When the new trailer for Mary Poppins Returns was released on Monday, one of the first things that got the attention of viewers was the inclusion of hand drawn animation. In recent years, 2D animation has become somewhat of a novelty in feature films, both in Disney and in other studios. Not since 2011’s Winnie the Pooh have we gotten a theatrical traditionally animated film from Disney. Other major studios specializing in this art have also slowed down or stopped altogether as in the case of Don Bluth’s work is his own studio and his work at Fox, with his last film releasing almost 20 years ago.
With Pixar mainstreaming the use of 3D animation in the 1990’s, computer animation has grown drastically and has become the new norm for feature length animated films. “Saturday morning cartoons” are still popular on various channels, but traditional animation is no longer the as prevalent. Though software such as Toon Boom still exists to assist in the production of traditional animation, using 3D animation in film is oftentimes cheaper, more accessible and expected if you want to keep up with the times. With this medium steadily progressing for the last 25 years, this has meant pushing traditional animation to the side. However, I could see this changing perhaps in the near future.
Like many others, seeing the new Mary Poppins Returns trailer filled me with nostalgia. Not just nostalgia for the original Mary Poppins, but also for how films used to be made. Something like the blend of live action and animation used to amaze and impress audiences. Now, we see it all the time, albeit with CGI, rather than hand drawn elements. However, it is clear that people still get excited about seeing that kind of hybrid. Though it is no longer innovative, it has become extremely nostalgic for people who remember it with fondness from their childhood. This is true for myself as well, who grew up with movies like Pete’s Dragon, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and, of course, Mary Poppins. Disney also did this with Enchanted. However, this was more than 10 years ago, before the disappearance of hand drawn animation in mainstream media.
With the upcoming release of Mary Poppins Returns, I think Disney is going to see the huge hunger that audiences have, young and old alike, for the magical art that is hand drawn animation. I would not be surprised if, in the next 10 years or so, we will be seeing a resurgence in the kind of storytelling that the Walt Disney Company was built and founded on. This isn’t to say that I think or hope that 3D animation is going anywhere, far from it. I love what Pixar and other studios have done. I just think that there is no reason why these two forms of art can’t sit side by side on Disney’s release schedule. As long as Disney uses the appropriate animation depending on the story they want to tell, I think this would be a wonderful way to mix the old with the new.