Strange World producer reflects on Disney's shift from hand drawn to CGI animation

Strange World
(Image credit: Disney)

Strange World producer Roy Conli has been at Disney since the '90s, meaning he saw the studio's shift from hand drawn animation to CGI play out in real-time. The first film Conli produced was 1996's Hunchback of Notre Dame, which, though in that instantly recognizable 2D style, was actually a mixture of CGI and hand-drawn artwork. 

When Total Film met Conli in London to talk all things Strange World, we asked the producer about his experiences at the studio – and just what he thinks of the way Disney's animation style has developed over the years. 

"There was a little bit of CGI in there, the crowd stuff that we did," Conli explains of Hunchback of Notre Dame. "And then we used a lot of CGI in terms of the layout so that we could get some of those great camera shots. There's those great swinging camera shots when [Quasimodo] swings down into the crowd. So that was my first adventure into CGI. Then I did Treasure Planet, and Treasure Planet was literally fifty-fifty CGI. And then I did Tangled, and that was all CGI.

"And I have to say, I love hand drawn," he continues. "But there's something about CGI that I have fallen in love with. With CGI, you can really get that sense of peril. And I love that in film; I love being on the edge at times." 

Plus, as Conli explains, the two art styles have more in common than it might seem. "The wonderful thing about Disney animation with CGI is that the DNA of the hand drawn is in our animation. When I did Tangled, Glen Keane was one of our heads of animation, and he instilled certain hand drawn truths to our CG animators," Conli says. "And when you look at it, the animation in Strange World really harkens back to those great late '40s, early '50s animated films that we were doing, like Ichabod Crane and Lady and the Tramp. Just really wonderfully exaggerated and yet, at the same time, when it comes to an emotional moment, it can be so real and so selective. It's stunning."

For more from our conversation with the producer, check out our full interview with Strange World filmmakers Conli, Don Hall, and Qui Nguyen. You can also see Hall breaking down the movie's big twist .

Strange World releases exclusively in theaters on Wednesday, November 23. You can check out everything else coming soon with our guide to all the upcoming Disney movies.

Molly Edwards
Entertainment Writer

I'm an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things film and TV for the site's Total Film and SFX sections. I previously worked on the Disney magazines team at Immediate Media, and also wrote on the CBeebies, MEGA!, and Star Wars Galaxy titles after graduating with a BA in English.