Outlook: Animation's second act
Vikkal Parikh
Issue: November/December 2020

Outlook: Animation's second act

With the challenges posed by the pandemic and the many unprecedented events of this year, the industry at large has had to get creative and come up with unique ways to keep being able to tell stories. Naturally, 2D and 3D animation emerged as obvious solutions to social distancing protocols and lack of studio access, but they’ve been able to offer so much more than that. If you ask me, we’re looking at a much-needed and well-deserved second act for animation. It has always been and will always be a powerful art form for storytelling, but the unlimited potential of its creative power is just beginning to be tapped. 

I’ve witnessed some really inspiring narratives popping up all over the place this year. My good friend David Godin created a Whirlpool spot using his own home and family to dramatize the shift in lifestyle the pandemic inflicted on all of us. It is simple but feels intimate and real. 

I’ve also always loved big holiday campaigns, and Amazon’s The Show Must Go On spot checks every box in terms of its tone, casting and direction. To me, simple but effective campaigns like these are like pulling a rabbit out of a hat. When a magician does it, the audience is wowed by how natural and effortless it looks. It seems easy. In the same way, orchestrating a successful production creatively and logistically is a trick that requires intense preparation, timing and skill. The ability to roll with the punches and make telling a good story feel easy and seamless is like creating a perfect illusion.
My team at Ataboy and I also brought some incredible work to life this year despite the hardships. In terms of craft and skill sets, we were all very aligned, but being able to write and describe complex animation maneuvers to each other over Slack took some getting used to. By remaining in constant communication, however, and making time for one-on-one conversation with each artist, we were able to deliver some truly important work. This includes our Adidas “Clean Classics” campaign supporting the brand’s sustainable footwear collection designed to reduce plastic waste, Baqsami’s Diabetes, a superhero comic-style campaign about a good samaritan facing a low blood sugar emergency, and the NATO “CinemaSafe” campaign, which creatively visualized the careful reopening of movie theaters nationwide. 

The director, designer and technologist in me are curious and excited by what 2021 will bring. When in-person filming eventually returns in full force, I would love to see more realtime CG tightly integrated with live action. This would not only create deeper bonds with audiences, but also foster more interesting human narratives. 

No one medium is truly superior to the other, but animation’s unique compatibility with technology has allowed so many artists to expand their mediums of storytelling in ways they never could have before. At the end of the day, it’s really about craft, but it’s certainly satisfying to see animation get its moment in the sun. 

Vikkal Parikh is the Founder of creative production company Ataboy (https://ataboystudios.com) based in New York City.