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Thread: Should animation be a genre?

  1. #1
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    Should animation be a genre?

    I always thought that animation was another way of making a film, rather than another type of genre. I'd like to hear what you guys have to say about this.

  2. #2
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    RE: Should animation be a genre?

    This would be kind of difficult to call. Certain film "genres" (i.e., western, horror, film noir) tend to have certain expectations as to what will be seen in the film (for example, horses and/or a "western" setting in a western) or as to how the film will be shot or presented (for example, "film noir", which refers to the dark, gritty detective/suspense films of the late 40s to mid-50's).

    On the other hand, animated films tend to cover a fairly limitless number of styles (from "Gertie The Dinsoaur" to "Fantasia" to "What's Opera Doc?" to "Toy Story" to "Princess Mononoke") and the subjest matter covered in animated films is limited only by the imagination of the scriptwriters (Japanese "anime", for example, runs the gamut from G-rated fantasies to violent X-rated supernatural-themed dramas).

    So while it could be said that animated films are a "genre", it would be difficult to attach a certain "style" of film to it...

  3. #3
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    I had a friend once who was relentlessly sceptical about animation because he thought none of it was ever as good as The Simpsons. South Park? Not as good as The Simpsons. The Wild Thornberrys? Not as good as The Simpsons. Robin? Not as good as The Simpsons. Now, whereas I agree with his judgement, it was pretty obvious that he was only comparing them because they were cartoons, and it drove me mad. Eventually I tried a counter-attack. Whenever he talked about a new American TV show, I would reply with "Yeah, but it's not as good as Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Eventually he asked me how I could possibly compare such diverse programmes as Mr. Show, Frasier, Ally McBeal and Oz with Buffy. replied "Well, they're all set in America, aren't they?"

    He got the message in the end.
    Perfume V - he tries, bless him.

  4. #4
    As an animation grad from an art school in America, I can say that animation is a process rather than a genre. This is why I get upset about the new ghettoized "Best Animated Feature" category at the Academy Awards: There's no way that The Wild Thornberry movie and Spirited Away should be in the same category. An animated film can be an adventure, a comedy, a drama, or any combination of genres; the technique is what makes it an animated film, not the content. Beauty and the Beast was nominated (for what reason, I have no idea) for Best Picture years ago, and apparently pissed off enough people in Hollywood that this new category was put into motion.

    Think about it: an animation is a series of still images that, when run in succession at a certain speed, seem to move as though they were alive. What's a "real film" then? A series of still frames that, when run in succession at a certain speed, seem to move as though they were alive. How ironic. The only difference is that one uses drawing and one uses real actors.

    But then you have sci-fi and event films that have animated creatures or effects. Half of The Two Towers was CGI, and yet it's in the same Best Picture category as The Pianist, which probably didn't have nearly as many effects shots as TTT. Where's the cutoff point at which a film becomes "too animated" to be considered a "real film?" What about "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" -- it has both human and animated characters. Oh, but so does TTT: Gollum... Hmm... The argument gets stickier...

    Animation receives the same bad rap for not being "true cinema" as comic books do for not being "true literature." They're made of the same pieces, but the cultural intelligentsia have determined that ONE is "real" and the OTHER is "shallow imitation." I prefer to look past that distinction and appreciate each on its own merit, rather than trying to subclassify them.

  5. #5
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    Problem is that if animated and foreign-lang. films were not "ghettoized", they would seldom if ever win recognition by our Academy of Motion Pictures due to long-standing prejudices. I do hope for instance, that a win will result in more rentals and sales of the Spirited Away DVD.

  6. #6
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    Eisenstein said

    "Disney's films are the truest form of cinema because they are totally self-contained".

    Anybody agree? I tend to. Although I prefer "real" actors & action..
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  7. #7
    I prefer real actors and action too, although I appreciate what animated films can do. We're seeing so much animation-meets-reality filming these days (The Matrix, etc.) that it's almost becoming a non-issue. Purity, shmurity, I just want a film that speaks to me.

  8. #8
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    Animation as a technique

    Miseenscene, I can agree with your observations. I think the problem with the average moviegoer is that he/she may not know the whole history behind animation. As much as still photography was being implemented in the late 1800's to become moving pictures, animation followed a similar path. Just as with moving photographs, moving drawings run 24 frames per second. One photograph represents one frame and so does one drawing. The only difference obviously when you're dealing with still photography, you've captured the image versus drawing which is of course the creation of the image.

    I, for one, note that while live-action is more reality than drawings, as long as its fiction, something's bound to be fake. Animation isn't exactly real although there has been animation that follows more closely to human movements. I've seen Todd McFarlane's "Spawn" series on HBO and while I wasn't exactly impressed with the show as a whole, I liked how the movement of the drawings was more realistic than for instance your average Saturday morning cartoon or even what Disney puts out each year or so.

    But as a whole, there are plenty of animated features which differ in genre. "Secret of NIMH," looks more like a fantasy-adventure. "Shrek" is more along the comedy lines. Titan A.E. is sci-fi.

    Now how about this... What if someone decided to make an animated feature out of Art Spiegelman's "Maus" graphic novels? Couldn't you easily point out that the story was serious and that drama would be the category "Maus" would fit in?

  9. #9
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    I was terribly impressed by Shrek because it didn't really feel like a kids' movie to me - it was more like a CGI version of early Zucker brothers films like Airplane! and The Naked Gun. And since I'm of the firm belief that the early ZAZ movies are amongst the finest achievements in American comedy during the last forty years, that was good enough for me.

    Personally, I've always felt more emphasis should be given to stop-motion animation. It's probably the broadest and most versatile form of animation out there - what other technique could cover the Quay brothers, Wallace and Gromit and Clash of the Titans. Unlike some, I don't think CGI's made this technique obsolete at all. If anything, it's made me want to see more of it.
    Perfume V - he tries, bless him.

  10. #10
    Pipsorcle: If anyone made a film of Maus, it might actually cross over to the mainstream Best Picture category. However, when Maus won the Pulitzer, there was a huge uproar among the literati who believed that a comic book should never be able to win such a prestigious prize, no matter the subject matter. Picture books are for kids. Cartoons are for kids. Adults tell their stories by play-acting...

    Some animation achieves its "real" look by rotoscoping, which is basically filming live action and then drawing over it (or "cheating," as some of as animators called it :)...) -- "Anastasia," for example. I personally prefer classic Disney, or even Warner Bros., who invented their characters strictly on paper and used models for reference, rather than tracing them. Those characters seemed fluid and had their own personality, rather then being conformed to the motions of real actors.

    Then again, we have "Waking Life," which is more or less rotoscoped -- the whole movie was filmed on video and then every frame of the video was painted digitally. That's animation. I wonder what that would have been classified by the Academy...

  11. #11
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    Animation Is A Process

    Animation is just another way of producing something for television or screen. The lines between actors and animation and computer special effects will definitely blur this line until there is no difference. Thus genres can be overlayed over animated features so that animated westerns, drama, comedy, science fiction are how animated films just as those produced with real settings and real people can be categorized. Bunching all the animated films into one category doesn't make sense because they are distinctively different if one looks at the entire animation field, scope of films. It's only because the American animated focus as been so clearly predominated by the cartoonish stereotype that everything seems to be put into one pile.

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    TREASURE PLANET

    I rented the DVD of Treasure Planet and I post to recommend it to everyone who loves great animation.
    This was a visual feast. Typical Disney characters/sentimentality, but this stands on par with anything Pixar has done. (I'm even prone to say it's better because I loved the "Alice in Wonderland" feel of this piece)
    There's a scene towards the end with "glimpses of the universe" that should impress any sfx nerd.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  13. #13
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    I tend to agree with tabuno's comments on the subject.

    I tend to look at animation as a process rather than a genre. It is what it is, simply another technique to make a movie, one that involves completely constructing the characters, the environment, and the action from scratch. It has its advantages because you can accomplish things in animation that you could not do physically. Take the film "Akira." Difficult enough to make a movie out of a 2,000-page comic, but one as rich and as dense in both story and design...I forget what the actual figure was, but a few years ago, somebody optioned to make a live action version of the film and the cost was some astronomical amount that would have put the cost of all the "Star Wars" movies combined seem like pocket change. I still hear they're developing one, and that the story is changed so drastically that it's not even the same story anymore. Hopefully it's only a rumor, but I'm holding my breath for what would inevitably be a bad adaptation. But that's off topic. Quite simply, animation has the advantage of being able to do anything you want, whereas you can't always do that in the physical realm of moviemaking. But it is still a technique. You can do things with color film that you could not accomplish with black and white film...is color a genre? No, it's not.

    Also, I think the reason animation is being considered a genre is because many (not all, but many) American audiences are somewhat saturated by the idea of animation being Disney-esque. Sure in recent years, Manga/Anime and computer-animated films have started becoming more commonplace, but a few years is hardly enough to rest the stigma of a few decades. For decades, the only animated films people saw were those created by Disney. Now Disney was ground-breaking in his techniques of animation and filmmaking, so his influence can't be denied, but Disney animation is G-rated family fun entertainment. I have yet to see Disney foray into something that is more adult-oriented, as far as animation goes. Sure we have the occasional sci-fi related half-hour cartoon, but it's still mostly kid-oriented. When it is something more serious like "Aeon Flux," it gets put into a completely different category, and the line becomes more blurred as to whether or not animation is really a genre or not. "Aeon Flux" is NOT "Gummi Bears." To put them in the same genre is absurd...that's like putting "Blade Runner" in the same genre as "Ace Ventura."

    The Japanese have a different approach making anything from kid-friendly TV shows, to action-packed sci-fi fantasy films, to pornography. Animation is just another technique of making serious films to them. "Akira," "Ghost in the Shell," "The Wings of Honneamise," these are all sophisticated films, not cartoons. And since the popularity of Japanese animation has been growing over the last 15-20 years, people in the mainstream are starting to pay more attention to it, and more Japanese animated movies are making it to theaters.

    Animation is not a genre, but a method of making a film. Animation can be of different genres, but it is not a genre in and of itself. Plain and simple.
    Last edited by Ilker81x; 05-27-2003 at 02:07 PM.

  14. #14
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    Agreed

    Absolutely. As I've said before in earlier posts and as Tabuno pointed out, animation is a process, not a type of film. Quite a bit of animation directors who have their own sense of vision for animated features, such as Don Bluth and Hayao Miyazaki, know that the biggest question which comes to their mind: "How am I going to tell this story?" Indeed, live-action filmmakers have this thought as well. So in a way, it would be pointless to be narrow-minded and saying animation is just for kids because then that means you're ignoring that animation can also tell stories in as much of a profound way as live-action can.

    This is why I dislike the most recent Disney films: they aim to please kids and family only but they never seem to have their own voice. Disney, as of recent years, seems to forget its past and how its earlier films were marvels not just about animation but storytelling as well.

    And it is interesting how there's such a difference in culture in Japan versus America, where Miyazaki and many Japanese animators aim to simply tell stories dramatically, even if animation is one or the only way they do make motion pictures. Take "Spirited Away" for instance. I can't place it into a kids and family category because it's very mature and it runs just as if it was a dramatic live-action film, with of course the only difference being that it's an animated feature.

    And thank god "Spirited Away" has gathered great attention in the US. It's about time that in this country, more people realize that animated features are more than just simply "cartoons."

  15. #15
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    I agree with pipsorcle on his assessment of "Spirited Away" and Japanese animation in general. What I admire most about anime is that they are primarily interested in telling a story, but they also pull off some incredible animation. "Ghost in the Shell" was pretty ground breaking in its use of computer-generated images combined with traditional cel animation, but it wasn't done for its own sake...these techniques helped advance the story and make it all the better. Now I have my problems with "Ghost in the Shell" (basically that it's too short and that they should have figured out a way to extend it just a little), but it's still an amazing piece of film and animation. Same for "Spirited Away," the computer images in certain scenes were not used as exposition, but rather as tools to improve the visuals and help advance the story. I think PIXAR and other American animation studios (especially Disney) should take a clue from the Japanese and realize that before the animation comes the story. While George Lucas may have lost his way in recent years, he still said one of the best quotes back in 1983..."A special effect is a tool, a means of telling a story...a special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing." Animation is another form of special effect...well...for some movies it's just a special effect, and sometimes the movie IS the effect, but the point still applies. Animation is visually stunning, but without a good story to it, it gets pretty boring. I think that's why I dislike "The Matrix" as much as I do. But that's another post.

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