We're In The Middle Of An Exciting Shift In The Animation Industry

Bojack HorsemanNetflixBoJack is a hit.

“BoJack Horseman” — the serialized cartoon on Netflixwekeepwritingabout— is far from the only exciting thing happening in animation.

You’ve got other brilliant adult cartoons like “Archer,” which like “BoJack” and “Bob’s Burgers” has links to the offbeat style pioneered by Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim shows in 2001; “Family Guy” and related shows are still innovating, as are “The Simpsons” and “South Park”; and then you’ve got a steady stream of hit feature films, including the third biggest releases this year and last year in “The LEGO Movie” and “Frozen“; not to mention tons of interest in anime and other foreign animation styles.

We asked co-founders Corey Campodonico and Alex Bulkley of animation company ShadowMachine, which worked on “BoJack,” about the state of the industry. They say we’re in something of a golden age.

“It’s pretty booming all around,” Campodonico said. “There’s a lot of change going on, a lot of new styles, alot of new voices.”

What’s happening is a generational shift from the Looney Tunes era to the Simpsons era to something new.

“Shows like ‘Simpsons,’ ‘South Park,’ have been on 20-plus years and people have grown up with adult animation as a norm, whereas in past generations it was a kids’ format, so with that it just becomes second-hand that stories will be told in that format,” Campodonico said.

“There’s a sophisticated audience out there, which is exciting,” Bulkley said. “People are less attuned to it just being a cartoon, as cartoons traditionally were for a younger audience, and suddenly you’ve got animation simply as a format much like live action or anything it’s just a way to reinforce what is your storytelling, and that’s a big opportunity.”

As audiences grow to accept animation, it’s easy to see why creators would use it.

“It comes down to what animation as a format can provide. You can go anywhere: You can go into outer space or underwater all within 30 seconds,” Bulkley said.

New technology is also making animation much easier.

“When we first started doing stop-motion animation for Adult Swim, it was right on the cusp of all the cameras going digital,” Bulkley said. “Digital cameras were a huge innovation for that format, and they hadn’t even yet developed the live views so you couldn’t see what the frame was so we were using spy cameras as reference points to see what the cameras were seeing. Obviously, that evolved into digital cameras, and that format just took off by way of a digital workflow that brought cost down and increased the speed and efficiency in which it could get done.”

And more and more people are learning to use it.

“In the 2D formats, kids are growing up learning a lot of the Adobe products from Photoshop and Flash and such where you have a much bigger pool of talent familiar with the software and that certainly speeds the process,” Bulkley said. “The good old-fashioned skills in illustration and art never go away, it’s just that the tools have gotten better.

Even as technology is improving, audiences are more accepting of simple animations.

“You have the pioneers out of adult swim building up shows, and after working with them for so many years, what you’ve got is a rabid fan base that doesn’t need to see perfect CGI state-of-the-art animation as they need to see a characterization or a new world and that immersive experience into new worlds excites an audience,” Bulkley said.

ShadowMachine’s current projects include “BoJack,” an upcoming stop-motion film “Hell & Back,” Guillermo Del Toro’s announced stop-motion version of “Pinocchio,” various ads and music videos, and “TripTank,” a Comedy Central sketch show.

“We’ve been at the forefront of a lot of styles,” Campodonico said. “The show ‘Triptank’ that we do on Comedy Central is a playground for really innovative and new voices. That’s something that we’re really passionate about and mirrors the booming nature of adult animation across the whole industry.”

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