Captain Planet: Different animation styles
Video: Nick Boxer explains how the show's animation changed after three seasons.
Executive producer Nick Boxer explains how the animation in the show changed after three seasons in this exclusive behind-the-scenes video. He also compares the animation to other shows of the time, such as The Flintstones and Duck Tales.
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The first three seasons of Captain, it was called, Captain Planet and the Planeteers, and was produced by DIC, and then after that Turner bought out the rights, and we transferred the series to Hanna-Barbera. And at that point, I wanted to upgrade the level of the animation, and so I pushed really hard for that, and we went back, and we did a very slight redesign. We just tweaked the designs. I think we added more shadow, colors, and things like that, and we did some of our model packs and stuff, but the Hanna-Barbera episodes all looked that way.
So I do think that visually they were, in my mind, superior from an animation standpoint and a storytelling standpoint. You know, all the original episodes were in some ways more successful, because the show was new then. It was hard to go back and capture a whole new audience in terms of age groups and things like that. Hanna-Barbera, when they did The Flintstones early on, they came up with a process that was called “limited animation,” and it used fewer cells, and it was simpler and less expensive, but achieved an effective look. And then as more and more animation got shipped overseas, that whole concept of limited animation got kind of watered down even more.
And there’s some shows which to me just have bad animation, because they’re neither stylized nor well animated. And Captain Planet is sort of, you know, we tried to get enough stylization in, but it didn’t totally fall into that category, although at times I personally felt it did. You know, that was a real source of struggle, and it was one of the things I fought over constantly in the sense of, you know, just push the stylization a little more and the animation so it just, you know, doesn’t -- and there, you know, there are episodes I think we were, again, were successful, and episodes where we weren’t, and part of that came down to things like storyboard artists, and you know, the animation company that, you know, often we were using multiple animation companies overseas, and one would be more effective than others.
I mean, to me it was just like an incredible learning experience. If I have any regrets, as it were, it’s that we always talk about doing a sequel or another version, because I feel like what I learned from Captain Planet would have allowed me to do it so much better the next time. And I did feel that, you know, in The New Adventures of Captain Planet, Hanna-Barbera, we were able to upgrade it. We just couldn’t change it so much that visually it would be inconsistent, where at times you’d be running one of the older episodes, and in one of the newer episodes you didn’t want people to go, like, “Those aren’t the same show.” You know, it’s like, be really down on one episode, because it looked so radically different.
But, you know, every so often we’d do an episode where we’d -- because of the elements of it, we would really push the envelope more. I do think that then there was a movement. Disney always tried to -- you know, things like DuckTales. They tried to raise the bar. You know, that was also one of the things when you’d look and do research, and we’d know that something like DuckTales was basically costing twice as much per minute as a lot of the other shows, perhaps Captain Planet, or more. So if you’re spending triple the amount on the animation, you’re going to get better animation.