Yes, you read that right. The animated film industry is lame. Really lame. But before you start flaming me incessantly, hear out what I have to say, and what exactly I mean by it. As a first example of what I’m talking about, I present to you what is one of the biggest and most renowned animation studios around: Disney.
Now, we all know Disney used to be the bomb. They had a golden age. But when exactly was this “golden age”? Most would tell you that it was between Disney’s first major animated movie and what started to happen during the late 1990’s and onward: Disney continuously re-releasing classic films at ridiculous prices and having cash-in sequels made that SUCK. Sure, during this period Disney was responsible for one or two generally well-liked films. Atlantis: The Lost Empire was certainly a good film, and who couldn’t like “The Emperor’s New Groove”? But these are more than a few steps down in quality from what Disney’s movies used to be like.
But that’s just part of why I would submit that the golden age of Disney ended a lot sooner than most people would say it did. I think that most of Disney’s greatest films occurred in the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s; though the first signs of their downhill slide occur in the latter 1980’s with “The Little Mermaid”. No, I’m not saying that all of Disney’s movies after Little Mermaid sucked. They made plenty of good movies after that. But I’m just trying to make a point.
What am I talking about? Well, let me compare two movies. One is from the 1980’s: The Little Mermaid. The other was released in 1942: Bambi.
Bambi is one of the greatest animated films Disney ever released; possibly THE greatest, and it established animation as very near the greatest visual form of entertainment on the planet. It had a great and very influential story, the characters were every bit believable, the musical score was in perfect sync with the visuals, and the animation did a fantastic job of projecting the story’s atmosphere. In the more light and touching moments of the story, everything was bright and colorful. Colors like green, light brown, and light yellow were put into play in the environment. But as soon as something bad was happening, or an action sequence was taking place, everything shifted, and the forest was represented by hues of dark yellow, gray, red, and even black. And despite it’s silliness, when it came down to it, Bambi was a genuine, authentic story.
The Little Mermaid is neither authentic or genuine. Throughout the story, Ariel relates with her father as if she’s some typical teenage girl.
“I’m sixteen years old – I’m not a child anymore!” she cries in one scene.
But she’s not a teenage girl. She’s a mermaid living at the bottom of the ocean amongst a race of creatures that live for centuries at a time. In the Mermaid way of life, she IS a child, and she’d be able to recognize it. And the way her father, Triton, interacts with her doesn’t make any sense, either.
“Not another word – and I am never, NEVER to hear of you going to the surface again! Is that clear?” Triton says back.
Why is he reprimanding her like a middle-aged father in the suburbs? He’s the king of the Sea. He’s hundreds of years old. Why doesn’t he act like an old, wise, powerful leader? Why would he act as insecure as the movie portrays him to?
Now let’s go back to Bambi for a moment. How do the animals in that story relate to each other? Well, mostly through physical gestures and sounds. When they do talk, it’s usually in concise words and sentences. Why? Because it’s a lot like the way animals behave and interact in real life. Disney wanted to take us to a place we hadn’t been to before, and they succeeded.
But somewhere down the line, animated filmmaking lost it’s status as a genuine form of entertainment. Most animated movies that come out these days seem to have absolutely no grip on reality, and can only seem to tell stories in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. Movies like Kung Fu Panda. Monsters Vs Aliens. Even Bolt.
These aren’t particularly bad movies (though you could probably make a case for MVA). Neither is Sean Of The Dead. Far from it. But if all live-action movies were spoofs like Sean Of The Dead, it would be pretty obnoxious, wouldn’t it?
I would like to see just one animated film that, instead of using it’s computer-generated effects to depict fat pandas farting their enemies to death, instead gave us an atmospheric, genuinely intense storyline; and maybe even some bloody, over-the-top action sequences. Because that’s the kind of stuff sometimes only animation can pull off.
But nobody’s actually going to do that. It’s too risky. Unrealistic, parody-style storylines with characters you can’t directly relate to are what people are used to. Even Pixar is guilty of sticking to this mold in their own way. Although, you gotta give them credit for The Incredibles.
Today’s American animated movie industry isn’t bold. Or thrilling. It doesn’t take us to faraway lands we haven’t been to before (Shrek 4, anyone?). It just sits there. It’s just…lame.