The first teaser for Peanuts came out today and I thought it was cute. But the talkback it generated (especially about why it's in 3D) reminded me of some thoughts I'd had recently.
First, the movie's in stereo 3D because every animated flick is rendered in 3D, the stereo always looks good, and they appeal to families so that's more tickets sold (parent and child to whole families as opposed to individual moviegoer), and it helps justify the expense of buying those 3D projectors in all those theaters, which I doubt have actually been paid off fully. I'm not 1000% sure of the timeline, but the last American animated movie done in 2D was Winnie The Pooh. Before that was The Simpsons and Princess and the Frog, and all of these had their 2D styles grandfathered in.
2D is tricky, it's flat, and I don't even know how well it scales to the big screen as much as 3DCGI does. On the big screens, you want to see all these details. I don't want to say 2D works best on the small screen, but it shines on there (look at the Avatar series). Most of the video games on handheld devices (think Angry Birds) look like 2-dimensional drawings. 2D's not dead, it thrives on a more intimate medium. The excuse that kids don't know 2D or handdrawn is ludicrous, it's just that they like it in a certain way.
Animating on a computer allows more flexibility and change, all the drawing takes place at the front end, then the animation (which is mostly grunt work) is handled by the computers (in 2D, it's farmed out to other countries), and when you make a movie, you have to make countless changes. Toy Story 2 was completely overhauled in a few months before its' release, I doubt that 2D would allow for that sort of crunch. It makes computer animation seem like a safer bet.
All this isn't what I was thinking about, though. What I was really thinking about was the weird idea that cartoons based on cartoons don't seem to do well, and it seemed so strange to me. Obviously, I'm thinking of Peabody and Sherman (which I heard boosted quite a bit in the second week, but Dreamworks looks like it's going to lose a lot of money on it), but Over The Hedge, Astro Boy, TMNT... sounds like a bit counter-intuitive. What could be more fitted for animation than animation?
Combine this with the fact that we're getting a live action Little Mermaid in addition to two Jungle Book adaptations, Malefecent or however it's spelled... and then I realized "well, if cartoons of cartoons don't do well, isn't it a SMART idea that Disney is doing live-action versions of their cartoons?"
I mean, if the new Jungle Book was a cartoon, people could think it's just another sequel or something (like the Tinkerbell movies) instead of something big and new that demands their attention (because it's all about attention). Andy Hendrickson from Disney said that "story doesn't matter" (bold), but I guess he's right in a sense, getting people's attention matters. It's butts in seats and doing what everyone else isn't doing... and no one's got the fairy tale market cornered like Disney, so yeah, they're going to do that. And I get it. I'm cool with it. As a writer, I take offense with the idea that "story doesn't matter," but that's different than saying "you can just put any old bullshit on the screen and people will see it." The story doesn't get them in the seats, it keeps them from getting out of them fifteen minutes into the movie and demanding their money back.
Besides, even if they wanted to do new animated versions of their classic films for the big screen, who's going to make 'em? Pixar does their own stuff and Disney Animation is basically a mini-Pixar with their own projects, would they want to take away from their schedule by putting a remake on there? If they wanted to do it, that's one thing, but they're probably bursting with ideas. And if the remake is a success? Then that's whole big swaths of time taken up by sequels and shit... or farmed out to another company, and then you just get crappier sequels, diminishing returns, and saturate the market with your own product.
I think I've lost my train of thought I've been typing this up for about half an hour and change now. Just musing. I do like the idea that animation seems to be the one medium where adaptations don't seem to be taking off. In a world where everything is based on something else, animation seems to foster originality (probably because of all the creative people crammed together, drawing together, swapping ideas) so that you're getting new ideas all the time, and the brain trust that Pixar's put together ensures the execution of each is as strong as it can be. Maybe that's why the adaptations don't measure up-- because you have a source that you're beholden to.