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SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMMARON

About The Production
DreamWorks Pictures' newest animated feature, "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron," goes to show that what is regarded these days as traditional animation is anything but traditional. The advent of the computer in animation has revolutionized the genre, perhaps most notably with the inauguration of entirely computer animated films, like last year's Academy Award®-winning "Shrek." However, the computer has also had an ever-increasing impact on 2D—or what is known as traditional—animation. The proof of this is the surprising fact that, for all its painterly qualities, "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron" is DreamWorks' most technologically complex animated film of any kind to date.

Nevertheless, while the mouse may have become one of the animators' most important tools, producer Jeffrey Katzenberg is quick to point out that no computer can, or should, ever replace the hands-on artistry that sets traditional animation apart.

"The thing that is unique to traditional animation is what happens when an artist, an animator, gives life to a character with his or her own hand," Katzenberg offers. "There is nothing else like it in the world. It's like the difference between getting an email and a handwritten note; it's personal…it's intimate. It's a direct creation of life with a pencil on a piece of paper. Computers can't do that…not yet."

That being said, Katzenberg adds, "The computer is not the nemesis of traditional animation. What I wanted to do with this film was to take hand-drawn animation and marry it together with state-of-the-art technology to create a film that is the best of both worlds. I've been looking for a word that describes it. I consider it to be almost a reinvention of traditional animation, so I've been calling it ‘tradigital.'"

"Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron" is by no means the first traditionally animated film to incorporate 3D, or computer animated, elements. However, the film represents such a wholesale marriage of these two techniques, that some of the production team have referred to it as a hybrid form of animation.

Specifically with regard to character animation in a 2D film, computer rendering had primarily been relegated to background "extras." Here, even the lead characters, including Spirit, are sometimes computer animated depending on the needs of the shot. In fact, there are perfectly seamless transitions from computer to traditional animation involving a single character in a single scene that no one but a seasoned animator would be able to discern, and even they would be hard-pressed.

The primary example of this comes early in the film, as we see the adult Spirit running with his herd. As they run, we are watching 3D animation of not only the herd, but also of Spirit himself. However, as Spirit separates from his herd and comes up to the crest of the hill, the camera zooms in to circle around him, and we witness, but don't see, an absolutely imperceptible 2D takeover of the shot. Then, as the camera moves back, there is another takeover, this time 3D, that is equally seamless. That is only one of many examples of the synergistic artistry of computer and traditional animation in "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron."

Whether 2D or 3D, horses are notoriously difficult to draw and even more so to animate, which speaks to why "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron" is the first animated film to feature a horse as its central character. Adding to the challenge, the hors

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