Are There Any Long-Shot Animated Movies?

Over the last few weekends we watched two very solid animated movies (The Sea Beast on Netflix and The Bad Guys on Peacock). Both are highly entertaining films with compelling messages, and they’re beautifully animated.

Both films do something that I love seeing in any movie: They include long shots where the “camera” doesn’t cut away. There’s an example of this in The Sea Beast’s opening scene, with the camera dipping underwater with a splash at a certain point.

Long shots are difficult to create in live-action movies, making them all the more impressive when they show up repeatedly in films like Children of Men and Wrath of Man. I can’t imagine how meticulously they’re planned, especially with numerous actors, props, and obstacles in the way of the camera. This video from La La Land shows some of the planning involved.

While the virtual camera is something for directors to think about quite a bit in animated films, the digital space removes many of the obstacles from live-action long shots. There’s nothing physically impeding the camera, no limitations on set, and no need to have actors rehearse over and over again.

So why isn’t there an animated film that is a single long shot from start to finish? I would absolutely love to see that. Perhaps it exists and I’m just not aware of it?

Also, I’ve updated my list of top 10 favorite heist films. The Bad Guys came pretty close to making the list.

3 thoughts on “Are There Any Long-Shot Animated Movies?”

  1. To disambiguate, if I may; a long shot is typically referencing a scene in which you can see very deep into the background.
    To be fair, these are also incredibly difficult, particularly in populated areas, since you have less control over elements the further they are from the camera. Think the London Bridge scene in 28 Days Later, or the long shot to the bay with a cruise liner in Bad Boys 1. (Michael Bay is sort of addicted to the ‘Long-Shot’ as there is one in pretty much all of his films. He also loves the ‘dolly on round track, camera circling the heroes from below as they stand up in slow-mo’) The long shot conveys a sense of depth and ‘epic-ness’ to a film.

    As contrasted with say…every early Kevin Smith film, where almost every scene feels like it was filmed in a closet or against a wall.

    I digress.

    In the case of a single camera filming extended scenes, that is usually called ‘single-shot’, ‘continuous-shot’.

    In my personal experience, there are two main reasons a film has a continuous shot in it. 1- the director wants to prove they can, and 2- there is a story element that is more meaningful if it is played out in real-time.

    As for why they don’t do it more often in animated films, the answer is surprisingly similar to why it doesn’t happen in live action films. 1- it has significant technical issues and 2- it is a very specific kind of storytelling that does not serve a wide array of purposes.

    As to 1: Scenes are built in low res with objects and animation sculpted by hand. These scenes then have to be ‘rendered’, which takes incredibly powerful computers hours or days to complete. The more animation and the more detail in the scene, the longer it takes. And the longer it takes, the more possibility for mistakes to be introduced and then multiplied. Wasting four days rendering a long scene that either has an ongoing error, or needs a change made due to another concern (shirt or hair color of a character, tweaking of the timing of an event, removal or addition of dialogue) is a lot of money down the drain. Much easier to cut away to another ‘camera’ regularly to ensure that future editing or changes are simple.

    As to 2: the storytelling issue with a continuous shot is that it locks the film into a real-time format for the duration of the shot. Since the majority of films take place over a time frame (in their reality) that is longer than 90 minutes, the continuous shot can easily be perceived as a long, dragging scene depending on the surrounding contextual scenes.
    Further, it is very common to provide the audience with perspectives and knowledge that the protagonist lacks. This is only possible through narration, or by cutting away to events in which the protagonist is not involved. By utilizing continuous shots, you deny the audience that larger perspective.

    This is not to say that there is no place for stories that are told in real time, they are just a very niche genre at present. 12 Angry Men, My Dinner With Andre, Tape, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Ex Machina and The Man From Earth are all films that take place in basically a room, and large portions of them could have been filmed as a continuous take. Then there is ‘Rope’, which is perhaps the most famous example of the ‘continuous shot’ as the entire film plays out in real time, as guests at a dinner party are slowly made aware of a secret involving all of them. But again, the style of narrative being told is enhanced by the unrelenting pace of events occurring in real time, where the audience is given only as much information as all of the characters in the story.

    Anyway, I know that was a long one, hope I helped!

  2. Have you seen ‘1917’? I was astonished at that whole film being one, continuous shot (or at least, appearing to be). One of the best films I think I’ve seen in the last ten years.

    • You know, for someone who says they love long shots, I actually have not seen that movie or Atonement, as I don’t get excited to watch war movies. However, I need to give both of them a try. Thanks for the recommendation!


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