A scene like this is probably one of the bigger reasons many modern animators go with CG.

Princess Mononoke, which has the honor of being the fourth-highest grossing Japanese film in history, has a great soundtrack, great animation, and a great story. It was also the first Studio Ghibli movie where director Hayao Miyazaki used CG animation. While that might not sound super amazing, it’s where there isn’t any CG animation that’s blowing our minds.

Twitter user @hitasuraeiga pointed out just how dedicated the animation team was. This is the scene at the beginning of the movie where Tatarigami (the giant demon thing below) first appears and infects the main hero, Ashitaka, with its curse. The animation flows so smoothly that you might think, “This has to be CG, right?” Wrong.

“The leading scene in Princess Mononoke where Tatarigami appears isn’t CG; it’s drawn by hand. The part where the snakes move sluggishly was so difficult that–even though the scene is only a couple of minutes long–it took one year and seven months to finish! It apparently took a total of 5,300 drawings. One of the artists explained, ‘It gradually got so confusing to draw that it ended up bogging us down.'”

That is some dedication. The artists must have been seeing these snakes in their dreams.

Is this opening entirely free of CG animation, though? Not quite. You may be surprised at where there is CG.

“I thought that since [using only hand-drawn scenes] forced them to delay the movie’s release, they reluctantly used CG anyways?”

“Princess Mononoke is the first movie that used CG (in terms of a Hayao Miyazaki-directed movie), so the staff went through a lot of trial and error. This is actually a mix of hand-drawn scenes and CG-animated scenes. In the scene where Tatarigami first appears, there are bits of CG animation like the snakes that slither around on Ashitaka’s arm, but it’s largely hand-drawn.” 

@hitasuraeiga points out other small but surprising CG effects, such as San, the main heroine, spitting blood from her mouth, or CG that prevents characters’ form from moving as they turn around.

While Princess Mononoke may have cost a bit more money and time than creators originally planned, we think there are very few people that would say it wasn’t worth it.

Source: @Twitter/@hitasuraeiga
Featured image: Twitter/@hitasuraeiga
Top image: Flickr/See-ming Lee