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Many modern films make heavy use of digital processing and special effects. Some even include entire characters created using digital animation, such as Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy and the titular Alita in Alita: Battle Angel. However, there are essentially no films for adults created entirely using 3D animation (with or without motion capture). Why?

3D animated films tageted at children have been wildly popular, sometimes even among adults, like Frozen. 2D animated films and series targeted at adults have also seen success, like Archer and countless anime films. So why has nobody combined 3D rendering with a plot and themes targeted at an adult audience? I have thought about several explanations, but none of them make much sense to me.

  • Animation quality: Adults pay more attention to details, and may think that a film is poorly animated, while children don't notice this and enjoy the film anyway. But both Alita and Guardians of the Galaxy were praised for their VFX, so why can't all characters in the film be animated?
  • Cost: Producing good quality CGI is labor-intensive and therefore expensive. At the same time, it reduces or eliminates the expeditures associated with travel, costumes and camera equipment. For example, animated Disney films generally have similar budgets to live-action ones, so cost shouldn't be a problem either.
  • Actor recognition: Famous actors may attract audiences to see a film, which doesn't work as well if they don't actually appear onscreen. But they can still do voice acting and, if needed, motion capture, which should be enough for viewers to associate their names with the film.

Obviously, I must be wrong somewhere, since nobody actually makes this type of movies. But why? Is there simply no demand for them or does a better explanation exist?

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    Sausage Party, Isle of Dogs and Anomalisa are animated movies for adults that have come out in the 2010s. I feel like there's a few animated movies for adults that come out, they just aren't wildly successful. Currently Hollywood is still on its super hero movie kick since they make tons of money. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_adult_animated_films – Gabriel Jan 29 '20 at 22:45
  • There was Beowulf – TK-421 Jan 30 '20 at 7:38
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The question is overstating its assertion that there are virtually no animated movies for adults. I could make a list but I'd rather address the underlying truth to your question, i.e. that there are proportionately less animated movies for adults, which I do think is true.

First of all, if you're focusing on top-tier graphical quality, the production budget is not that far off from a live action movie. If a movie studio has the experience and equipment for making live action movies, it's easier (and presumably cheaper) to keep doing what you're doing instead of doing something completely new. CGI has become commonplace, but that's not the same as making an entire animated movie from the ground up.

Secondly, older adults are proportionately more likely to be put off by animation, whether by the visual themselves or simply hearing that it's "not a real" movie. This can lead to lowered ticket sales, or at least the expectation thereof.

Thirdly, it does slightly affect immersion and suspension of disbelief. This doesn't apply to everyone, but for some people, 3D animation simply does not convey emotional and importance as well as live actors do.
That's not (or, at least, no longer) a matter of not being able to render emotions on an animated face, but rather than people's suspension of disbelief is altered by looking at something they can more easily identify as artificial.

Take for example Jurassic Park vs Jurassic World. There is something different about Jurassic Park's dinosaurs, which were made with live action puppets, compared to the high quality CGI in Jurassic World.
Decade(s) old movies that used CGI look very dated with current technological advances, but Jurassic Park's dinosaurs are much more resistant to scrutiny because our eyes cannot easily discern that these dinosaurs are real (we know it, but we can't quite see it).

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  • "... that there are proportionately less animated movies for adults, which I do think is true." - Bingo. – Charles Jan 30 '20 at 3:31

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