How Sony Pictures Animation is leading the way in unique art styles

Sony Pictures Animation has had a rather controversial past, with critical reception of their films ranging from wild lows to middlings to impressive highs. Lately, though, the studio seems to be making pretty steady progress in terms of animation variety. This is something that other western animation studios can learn from.

Sony Pictures Animation seems like a place willing to allow creative minds to celebrate art for art’s sake, to have more room for fun and freedom. Audiences certainly got endless entertainment from their latest projects. Many animators and artists would love to make something memorable, fresh and fun for us to fall in love with. Sony showed us what happens when this freedom is given – we end up with unique, visually spectacular and emotionally heartfelt roller coasters. It’s about time more western studios followed suit and let their artists run wild a little.

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Sony’s diverse art styles

While attention may be focused on their more recent releases, Sony Animation has always dabbled in different art styles. Not all of their projects can be considered successful – take for example The Smurfs or any of Open season movies. Still, it remains admirable how much they’ve experimented with over the years. This experimentation begins in the conceptual phase. If we take the 2021 movie The Mitchell Family vs. The Machines as an example, looking at the concept art detailing its creation shows how much 2D designs contributed to the film’s stylization.

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The cartoons of Katie Mitchell and her family were not left on the drawing board. They were translated into 3D space. Meanwhile, these 2D drawings appear in Katie’s colorful film montage. That’s what he gave The Mitchell Family vs. The Machines such a distinctive and fun feel.

A similar case can be made for 2018 popular In the spider verseand even going back to 2006 Open season, Sony Animation’s debut feature film. Every Sony Animation film mentioned so far has a unique style that sets them apart from each other, adding variety to Sony’s library, even if the films aren’t necessarily “good”.

Disney uniform art styles

On the flip side of diversity, we have uniformity in art style, where films can deal with different concepts and storylines but have a similar look. The most prolific proponent of this in the Western animation scene would be Walt Disney Studios, whose art style we could probably name from a group: giant eyes, rounded facial features, soft lighting and fluid movements. It’s as much a marketing tool as an identifying mark: look at the art style and you’ll know who created it without needing the Disney name.


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Of course, there are enough visual differences between the Disney films to provide some measure of unique flair. He calls the Colombian mountain village of Mirabel home A charm has a different energy than the lands of Arendelle in Frozen. However, on a basic visual level, it is clear that Disney films have some rules of art style that they must follow before they are released to the public. And while a single art style to promote yourself isn’t inherently a bad thing, it’s how we arrive at the arguments that Sisu of Paradise and the last dragon it looks like Elsa was turned into a dragon, or how people wonder why most Disney princesses have little variety in their facial features. It’s a safe move by Disney, but not particularly interesting or creative.


DreamWorks can take inspiration

We have seen the influence of experimentation on another famous Western animation studio, DreamWorks. Like Disney, audiences could most likely point to the more realistic style of earlier DreamWorks films, such as Shrek, Mega Brain, Over the hedgeor The movie about bees. Over the years, this art style has evolved into something that could be considered more pleasing to younger children, although we may now be seeing the beginnings of a more unique stylization.

For their recent film The bad onesinspiration is reported to be taken directly from In the spider verse in terms of a more illustrative style of animation. In fact, the film’s art direction was one of its elements that received the most praise. The upcoming DreamWorks film Puss in Boots: The Last Wish it also turns out to look very stylized. Based on the trailer, it will combine 3D with 2D effects and a vibrant color scheme.


We hope to see this be the beginning of DreamWorks allowing the animators to experiment more. Perhaps the studio could make the next animated feature similarly attention-grabbing In the spider verse I did. This would be a welcome development for a studio that many believe has fallen out of favor recently.

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