2D Films Are Making a Comeback at Disney Animation, Director Teases

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Chris Buck on the artwork for Wish

Credit: Inside the Magic

Although the studio has made mini leaps and bounds in the field of animation and the technology to make it, Walt Disney Animation Studio might be going back to traditional styles after Wish (2023).

Photo from Disney's 'Wish'.
Credit: Disney

If you’ve been keeping up with recent trends at the Walt Disney Company, you’ll already know that the Disney Animation Studio has been in some hot water regarding its latest endeavor, especially after box office bombs like Strange World (2022). Although Wish is promised to return to the days of the traditional Disney formula, fans have mixed feelings about it as more and more footage gets released.

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Asha (Adriana DeBose) and her magical quest to save the town of Rosas from the rule of King Magnifico (Chris Pine) definitely have the makings of a classic Disney movie, but can Disney indeed return to their tried-and-true ways after a season of flops at the box office? One director certainly thinks so.

Disney Animation Returns to 2D “Legacy”

Logo for Walt Disney Animation
Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios

One of the first things many viewers noticed about Wish in the trailers and footage Disney has released is the hybrid of styles used to create its visuals. Part CGI and part watercolor, the result is a cell-shaded appearance that tries to blend the traditional with the modern. While it’s always good to see the studio try new things, many wonder why they didn’t just return to a more hand-drawn-inspired technique.

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Hardcore Disney animation fans have wanted the studio to return to its trademarked style for years, and it looks like the new film might just bridge that gap. Despite recent reports stating there is little to no hope of this happening, Wish’s directors are teasing the exact opposite.

Elsa in promotional art for Frozen
Credit: Disney

The film is directed by Chris Buck (known for his work on the Frozen franchise)  and Dawn Veerasunthorn (a Disney animator), and the former made some very interesting statements regarding the studio’s future. It might be the case that the 2D movies are set to make a triumphant return.

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In an interview with The DirectBuck let an interesting detail slip in conversation regarding the animation style.

When asked if Disney Animation would ever consider returning to traditional 2D methods, the director stated the following.

“I think, absolutely. This film was inspired, obviously, by the legacy and the 2D animation. And the look has a somewhat 2D look with the lines on the characters. We did early tests with Star as 2D. But yeah, I think we keep exploring.”

Asha (Ariana DeBose) stands looking shocked in 'Wish'
Credit: Disney

Although that might sound like good news to most fans of classic Disney, it feels entirely contradictory given what we know about the studio. Since the Walt Disney Company laid off its entire 2D animation department back in 2013, it seems like Disney has all but forgotten its roots.

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That all being said, Buck also commented about utilizing more mixed media in terms of Disney’s animated direction, citing projects like the Oscar-winning Paperman (2012) and Feast (2014) as examples.

“The nice thing is, we started with some shorts, you got ‘Paperman’ and ‘Feast’ and ‘Far From the Tree’ that sort of explored the look that we adapted, and we kept evolving. We had never done it in full feature before. So that was going to be a challenge. I would say absolutely. You just don’t know what the next thing is going to be.”

It seems at least one of Disney’s leading directors has aspirations to bring back the 2D films, but many fans are likely going to take this with a side of cautious optimism. As wonderful as it would be to see Disney return to what made them great, the studio still has a long way to go.

Do you think Disney will go back to 2D? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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