Why do direct to DVD movies look lower quailty, such as Lion King II, compared to say the theatrical release of The Lion King?


Watching the Lion King II, the quailty is much lower and it doesnt “look” like a movie, but rather a long episode of a tv show. Why does the look seem so different?

In: 104

Budgets for full theatrical release films are generally much larger, allowing more staff and thus increased quality control. Direct-to-DVD productions get far fewer resources behind them than theatricals.

Because a lot of those animated sequels are cranked out faster and more cheaply than the originals, or different animation techniques were used in the production.

VHS/DVD sales aren’t even remotely as profitable as a theater run, so the movie budget is adjusted in consequence.

The cynical among us go further and say that direct to video stuff, before disney+ and netflix, were designed as pure garbage disguised as beloved franchises, easy money with little risk. If they really believed in it, they’d have released it in theaters to begin with.

So others have mentioned that it’s because the budget is lower, which is true.

But I’d like to focus on why it looks worse, as in what is different about the animation. Now I haven’t seen The Lion King in well over a decade and I’ve never seen the sequel but when I watch them there is one thing that immediately sounds out to me.

The first movie appears to be, at least for parts (I’m not going to watch the whole thing), animated on 1s or 2s and the sequel is animated on 3s, and maybe even 4s.

Now what does that mean? Basically for a movie or TV show. There are 24 images shown every second. Those are called frames, and you get 24 frames per second. For animation something people do a lot is instead of showing a brand new image every single frame they hold that image there for extra frames

So when I say something is “animated on 1s” that means the image is held for only 1 frame “animated on 2s” means it held for 2 frames and so on.

Holding the exact same image for less time ends up with a much more fluid-looking animation. But as you might guess it’s more expensive because you literally have to draw more pictures. A movie animated on 2s will have twice as many pictures as an equally long movie that’s animated on 4s (all else being equal).

If there is something “cheap” looking about animation you cant quite explain 9 times out of 10 that’s what it is.

There are other techniques like reusing animation, more simplistic character designs that are easier to animate, or fewer heavily animated sequences like fights in the first place. But straight-up drawing fewer pictures and just showing them for longer is definitely a big go-to method for cheaper animation.

They are low effort cash-grabs.

Don’t worry, the straight to dvd sequel is still better than the off-brand knock-off.