It was a very sad day last year when we learned that Disney killed their hand-drawn animation department and decided they were officially done with 2D animation in favor of digital. While [Frozen](movie:411685) was an insane success that the world hadn't expected, and Tangled fantastic, still, seeing those (rather interchangeable) characters designed as computer models doesn't have the same magic as seeing them come to life through hand-drawn pencil sketches.
The folks over at Sneerkat dug up the very first pencil tests for some beloved Disney characters, and it's more than a little amazing to see them go from graphite on paper to the walking, talking characters that built an empire. There are more at the original source, but I've chosen some of the best for you here.
Ursula - The Little Mermaid (1989)
Crazy to see how the very first designs for her face and tentacles looked like this:
But evolved over time to this:
To finally become this once the ink and color were added:
Hades (and others) - Hercules (1997)
Hades from Hercules is hands-down one of Disney's most hilarious characters. Ever. Just in case you were wondering, it's still awesome to see Hades (as voiced by James Woods) completely blow his top, regardless of whether or not it's in pencil or full color:
Or even in GIF form:
Simba and Nala - The Lion King (1994)
The elephant graveyard scene from The Lion King was truly scary as a kid, but in the middle of the hyenas and the bones were young Nala and Simba, playing as they did. But it's fascinating to see how this was the bare bones, original design:
They don't even look like Disney characters, but as if they were drawn in the Hanna-Barbera style:
But after multiple iterations, we ended up with the lion cubs we know and love:
And, of course, the little mouse that started it all...
'Mickey's Fire Brigade' (1935)
Not to take anything away from the incredible work the Disney animators do now, but the 2D, hand-drawn characters were just full of so much personality. Their completely unique features and quirky looks are things that (so far, at least) digital animation just can't match today.
Do you think Disney should give their hand-drawn animated movies another shot? Or is digital all we'll know from here on out? Let me hear your thoughts in the comments.