Saturday, 6 April 2013

Suitable for animating?

I've been thinking about this topic recently, mostly after watching certain films and thinking back to things I've heard a lot of people say. How many times have you ever heard somebody say or write:

"It should only be animated if it needs to be."

By this they mean that a project should only undergo an animation process if it will benefit from it. An example would be, if you have a talking dinosaur could suggest animating it straight away because it doesn't exist in real life. It wouldn't be possible to grab a camera, hunt down a talking dinosaur and film it acting out your script. It's something that has to be created because it doesn't exist.

That's the argument I hear most of the time. The attitude of "If it's mundane, why bother?". I completely see where people are coming from when they say this. I even believe it myself, to an extent. But surely that point of view could be damaging for our medium? In the west animation is mainly for kids, feature films are colourful, have whacky characters and movement and are pretty much mostly aimed at being hyper entertainment for the younger generation (not a bad thing, I love that stuff). In the east they have some of that too, but they also have the opposite. They have films aimed at adults with largely quite normal (within the style) designs and movement.

I don't know if our opinions in the west are stopping us from creating different projects, some that could be more appealing for the older generation but I think it can be limiting. Take a look at Mary and Max. If you gave that script to some producers/directors there's a good chance they wouldn't even think of making it into an animated feature. It's such a real world story, there are no crazy characters, no strange worlds, nothing very animation-stereotypical about it but the film is beautiful.

It totally works.
What I'm trying to get at is how great things could be if we didn't set so many rules for animated films. If we didn't have to tick boxes to OK something to be animated we could explore a lot more. I know some people might think it could be damaging, animation could lose it's charm and become too realistic. And I guess that mocap is something that's drawing the line there at the moment. And it comes down to money too. Rise of The Guardians for's an awesome film. A proper family adventure kind of deal, but it didn't do as well as Dreamworks had liked. It made a profit but not enough. These days, for films to get made the studio has to believe it's going to make a ton of cash, and we all know kids will drag their parents to the cinema to see the latest animated feature (for kids).

What got me thinking about this was watching some animated films from Japan, y'know, the stuff the kids call "anime"? The stories can be very mature. I really wish that we had animated features for older age groups in the west. With such skillful folk as the guys at Dreamworks/Pixar/BlueSky and pretty much everywhere else...imagine the kind of projects that could be made! I feel so frustrated that the potential possibilities won't ever happen for x and y reason. Which is awful...but hey, more folk are making short films and working on projects in their spare time. There are countless short animated films online that most certainly aren't for kids that are doing very well and definitely have an audience (see end of post). If only folk with lots of money would take notice and take a chance. And maybe if we animators didn't put up so many boundaries we might explore a few different areas.

Who knows :)

And just to be clear, I'm not implying that we should dumb down our designs and style of animation to accommodate more mature stories. I'm focusing more on what we think is suitable to be animated. The examples below are all pretty stylised and have different styles of animation but they all deal with topics that are more suited to an audience who are a bit older than the target audience for Rio (for example).

Some recent examples of more mature animation:


Unknown said...

Definitely agree with you.

I only agree with the "only animate it if it needs to be animated" thing for photoreal live action stuff.

In that case, if you can shoot it and you know it will be less effort, then shoot it.

Otherwise there are way more pros and cons to consider.

Life of Pi is a great example. They shot with the tiger where they could but used the CGI tiger for the majority of the movie where they couldn't use the real tiger.

THen there are films like The Illusionist. It could totally have been done as a live action movie, but it would never have had the same charm.
It's probably one of my favorite animated films because of that.

There are certain attributes to animation that get you something that live action cannot, and vice versa.

Unknown said...

I agree. Another example of a 'mundane' sort of animation would be The Adventures of Paddington Bear. It wasn't glitzy or flamboyant, but it worked, and it had 117 episodes aired!

If animators want to push the boundaries, it might be an idea to try what we've already done in other media first, before venturing into the completely unknown.