Modern Animation in The United States - The Rise of Computer Animation

The Rise of Computer Animation

The 1990s saw exponential growth in the use of computer-generated imagery to enhance both animated sequences and live-action special effects, allowing elaborate computer-animated sequences to dominate both. This new form of animation soon dominated Hollywood special effects; the films Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Jurassic Park included Oscar-winning special effects sequences which made extensive use of CGI. After decades of existing as related-but-separate industries, the barrier between "animation" and "special effects" was shattered by the popularization of computerized special effects—to the point where computer enhancement of Hollywood feature films became second-nature and often went unnoticed. The Academy Award-winning Forrest Gump (1994) depended heavily on computerized special effects to create the illusion of Tom Hanks shaking hands with Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, and to make Gary Sinise convincingly appear to be a double amputee, winning a special-effects Oscar. The film Titanic used computer effects in nearly every scene of its three-hour running time; one of the film's 11 Oscars was for special effects.

While Disney had made the film Tron—which extensively mixed live action, traditional animation, and CGI—in 1982, and introduced the CAPS system to enhance traditional animation in 1990s The Rescuers Down Under, a completely computer-animated feature film had yet to be made. In 1995, Disney partnered with Pixar to produce Toy Story, the first feature film made entirely using CGI. The film's success was so great that other studios looked into producing their own CGI films.

Computer animation also made inroads into television. The Saturday morning animated series ReBoot won a large cult following among adults; it was the first of a number of CGI-generated animated series, including Beast Wars, War Planets, and Roughnecks. The quality of the computer animation improved considerably with each successive series. Many live-action TV series (especially science fiction TV series such as Babylon 5) invested heavily in CGI production, creating a heretofore-unavailable level of special effects for a relatively low price.

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