trailer certainly do showcase the beautiful CG work currently being done at DreamWorks, don't you agr--
"...beautiful CG work..."?
"...done at DreamWorks"?!
I know, I know. It surprised me, too. Just typing that sentence made me feel like what I imagine standing up at an AA meeting for the first time must feel like.
"My name is Ju-osh, and I am an old school animation snob."
There, I said it. Now the healing can begin. But first -- just like in AA -- you're gonna have to sit there and listen to my long-winded tale of redemption. (Unlike AA, you're responsible for your own coffee and donuts. Sorry!)
As a wee babe weened on the teat of hand-drawn animation, it took me quite a while to completely embrace CGI. Oh, sure, I loved the first two Toy Story films and appreciated the little bits and pieces of CG that crept into such films as Beauty & The Beast and Aladdin, but it took me 'til the year 2010 to fully fall in love with the medium.
What happened in 2010, you ask? Did I finally smash my thick, celluloid-lovin' skull against some sort of aesthetic rock-bottom? Nope. Quite the opposite. 2010 was the year that not one, not two, but THREE super good CG cartoons were released: Tangled, How To Train Your Dragon and Toy Story 3. And it was this one-two-three CG punch that finally turned me from a wary spectator to an all-out admirer.
I know that this probably sounds ridiculous.
I mean, it's hard to believe that ANY animation fan would hold out that long before embracing computer generated 'toons. But for a fella who has dedicated a year of his life to blogging about a CG flick to have felt this way? It's nuts! I must come off like that junkie, jailbird uncle who suddenly "finds God" and then comes to Thanksgiving armed with near-beer, Jack Chick comics, and a really, really long and pious prayer. Recent converts are the worst, right?
Well, I'm still not a blind fan of CGI, if that helps. I mean, I liked The Secret World of Arrietty waaay more than Brave. It's just that, pre-2010, I never would've been able to sit down to something like ParaNormal without a small tinge of dread. No matter how excited I was for a CG cartoon pre-2010, I always felt myself lowing my expectations while entering the theater. I know that a lot of this was just my old man aesthetics and old school prejudices, but let's be honest -- most of the CG movies released in the 2000s sucked. In the $tudios' rush to employ (i.e. EXPLOIT) this hot 'new' style of animation, they seemed to forget all about character, story and heart. Oh, and let's not even get into what was passing for appealing design back then.
Here's where the blame for my stupidity shifts back to me.
But in my general disregard for the CG flicks of the 00s, I failed to keep one simple truth in mind. It wasn't the computers that were letting me down. It was the folks operating them. (And the $tudios operating those folks!)
While this appears obvious to me now, it definitely wasn't then. With the exception of a few Pixar flicks, it seemed like CG was just an acronym for 'cash grab.' So like that elderly grandparent who mistakes all rap for gangsta rap, I made a sweeping damnation of the medium.
(I wasn't alone in this damnation, either. A quick review of Ain't It Cool News reveals every talking animal/smart-ass alien/creepily mo-capped cartoon from the 00s to be the 'Worst. Movie. Ever.')
Ah, but then came 2010. With Tangled, How To Train Your Dragon and Toy Story 3, CG suddenly seemed as natural a tool for creating heartfelt and moving cartoons as ink and paint. I sat through each of these movies with a smile on my face and an occasional tear in my eye. (In the case of Toy Story 3, LOTS of tears in BOTH eyes.) Not once did I find myself wincing at some small quirk in the CG, lamenting its limitations, or shaking my head at an extremely uneven battle between style and substance. No, these were just REALLY GOOD CARTOONS -- full stop. And having three of 'em in one year? Well, that proved that it wasn't just some fluke. It proved that Pixar wasn't the sole possessor of some magical, mystical algorithm for quality CG. Disney could do it. DreamWorks could do it. And if I allowed myself to admit the truth, quite a few others had already done it, too. Richard Linklater's Waking Life. Miller and Lord's Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Makoto Shinkai's Voices Of A Distant Star. David O'Reilly's Please Say Something. All totally different types of films. All totally successful in their individual aims. All of 'em animated in glorious CGI.
So anyway, about those screencaps.
Pretty impressive, eh? Frankly, I'm not surprised. I'm been a fan of CG for YEARS.
NOTE: All of the Croods screen-caps used in this article come from Flavio Remontti's fantastic website, The Concept Art Blog. If you speak Portuguese, Remontti's site will provide you with a wealth of info about recent and upcoming video games, movies and cartoons. Heck, even if you don't speak Portuguese, there are enough gorgeous pictures there to keep you busy for days. Obrigado, Flavio!