And so it begins…
So the last year has been one of the most eventful of my life. Bear with me, this isn’t an egotistical puff piece so I need to elaborate.
I don’t just mean the fact that I moved onto a steady university course after my one year foundation- it’s pretty obvious that life upends itself into something utterly different when that happens. No, it’s more about the fact that where I’ve ended up has proven to be completely different from anything I’ve done before- and more importantly, incredibly enlightening.
Some of you might remember that about two years ago I had an ongoing documentary concerning Epic Mickey and the History of Disney, a topic on why I felt the game represented a creative burst in a company that was attempting to move onwards. However my critical faculties changed as time went on and I can see now how naive I was in engaging with the subject of animation without really understanding how that industry works. While I feel I understand that subject more intimately than I ever did before, I still feel that there’s even more to be gained- and it’s burst any potential sense of entitlement. Also it didn’t help that in the end Epic Mickey was creatively stifled by John Lasseter and, along with its increasingly defensive director, ended up being awful.
I bring this up because this combined knowledge and experience has highlighted exactly how much animation has changed as an industry and how interestingly things have come along in the past few years. Creative freedom seems to be massively championed at the moment- just look at the current clamour for Adventure Time, the fact that Disney picked up both Gravity Falls and Wonder Over Yonder, the fact that the critically acclaimed Avatar series got commissioned for a bunch of seasons, and the explosion of prime time shows not only from Adult Swim but a host of other networks trying to get in on the act.
However in some ways this has lead to a little indulgence which I don’t think anyone truly predicted. A lot of shows have fallen victim to pandering to as wide a demographic as possible- often the internet demo in a desperate bid to get attention or to become viral in one way or another. Some have become purely about ideas while the execution remains sorely lacking, often in the writing department in favour of the material that appears to work better out of context. social justice warriors use shows as a platform in order to boost their own standing with examples that simply feel shallow. Some have even gone on to upturn the original creators in a way that actually restricts their freedoms- I don’t need to say any more than Pony right now for some to get where i’m coming from.
For every step forward there’s a step back, but the difference is that there’s a real feel of enthusiasm with animation feeling much more accessible and hands on to everyone else. We’re beyond the reverential feel offered up by the Disney films where it felt as though people were crafting pieces from towers of artistic excellence and frustratingly out of touch corporate mentalities. Television and the internet have brought new platforms to allow for a better scale with which to judge the quality and popularity of animation and all that comes with it.
I’ve found however that animated movies are still stuck in a quagmire of mundanity. It’s another topic I’ll go into detail with later on, but honestly I feel that we’ve hit something of a wall in recent years. My animation buddies will understandably nerd out about the animation in Cloudy with a chance of meatballs 2 and Hotel Transylvania, but even they would probably admit that in terms of ideas and game-changing storytelling, it just isn’t there. We live in a world where Despicable Me 2 can receive dizzying heights of praise, and the idea that those movies are the best we can offer is a very scary thought. You only have to look at what’s happening on television or the internet to realise that we can do so much better- and that we ARE doing so much more.
For the next couple of weeks I’m going to be offering up some blogs detailing my thoughts on what I’ve been watching, working towards and hearing about the animation industry. It’s going to be pretty close to my own training and sadly won’t be as holistic in its tastes as the work put across by others- however those people who do so that I find will probably be recommended right here. I’ll try and post some of the stuff I’m working with to help convey how things are shaping up and if I can walk the walk.
Failing that, if it’s a slow day I’ll probably post a lot of pictures of Giraffes being chased by lions and let the cash roll in.