Animation – Why It Still Matters

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Emma Kiely argues that animated film and TV deserves more respect than is currently given.

 

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Animated films and cartoon TV shows have always been associated with childhood and immaturity. Watching Looney Tunes and Disney/Pixar films is a rite of passage for all kids. Once we reach adulthood should we forget about these and only return when we have kids of our own?

Some may argue that adults shouldn’t watch cartoons, or that animated films have no place in the film industry compared to war epics and intense thrillers. Nevertheless, you’ll realise that watching an animated film as a kid is a completely different experience to watching one as an adult, and yet the film still resonates with us, emotions are still heightened, and the characters and stories are just as appreciated.

You’ll realise that watching an animated film as a kid is a completely different
experience to watching one as an adult.

When looking at animated films superficially, it may seem that they do not offer as much emotional engagement as mature, ‘grown-up’ films, but due to the simplification of the narrative for children, the emotional background of the story is more apparent and thus, more compelling.  Take a look at Pixar’s most famous films in the past 25 years, each have a powerful subliminal message and deal with real-life issues. Finding Nemo discusses the power of the love between parent and child, and the loss of a loved one and the emotional intensity of Up will have you crying like a baby within the first ten minutes. The Toy Story trilogy depicts the importance of friendship more clearly than any other live-action film.

A really important piece of animation is the Pixar short Day and Night which is a simplification of racism and prejudice, presented in a fun way so that children can understand its subliminal message: that we should celebrate diversity. When broken down, it is clear that a lot of thought, psychological background, and emotional intelligence is put into these films.

Another perfect example is the 2015 picture Inside Out which depicts the inner workings of the mind. Development was aided by the help of renowned professors of psychology from Berkeley. It should never be believed that just because these films’ prime demographic is children, that they can be enjoyed and affected by children exclusively.

It can be hard to remember that Pixar and Disney do not have full autonomy over the animation industry. Cartoon Saloon from Kilkenny has earned three Oscar nominations in recent years with The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea, and The Breadwinner. Their combination of contemporary animation with old Irish folk stories makes for enchantingly beautiful films that will no doubt make you proud of Irish heritage. Cartoon Saloon take advantage of the freedom that animation grants and in doing so, combines magic with reality so that both kids and adults will not only enjoy but understand and resonate with the film.

Adult cartoons such as Rick and Morty, Family Guy, and South Park have earned a reputation for being student-oriented and associated with ‘boy humour.’ However, it’s not all dumb fart jokes, they can get quite political and engaging with current social issues too. The Simpsons, for example constantly comments on the current political issues in America with Bush and Clinton being the butts of jokes in numerous episodes. One of the most amazing features is the speed at which these shows can be made to include culturally relevant gags.

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There can be a stigma attached to watching these shows, however, they offer a simplified version of TV. Now that TV is at its prime and getting more complex by emulating films, a cartoon can be as significant as live action shows and have just as entertaining a story but with a lighter, more relaxed disposition.

Regarding children’s TV shows, I think it is safe to say that they are still very relevant in today’s society and that is because they offer us a break from the stressing issues people deal with on a day-to-day basis. After a long day, it can be nice to swap heavy news articles and Donald Trump tweets for SpongeBob and Patrick or barely understanding what Beavis and Butthead are saying to each other.

There should be no shame surrounding wanting to revisit the cartoons from your childhood as they can offer a joyous and uplifting viewing experience whilst still retaining the emotional intelligence of mature television and film. Chuckie Finster of Rugrats was wise beyond his years.

Chuckie Finster of Rugrats was wise beyond his years.

From the outrageous success of Frozen to the highly anticipated Incredibles 2, it’s safe to say animation isn’t going anywhere. As we descend into more political upheaval and more social issues demand our attention, the boundless and magical world of animation allows us to see the world through the eyes of imagination.

It may be argued that because of their departure from reality, animation and cartoons are not culturally significant or relevant, but by creating colourful and joyous images, they can more easily explore the social issues that need to be discussed. Animation shows us that by changing and altering the world, we learn more about it.

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