The Art of Animation

Even with such significant, recent advancement in animation, many will still refuse to place it equal next to live-action. To many it is still viewed as lesser, or believe it to be cartoon-ish, neglecting the fact that animation is of course its own medium: a well-crafted art that encompasses many different forms of entertainment. Much like live-action, there is no limit to its number of genres – in fact, animation, with proper creative design, can allow for more freedom and inspiration than its realistic counterpart.

Animation has the ability to use imaginative decisions to personify the genre it reflects. In 2017 and 2018, two Van Gogh-based movies, animated Loving Vincent and At Eternity’s Gate were released respectively, both closely reflecting the artistic style of Van Goth. However, Loving Vincent is able to achieve much more, due to its computer support. It is a fully animated, painted movie, which replicates oil-on-canvas via paint-on-glass animation. It has strong elements of real-life drawings – and easily represents the artistic genre closer to that of any live-action equivalent. Expanding upon this in showing animation’s improvement of genre through animation would be Into the Spider-Verse. There is (or certainly in my opinion) an abundance of superhero movies – but none that are able to portray the hero as well as this one. Miles, the inexperienced protagonist, is animated at 12 frames per second (fps), next to the experienced Peter, animated at 24 fps – to fully show the depth of character action and maturity. Other comic-book adaptations may very well represent the characters and genre perfectly, but all are unable to demonstrate the stunning approach of truly bringing the pages to life. This method of utilising changing frame rates would only look messy or confused when implemented together in a live-action equivalent.

Upon taking this article, I went back and watched Treasure Planet – and I was genuinely shocked by the subtle beauty of its animation. What lifts this movie from almost every other adventure movie is its creative blend of 2d and 3d animation. Being released during the shift from 2d to 3d within film, this movie utilises both forms in introducing scenes like a 3d flying pirate ship emerging out of a 2d book page. Perhaps not Avatar, but for a 20 year-old short movie on a much smaller budget, it really shows animation’s potential.

Furthermore, we have stop-motion animation – like Coraline, and Corpse Bride – which includes moving real objects in photographed fast succession to mimic real movement. In addition to animation forms, animation provides a higher level of consistency: The Simpsons, for example, would have needed constant recasts to keep the same ages throughout, but animation allows for this to go on indefinitely. Unlike live action, the depth of what animation can do is extremely flexible. Sure, we have epics like Jurassic Park and Matrix – but these movies are almost all dependent on CGI: computer generated-imagery – a very mainstream technique used in film that is also a form of animation. Whereas lots of film may stand out thanks to its realism – this tends to work because of background animation. Star Wars would never work without any animated interference – yet an animated version could exist without live-action (let’s not talk about the Christmas special). I mean, how thankful would we be if 2019 Cats was animated, not CGI?

Yet people still aren’t as interested in fully animated series. I asked many people when writing this if they would still be interested in Game of Thrones if it was animated instead (upgrade the battles, more dragon and white walker scenes, a larger cast similar to that of its original material), and no one was interested. To many, it’s just not as exciting: viewed as cartoon-ish, or silly. Of course animation is not everyone’s preferred medium (obviously I understand this), but to immediately discount it due to its sometimes lessened realism only leaves you missing out on fantastic TV. 

But lastly, while animation is often viewed as ‘childish’, and whereas this only serves to restrict a whole section of TV – this doesn’t always need to be a bad thing. Younger audiences tend to be interested in animation: it can be visually stunning, and helps many escape from realism. At a much younger age, I much preferred Toy Story and Studio Ghibli classics. It was visually superior, and inspired my imagination. Whereas animation appeals to younger audiences (in saying that, I’ve only ever seen Facebook Moms share Minion memes) – the medium is beyond that of solely having a cartoon-ish look – for typically these movies will hold messages that propel many through their lives. A fantastic modern example of this would be Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. On the surface: a movie that is essentially about the cute cat from Shrek (based on the popular Italian fairy tale) trying to restore his nine lives; but is truly a story about our own mortality, and how we confront the inevitable. While the animated appeal is what draws many younger audiences to the movie, it is the message here that shapes their approach to life.

I’ve never had a problem with someone preferring live-action over animation. Personal preferences exist; and not only does live-action have a realistic feel that many can connect to, but sometimes it just looks cool seeing the real-life come to life (especially in 3d). This, however, is not an excuse to completely deprive yourself of a spectacular art of entertainment: a craft that can easily shock the audience as much as the latest Tom Cruise movie, or look more appealing than a blockbuster on the same budget.

Andrew Taylor [he/him]


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