Comparing Animation, Or What Happened to CG?

Is it just me, or has small-screen animation been deteriorating lately?

I happened to see this clip of the Star Wars: Rebels TV show and…my goodness, this animation is pretty darn bad.

The characters not only look like they’re made of sculpted rubber, but their movements are very, very awkward. There’s a kind of bounce to everything they do, like they wind up before every gesture and then let it loose. It’s as if the animators are trying to make their movements as broad as possible every time so that we can’t possibly miss it.

(At least Thrawn is still awesome)

Compare that to this clip from Beast Wars, a show nearly a quarter of a century old and one of the very first CG cartoons:

Now, is this animation a lot cruder? Oh, yes. But the movements seem to me much subtler and more natural in many ways. Look at the small changes in Dinobot’s face when Megatron makes his offer, or the way they build up Scorpinok’s shuddering as he tries to stand still. The characters simply do the motions they need to do without any unnecessary flare or gesticulations (except when it makes character sense, as with Megatron’s rather broad gestures with his tiny little arms).

You can even compare the simple act of being surprised. Ezra in ‘Rebels’ does this broad sort of ‘dip and wide eyes’ expression. Again, like he’s over-mugging to try to get the point across to a rather dense audience. Dinobot simply flinches into an alert, wide-eyes expression. Ezra takes more than a full second to make his expression; Dinobot takes maybe half-a-second.

Besides which, the clunky character movements and plastic-looking models are excused by the fact that this was made in 1997. Rebels was made in 2014; fully 17 years later, and yet the animation, while having more texture and shadows, is clumsier, broader, and (for me at least) a lot harder to watch.

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