Watch the Sydney Opera House Transform Into A Hand-Drawn Animation

It’s like a 1970s cartoon in the best way.

Each year, the Sydney Opera House hands over its iconic sails to artists who use projectors to animate a Michael-Bay-worthy explosion of colors across its skin. The effect is the unreal combination of the world’s best graphic artists wielding the world’s most powerful tools in CGI.


This year, the honors went to the large scale animation studio Universal Everything. And while Universal Everything is known for CGI that’s appeared everywhere from Coldplay concerts to Radiohead apps, they took a different tact when curating this year’s exhibition, the Living Mural: They turned to 100% hand-drawn animation, penned by 22 artists from across the world.

“In contrast to previous years’ artists’ use of advanced CGI, our analog, hand-made animation process reveals a human soul in the drawings,” writes Universal Everything Founder Matt Pyke in a press release.

Each animator was given a 30 second block to work with, and required to use a black background along with a limited color palette. They were given a keyword like “grow,” “rise,” or “ricochet” to use as a general visual theme. Notably, the animators did still use digital tools–like Illustrator–but animations were all born from sketching with a stylus rather than clicking and dragging with the shape tool.

This difference is palpable, and spotting the imperfections feels strange at first since 3-D projection mapping is usually known for its precision. But the Living Mural opens to colors that flicker with chunks of color missing from frames,which leads to a very human-feeling animation that’s tough to describe in its own right (without pointing to Yellow Submarine or the psychedelic PBS children’s programming of the 1970s.)

It’s enough to remind you that, while the computer-driven animation of today is more or less perfect, there is a lot more to art than perfect execution.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.