Why a former Disney legend wants to use this $20 app to make a feature-length animated movie

Cartoon Penguin flying
(Image credit: YouTube / Aaron Blaise)

While CG is still the medium of choice for many of the largest animation studios like Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks, traditional 2D animation still holds the hearts of many, including myself.

However, be it financial pressures, tighter deadlines, or viewers’ preference for the more glossy, finished feel of CG animation, there’s not a lot of mainstream 2D animation these days. Aaron Blaise, a former Disney animator, writer, director, and all-round animation legend, thinks that could be about to change, thanks to more accessible software like Procreate Dreams.

“I think Procreate Dreams could not have come out at a better time,” says Blaise. “The use of CG animation is wonderful; it’s a great tool that allowed a lot of animated filmmakers who didn't draw to get into the field and create their visions. But I think that the industry has steered away from hand-drawn animation long enough – there's a big hunger for it now.”

In an interview with TechRadar, Blaise discussed why he’s adopting new and more accessible software for his animation education business and even some of his future works, including a feature-length film. 

Finished export and story reel of a bird

(Image credit: Aaron Blaise)

 Paint with all the colors of the wind 

Blaise left Disney in 2007 after having worked on titles like Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Pocahontas, Mulan, and Aladdin – he also directed Brother Bear. He wanted to continue making films, but on a smaller scale, and his greatest ambition was to transform his over 35-year career into education.

More recently, a key component of that ambition has been Procreate Dreams. Blaise’s business, CreatureArtTeacher, even offers Procreate Dreams-specific workshops. “So many people ask me what software to use, and it's a no-brainer. If you've got an iPad? No-brainer.”

In the run-up to Procreate Dreams’ release, Blaise spent 12 weeks working on a short animation using the software. “One of the biggest compliments and most consistent comments that I got on YouTube was, ‘This reminds me of the old Disney-style animation that I grew up on,’ which was always followed up with, 'I wish there was more of this.'

“That really gets me excited for the young artists who want to come in, start drawing, and do it the way we used to do it.”

Adding to Blaise’s Procreate Dreams enthusiasm in light of this renewed hunger for 2D animation is its very approachable price – just $19.99 / £19.99 / AU$29.99. “There is no other software out there that does what Procreate Dreams does for the price point, and that to me is probably the biggest selling point,” he says. “We're just gonna see this surge – and I'm already seeing it across YouTube and TikTok – this wave of new pieces of animation being done in Dreams.”

As a very amateur animator myself, I’ve also been pretty blown away by the Procreate Dreams experience. It’s remarkably robust and powerful but also incredibly flexible and easy to use – aspects Blaise sees huge potential in for newer animators.

Even for a seasoned pro like Blaise, though, Procreate Dreams is plenty powerful, too: “That penguin short I drew – that was before the software was even finished. I did it when a lot of the features weren't even there yet, but Dreams was still strong enough that I could create all the backgrounds and the animation in about 12 weeks, which is huge for a full piece of animation like that.”

In fact, Blaise sees Dreams as so capable he might just make his next feature-length animation using it. “We're talking about trying to do feature-length material using Dreams, and we're really excited about that. We just have to figure out the pipeline.”

One jump ahead of the slowpokes 

One of Blaise’s favorite things about Procreate Dreams is how easily it can replicate the experience of traditional, frame-by-frame animation on paper. “With young artists nowadays that is such a nostalgic mystery to them. 

“The way I approach animation, even when I'm drawing digitally, is still a very old-school, traditional way as if I'm animating on paper, which Dreams allows me to do,” says Blaise, “I don't use Lasso Tools and things like that, because I treat it like it's paper.”

There’s one standout feature Blaise wishes he could have used earlier in his career; Performance mode. “The Performance mode is awesome. You can take a piece of animation, move it around the screen, record that movement, and then you're done. That saves such an incredible amount of time.”

In fact, Blaise said Dreams’ biggest flaw has more to do with hardware – he’d love to see it on a larger slate: “Apple, if you're reading this – make a bigger iPad.”

Still, he says, Procreate Deams has done a great job at allowing you to use that space economically, letting you easily switch between editing directly on the timeline and drawing in flipbook mode. ”I don't know of any other software that does that. They're really thinking about the artist and the ease of animation.”

Final export and story reel of a bird looking down

(Image credit: Aaron Blaise)

Adventure in the great wide somewhere 

For Blaise, the Dreams experience isn’t just exciting in its potential to bring in new animators; having the freedom to move with his artwork is even changing his own lifestyle as an artist. 

At the Lightbox art conference in Pasadena, California, last year, fellow artist James Gurney arranged for a few peers, including Blaise, to gather one morning and complete landscape or cityscape paintings of downtown Pasadena. They also added giant creatures into the paintings as a fun illustration exercise. 

Blaise, typically confined to his studio space and full setup for animation, was able to partake in a way he’d never be able to without Procreate Dreams. “Just having that portability and being able to animate anywhere, that's pretty cool. I love that it's ready to go when the inspiration hits you or if you want to go somewhere and you can't be in the studio.”

It’s a freedom Blaise sees as central to the future and success of Procreate Dreams, and that freedom extends to the artistic flair of the individual using it. “It doesn't have to be Disney style; that's the thing I get excited about. There are so many new fresh ideas coming into the animation world; styles and ways of expression that we've never seen before that Dreams is going to allow people to do." 

All that’s left, Blaise says, is to try: “Just get in there and start animating and drawing, learning the basics; the bouncing ball, the stretch and squish exercises, the timing, all of that. Being able to do shots like that in Dreams is incredibly easy.”

“One of the things I love about apps like Procreate and Procreate Dreams is that they are so robust, there are 100 different ways that you can do any one thing. It just depends on what your workflow is, and how you come at it.”

Whether you’re an experienced artist like Blaise or an absolute amateur like myself, Procreate Dreams is one of the most accessible animation apps available, from its low price to the fact its hardware is a general-use tablet and not the pricey purpose-built best drawing tablets

Final export and story reel of birds mid flight

(Image credit: Aaron Blaise)

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Josephine Watson
Managing Editor, Lifestyle

Josephine Watson (@JosieWatson) is TechRadar's Managing Editor - Lifestyle. Josephine has previously written on a variety of topics, from pop culture to gaming and even the energy industry, joining TechRadar to support general site management. She is a smart home nerd, as well as an advocate for internet safety and education, and has also made a point of using her position to fight for progression in the treatment of diversity and inclusion, mental health, and neurodiversity in corporate settings. Generally, you'll find her watching Disney movies, playing on her Switch, or showing people pictures of her cats, Mr. Smith and Heady.