The new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem animation looks incredible; it follows the current trend for mixing 2D and 3D art styles and is happy to look a little chaotic and random. The days of Pixar's clinical photo-real CG style seem to be over, and I think that's a good thing.
The style of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem can be traced back to 2018's Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, a film that burst onto the scene with bubblegum chewing, punk-ish bedlam – a riot of vibrant optimism and a clash of animation and art styles that looked like a comic book in motion.
It's been 16 years since the last Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie and this new animation burst out this week with a teaser trailer (watch it below) that really took a lot of people aback. The doodle-sketch-painterly CG animated style is a real design treat, and I'm here for it.
It's no surprise Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem looks so good, as it's being helmed by Jeff Rowe, who co-directed The Mitchells vs. The Machines for Sony Pictures Animation. This is one of the best animated movies of recent years and adapted the same tools and tech as used in Spider-Verse to deliver its digital paint brush art direction.
Sony Pictures Animation is back later this year with Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and is set to deliver yet another masterclass in modern animation, one where anything goes and CG tech is used to replicate textures and feel of art in all its myriad forms.
While we wait for both Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (due 4 August) and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (coming 2 June) below I've listed the best modern animated movies you need to watch.
Love the look of TMNT: Mutant Mayhem? Watch these…
Puss In Boots: The Last Wish
DreamWorks Animation's hit movie was produced by Guillermo del Toro and directed by Joel Crawford with the aim to make the animation look like an illustrated children's book, an idea from production designer Nate Wragg. Initially Into The Spider-Verse's director Bob Persichetti was on board, and it tells, but after Crawford came to the movie the team doubled-down on the painterly storybook look, resulting it's one of 2022's best animated films.
The Mitchells vs. the Machines
This was a big hit for Netflix and proved the streaming giant's animation credentials. Mitchells was the directorial debut by Mike Rianda and was written by Rianda and Jeff Rowe, with Phil Lord, Christopher Miller – so the talent is here. This Sony Pictures Imageworks' animation used the same tools from Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse to deliver a hand-painted watercolor style. As well as 2D effects, such as wiggly drawn lines and paint brush strokes the animation also mixes in 2D and live-action footage alongside the CG – it looks incredible.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
No list is complete without, perhaps, the animated movie that kick-started the new trend for blending 2D and 3D, as well as mixing and mashing illustration and animation styles. This movie adapts 70-year-old comic art techniques into its animation style, ensuring dot print, paint brush strokes, thick line work and other comic book styles are mashed together alongside graffiti and other art styles. Rendered CG frames were painted and scribbled over by hand to deliver a 'living artwork' look – it took over 177 animated and artists.
Arcane: League Of Legends
Created by French animation studio Fortiche in partnership with game developer Riot Games, this Netflix show took everyone by surprise. Shows based on video games should be this good; the animation looks like it's been painted into the screen and there's a direct correlation between the concept art of the video game and the animation. This was a passion project for Riot Games and it took six years to make, and on release in November 2021 became the most-watched show on Netflix.
Maya And The Three
Another Netflix animation from 2021, Maya And The Three delivers a unique visual design that evokes the angular stylisation of pre-colonial Mesoamerica culture. The mini-series was created by Oscar-winner Jorge R. Gutiérrez and pitched as Lord Of The Rings but with jokes. Every scene is an explosion of colour and the various worlds, characters and creatures you meet are ingeniously designed. There really is no other animation like it. Read my Maya And The Three interview with Jorge R. Gutiérrez on making the movie for more insights.