Saturday, May 3, 2008

Just like to clear something up

Last night, I found myself talking to a total stranger on the phone (It was my friend's phone, but someone she had met at the current party decided to pick it up and assume her identity, under the pretext that this was still Kait but "with a really bad cold". I played along). We were making small talk for essentially the same reason this blog came into existence: to not do my Media Production final, and at one point he asked what I was studying/majoring in. I told him Animation, and he gave me the exact response that I would imagine many animation students dread and learn to expect: "Oh cool! I love cartoons!" If it weren't for the fact that it was very late, I had never met the guy before, he was drunk, it was very loud on his end, and we were breaking up, I would have taken direct issue with this. So allow me to make this clear:


The latter often means the former, but it's things like what Phil (I think that was his name) said that illustrate the unfortunate state this medium is in. Invariably, if you mention animation to someone, the first thing they think of is along the lines of, if not exactly, Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse. Decades of the industry's domination by Disney and other kid-oriented franchises have left anything beyond a PG rating to be considered "edgy"; a risky fringe venture that scares the shit out of producers because the only thing they've seen animated are cute anthropomorphic animals and heartstring-tugging kids. They have no idea what might happen if they had an animated movie with serious themes or blood or sex or curse words because none of them have noticed that Japan's been doing this for years and PEOPLE LOVE IT.

I'd feel like I'm not doing any good here, because this point has probably been made many times before, but even fucking John K. is under this impression. I know this because he frequently complains about "cartoons with story and heart" or similar movies. There doesn't seem to be any difference to him between Daffy Duck and... Yuri Norstein. I know that sounds like a ridiculously snobbish and esoteric sentence (depending on who's reading this), but really I'm pretty sure he'd wouldn't think twice before bashing Hedgehog in the Fog, if only for having a good story.

Now, I have nothing against cartoons; Clampett, Avery, and Jones, to name a few, are some of the most talented animators of all time. But in my mind, cartoon is a relatively narrow term that ends up being used as a blanket. In my opinion, a cartoon is an animated movie/TV show that is very comical and relatively light and relies on a lot of visual gags and exaggerated facial expressions/features for its humor and has an extremely exaggerated sense of weight and flexibility. Now of course, according to this Miyazaki has made some terrible cartoons. But he has made some of the most incredible animated films ever seen.

This is why I thirst for blood when people call movies like Spirited Away or Watership Down a "cartoon."

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