A couple of hours before I wrote this article, I finally got round to rewatching an animated cyberpunk film from 1988 called “Akira“. The first thing that struck me when I started watching this film again was that – close to three decades after it was made– the animation still looks absolutely stunning! The film looks literally timeless!
Seriously, it’s only within the past 10-15 years that live action films have been able to re-create the kind of epic scenes shown in this film. And, even then, it seems less impressive since my reaction tends to be “it’s just CGI” instead of “Wow! Someone actually had to draw all of that!”
This naturally made me wonder what kind of budget “Akira” had. After all, it was a film from the 1980s that could show the kinds of epic cityscapes, gigantic scenes of destruction, bizarre surrealist scenes etc.. that were only really done well in mainstream Hollywood movies from the early-mid 2000s onwards.
With the help of Google and Wikipedia, I found that Akira’s budget was roughly equal to 8.5 million US Dollars (from 1988). For comparison, the budget of the 1982 live action cinematic masterpiece “Blade Runner” was 28 million US Dollars. Whilst “Blade Runner” might be a genre-defining work of art, it doesn’t really contain as many impressive visual effects as “Akira” does. And it cost over three times as much to make!!
This, of course, made me think of one of the most basic advantages that animation, comics and art have over photography and film. Yes, this advantage has been lessened by CGI and image editing software that has existed since the 1990s, but art, comics and animation still have an advantage.
That advantage is simple – you can do a lot more with a lot less.
For example, here is a reduced-size preview of a digitally-edited cyberpunk painting that will be posted here in June:
The materials budget for creating this was ridiculously low – it used up a small amount of a waterproof ink pen, some cheap watercolour paper, a tiny bit of a few watercolour pencils, a cheap waterbrush, a miniscule fraction of the cost of my old scanner and computer, one use of a version of MS Paint that came free with Windows and one use of an absolutely ancient graphics program (“Jasc Paint Shop Pro 6”) that I think I got on a free magazine CD years ago (and, yes, it was ancient enough even back then to be given away for free). The whole process also only took about 1-2 hours.
Now, imagine if I’d tried to photograph a scene like this using physical effects. Imagine if I had to turn this location into a movie set. Even with modern CGI, the time and/or monetary cost would still be surprisingly high.
So, when it comes to expressing your imagination quickly, cheaply and/or with as much creative freedom as possible, you can’t beat art, comics and/or animation.
Sorry for the short article, but I hope it was interesting 🙂