Canadian Technology in Animation

The thought of animation brings different thoughts to different people.  Some of us think Mickey Mouse.  Some think Roger Rabbit.  Then there’s the Sunday funnies.  Dora the ExplorerPolar Express.  The list goes on and on.

A great deal of that body of work relies on Canadian technology in animation as it’s developed over almost a hundred years.  As animation changed and evolved with time, so did the technology behind it.

Perhaps one of the simplest forms of Canadian technology in animation was born in Scotland but Scottish-born Norman McLaren became an industry giant in Canadian animation history.  All McLaren did, at least at the very beginning, was paint and scratch images directly onto film.  He didn’t have a camera but he didn’t let that stop him.

Fast forward to the current age of computers and you’ll find a dramatic shift in the way Canadian technology in animation is used.  Perhaps the most remarkable difference is that film stock is rarely ever used.  It’s all pretty much computerized instead.

And cartoons are no longer the main focus of the people who employ Canadian technology in animation, either.  The success of the movie, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, in the 1980s, was seen by many people in the animation business as a giant step forward into a new world of animation possibilities, all the while keeping one foot firmly planted in the old world of cartoons as they were known up to that time.

Roger Rabbit was the first major production that superimposed cartoon characters onto the same screen with live actors.  Toronto-born Richard Williams was director of animation for this groundbreaking, blockbuster production.

From that film, a whole new world of possibilities seemed to open up, providing opportunities for animators, cartoonists, and artists of all media to incorporate animation in ways never seen before.  Full-length animated movies were not at all unusual, thanks in large part to Walt Disney Studios, but the ability to use state-of-the-art Canadian technology in animation and to incorporate similar technologies developed around the world pushed the limits of what could be done successfully, and, perhaps even more important, with handsome financial reward, to a degree that even Mr. Disney might have envied.

Animated cartoons have changed dramatically since the first days of Mickey Mouse, less than 100 years ago.  It boggles the mind to think what they’ll look like 100 years from now.