With Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie coming out, I thought it would be fun to take a look at animated movies based on comic books, especially cases of 2D gone 3D.
The Peanuts Movie (2015)
The Peanuts Movie charmed the world with its beautiful animation. To recall to the comics, the movie uses black lines to depict certain movements, thought bubbles and facial expressions. I believe it was the first example of a mainstream 3D/CG animated truly channeling the vibe of a 2D comic (it certainly wasn’t accomplished by the hybrid-live-action Garfield and Smurfs movies). Hopefully, this one continues to inspire.
Asterix: The Mansions of the Gods (2014)
However, a number of international and lesser known movies attempted the feat before. Asterix: The Mansions of the Gods was a success in France. The creator of the Asterix comics even called it the best adaptation to date. The character models perfectly capture the look of their 2D counterparts. It was animated by Mikros Image, the company that animated The Little Prince and Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie.
Stand by Me Doraemon (2014)
Another one form 2014, but this time from Japan. The Doraemon manga has been adapted into countless films, but Stand by Me Doraemon is the first to be 3D/CG, something that remains rare in Japanese animation. I think the result is pretty charming. In particular, the over-the-top expressiveness of the characters remains faithful to the 2D medium. Nevertheless, the Doraemon movies have since returned to 2D.
Astro Boy (2009)
But before all of them, there was Astro Boy, a manga-based CG adaptation released in 2009 by Imagi Animation Studios (and before that, Imagi made TMNT, also technically based on a comic). The great tragedy is that Astro Boy, despite being a really good movie, did not find an audience, and the promising Imagi Animation Studios was shut down. Their slate of projects included a movie adaptation of the Zelda video games!
The Adventures of Tintin (2011)
This is a special case, because it’s almost live-action. It’s Steven Spielberg’s feverish dream combining motion capture and CG animation. It is shot like a live-action movie, and even though the characters are made to look exactly like their comic book counterparts, you can still spot the likenesses of the actors. There was supposed to be a sequel based on Seven Crystal Balls and Prisoners of the Sun. We can still dream.
Big Hero 6 (2014)
Finally, there’s the case of Big Hero 6. All my examples above have character designs inspired by the source material. Big Hero 6 is a Disney movie, and although Disney often adapts preexisting stories, it’s usually not faithful to the source. Big Hero 6 is no exception, instead of trying to imitate the Marvel comics, the artists at Disney designed characters that fit with the usual Disney style. The result is beautiful too.
And many more…
I could go on and on if I wanted to include all the 2D adaptations. Manga often receive anime adaptations so that alone is an endless list of movies. I’ll skip that and name just a few 2D adaptations of French graphic novels. There’s of course Persepolis, the classic of the genre, but there’s also the quirky Aya of Yop City, and my personal favorite, The Rabbi’s Cat, the bizarre story of a skeptical cat in 1920 Algeria.
Sony is working on a fully animated version of Spider-Man. Warner is supposedly working on an adaptation of Bones. Blue Sky has had the rights to Mutts for a while now, and Fox recently acquired the rights to Nimona. From France, there’s Zombillenium and Big Bad Fox, both coming out in 2017. From Japan, there’s In This Corner of the World and A Silent Voice, both from 2016 but still making waves internationally.