Good animation is like a drug to me, it can completely intoxicate me, leaving me in a state of stupor. It doesn’t happen often because so many mainstream studios tend to stick with what is considered safe at the time.
But every so often there are moments in certain animated films that grab me, the lanterns in Tangled, Paddington’s fur, the entirety of Song of the Sea. Animation can create beauty without many limits which is why it is a shame to see the same style of animation over and over again.
Yet so many people don’t share the same love and appreciation for the medium; which is downright frustrating. I think I hit my peak annoyance when Into the Spider-Verse came out. Which is INCREDIBLE, by the way. It didn’t get the release it deserved when I urged my Mum to go and see it, she couldn’t find it playing at her local cinema. She hadn’t even heard of it at all.
I just can’t figure out why. I only heard about it from the film community on Twitter, but is this down to poor marketing on Marvel’s behalf? Or are people just not as interested in a Marvel animation? It astounds me considering the hand-drawn comic book background of the entire film universe.
What was genuinely upsetting is when I heard someone say ‘No I don’t want to go and see that it’s a cartoon’. ‘Cartoon’ is a somewhat dirty word, it completely devalues the film, automatically giving it a lower standard than live-action. But why? I would probably put this down to the history of animation, how it developed from being a new, cutting edge method of story-telling to caricatures and cartoon shows for children with the likes of Tom & Jerry and Looney Tunes. But even then, I still get so much entertainment from those shows, just because we enter into adulthood were shouldn’t just automatically disregard cartoons because they are for children.
This is perhaps the biggest problem that animation faces, the notion that it is made for children. Don’t get me wrong, animated feature films are primarily marketed towards a younger audience, most having a U rating. The merchandise is mostly directed towards children, but does this make all animated feature films inherently bad?
The answer is a big fat no. Yes, there are some animated films that have been purely created for the entertainment of children and are utterly terrible *cough* The Emoji Movie *cough* but truly bad animated films are few and far between.
I would say that the majority of films I watch are animated, whether it is 2D or 3D animation, I genuinely don’t care I just love the medium. It can be so beautiful and imaginative it has no limits. Yet it is making its way into live action, most fantasy or science fiction films are full of 3D animation, yes it is made to look as real as possible, but it is the same thing at its core. Aquaman, which came out around the same time as Into The SpiderVerse did infinitely better in box office sales, despite it being not as critically acclaimed, yet I would guess that about 80% of that film has been created using CGI animation techniques.
So what is the difference, the more real it looks, the more acceptable it is for an adult audience?? Apparently so. But I desperately want this to change. Everyone I have spoken to about Into the Spider-Verse has been blown away by it. Not only is the animation beautiful, innovative and inspiring, but the story, the acting, the music; the entire film is also an incredible piece of art, that in my opinion, should not only be nominated in the best animation category but the best film category as well…I mean, Beauty in the Beast made it before they made an entire category to shove all animation into.
When it comes to animations critical reception, it is nearly always in the 80% upward bracket. Studios like Disney, Ghibli, Pixar and Dreamworks are all powerhouses in film making. Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away is on pretty much every ‘Top 100 Films’ list, because not only is it beautifully animated, the entire film is a work of art; and again, even though it is partly made with children in mind, but again probably should have been nominated in the category of Best Film as well as Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards…
However, things are changing, Anomalisa (2015), a stop-motion film was the first animated feature to be given an R-rating for adult and sexual themes, it was also nominated for an Oscar, interestingly, it lost out to Pixar’s Inside Out, which was perhaps one of Pixar’s more ‘childish’ films despite it having strong emotional connotations. More recently, Netflix has announced an anthology series directed by David Fincher and Tim Miller that will be for adults that will span the genres and also animation techniques. Hopefully, it will showcase animation as a serious art form as well as a way to engage children!
Cartoon Network for the past few years has been trailblazing the medium of animated television with shows such as Adventure Time and Steven Universe. Both tackle so many issues that many would deem ‘too adult’ for children, primarily LGBT issues, but they go about it in a way that is healthy and educational for everyone, not just children. Both shows are enjoyed by children and young adults, they show how much animation can give underrepresented people a voice, in a vibrant and fun way. Both of these shows are, for me in my top 5 favourite TV shows of all time, they are far more intelligent and relevant than so many live-action shows.
I just want people to get rid of their preconceived notions about animation because they are honestly missing out on a whole lot of beautiful, captivating film-going and television watching!
By Siobhan Eardley.