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No journey starts off easy – especially not in the animation industry.

Back in the day, we certainly weren’t able to see realistic 3D animated faces such as these:


Source: EISKO

3D animation’s slow but steady progress began in the early 1970s and computer-generated images of human faces were pretty rudimentary (and creepy).

In recent years, we’ve witnessed the astounding evolution of 3D animation and how it gave rise to numerous masterpieces like the Toy Story franchise, the smash hit Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and the rib-tickling yet touching Up.

Way before 3D animation came along, there was 2D animation; without it, the former might not have been possible.

Read on to see how artists brought 2D characters to life by creating 3D versions of them!

Transforming 2D into 3D

Artist Hannu Koskinen gained inspiration from watching My Hero Academia with his children and decided to create 3D renders of a few supporting characters from the wildly popular anime series.

The Lead Artist for Rovio Entertainment first dished out the CG image of Ochaco Uraraka on Instagram.

Source: hkoskine

With close attention to detail towards her hero gear along with the realistic portrayal of her appearance, what is there to not love about this 3D version of Uraraka?

Can’t get enough? Thankfully, this isn’t the only character from My Hero Academia that Koskinen recreated in 3D; he’s produced equally spectacular works of Dabi and Toga.

Time to give the villains their fair share of limelight.

Source: hkoskine

As impressive as these computer-generated images may be, CGI hasn’t really received the most support from the anime community.

There were instances where anime with well-thought plot, character development and the like, garnered negative reviews from disappointed viewers due to the poorly developed CGI.

As such, many anime fans have formed a negative perception of CG animation since they believe that it’s only used as a shortcut to save time on tedious, time-consuming 2D animation.

Case in point – Golden Kamuy’s CGI bear.


Source: Daisen Sekai

At first glance, the bear looks like it’s been Photoshopped into the scene. In actuality, it’s just an awfully rendered CGI bear battling some 2D characters.

Many found the poor quality of the animation so ridiculous that this 3D animated bear achieved meme status.

Source: Imgflip

It’s a totally different story when it comes to Beastars, an anime released on 8 October 2019 that’s based on a manga written and illustrated by Paru Itagaki.

This anime series is a prime example of form meeting content as the 3D animation is on par with the well-written, complex and thought-provoking plot.

Source: IMDB

What really left an impression on the audience was how well the CGI portrayed the characters’ movements during certain scenes.

Jonah Scott, the English voice actor for the timid and chronically depressed protagonist, Legoshi, pointed out that Studio Orange’s choice to animate the show in 3D unlike most anime, was a wise choice.

Such a decision allowed characters in the anime to express themselves not only via their speech but through the nuances in their body language and facial expressions.

The anthropomorphic characters have an extensive range of movements like wagging tails, darting eyes and twitching muscles which look natural thanks to the smooth 3D animation.


Source: Shonenzup

We’ve animated some playful human-like 3D animal characters for a client that you can check out here Panda Park Interactive Fluorescent Forest.

An animator’s perspective

Animator Dave Burgess, who has worked for Hanna-Barbera, Disney, and DreamWorks, started out doing traditional 2D animation but made a successful transition into 3D animation. He has since done many noteworthy 3D animated pieces like Shrek 2 and Madagascar.

It wasn’t an easy journey to embark on although frame by frame 2D animation is often thought to be more tedious and difficult to produce as compared to 3D.

Unsurprisingly, 3D animation comes with its own fair share of issues that animators have to deal with too.

With CGI, the computer starts filling in the gaps within the animation so it’s easy for artists to temporarily lose the ability to spot bad in-betweens, bad arcs, spacing and the like.

Getting past this learning curve is definitely worthwhile; it’s a lot easier to include more intricate details in the characters’ movement like ankle wobbles, headshakes, and so on.

Also, you don’t have to worry about being confronted with tricky angles to draw – camera placement can be easily adjusted and you’ll be able to hit CTRL+Z if you don’t like the changes you’ve made.

Creating 3D characters is all about making sure the animated assets are on point from all angles.

When Francis-Xavier Martins produced a 3D piece based on the 2D concept of Nami from the manga One Piece, he followed a technique often used by Pixar.

This method aims to achieve a kind of dynamism in the character by following the principles of curves versus straights closely, where one side is usually curved and the other is straighter.

Source: Creative Bloq

He also used an S-shape for Nami’s model to accentuate the curves, making the character look exceptionally attractive.

We’re no strangers to creating appealing 3D characters – you can check it out here!

The bottom line

Since there seem to be a few misconceptions surrounding 3D animation, we’ve decided to highlight some of its positive aspects. However, we are in no way implying that it’s superior to 2D animation.

Both 2D and 3D animation come with their pros and cons – it’s just a matter of deciding which medium suits your upcoming corporate video or any other content you hope to produce.

Don’t know where to start? Reach out to us – we’re more than happy to help you make an informed decision and provide you with the animated video production cost.