It is becoming more popular as animation techniques become more sophisticated to create animated documentaries.
This is interesting as animations have more fantasy, caricature, stylisation, abstraction, exaggeration and transformation. Where as in documentary the audience usually sees truth, seriousness, evidence and as much as possible an objective point of view. This brings forwards the point about what documentaries should and shouldn’t contain and whether it is even possible to have an ‘animated documentary.’ Documentary itself can be seen in many different ways. John Grierson see it as,
“the creative treatment of actuality”
While others like Bill Nichols see documentaries as addressing,
“the world in which we live rather than a world imagined by the filmmaker”
These two help us think of animation as a viable means of documentary expression it can be used as a creative way of treating actuality. Animation can also be used to substitute for any missing material the documentarist might need. An example of this would be The Sinking of the Lusitania. Animated documentaries began appearing more frequently after this and by the end of the Twentieth Century, animated documentary was firmly established. Animated documentaries are now an increasingly commonplace sub-form of documentary being included in animation and documentary festivals without question.
Animated documentaries are quite popular because they can do what live action cannot which to to recreate events that cannot be seen. This could be seen as Mimetic substitution in which animation illustrates something that would be very hard, or impossible, to show with live-action. The best way in which this can be seen is to watch any documentary about dinosaurs as all the creatures seen would have to be created digitally.
In this way we can see how the animated documentary is a real option when it comes to communicating facts to an audience.