I’m listening to my sister watch Disney’s Alice in Wonderland as I write, and I find it sad that animated features aren’t as highly regarded today as they used to be. You might smile, remembering people often saying that “Disney movies aren’t really for kids” – you’ll hear it mentioned in irony, or maybe gasped out loud in realization while re-watching an old favorite. We say it jokingly in fun, but the thing is it’s true. Walt Disney didn’t make films for children; Walt Disney made animated films.
It sounds so simple that we don’t really think about it much. Animated movies nowadays are usually labeled as “for kids” and the “real” live-action movies are for adults. Sometimes I suppose animated movies deserve that label. But marketing is really like a vicious cycle; the media and its consumers tend to feed off each other. So I could also argue that animated films today are targeted toward kids and families because most adults aren’t watching. It’s not exactly a dying art but at the same time, the art of animation is not quite the same.
Someone else could argue that animated films aren’t made intelligently anymore, that maybe if another Walt Disney came around (or someone at Disney knew what they were doing), then they would pay more attention. Add today’s technology into the mix and then you’ve got your old-school traditional animation lovers guffawing at even the thought of taking a modern animated film seriously. I mean let’s face it, unless it’s made by Pixar or an insanely popular DreamWorks movie (Shrek, *cough-cough*), mention an animated “cartoon” movie to an average single adult and their eyes start to glaze over.
If you appreciate cartooning and animation as an art form, then you’ve got a head start. Good for you. But unfortunately, we aren’t the majority. What’s also not the majority today is a really good animated film, and I mean really good. It’s rare that you find an animated film today as excellent and as esteemed as early animated films like Disney’s (the only ones I can maybe think of are by Pixar). Instead it’s much more likely you’ll hear that one was good, “for an animated movie” – and I bet you anything it’s out of the mouth of someone who took a kid to see it. Or you might hear that one was “funny”; but not usually because it’s a high caliber film.
Those familiar with animation might say it’s because of traditional animation phasing out, that’s one thing that maybe has become a dying art. I’ve often griped about that myself. But I’m sitting here thinking that’s not really the issue here. The medium itself has changed in such a dramatic way. Whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know. Maybe it’s neither. Personally, like I said before, it makes me feel sad. But from a completely objective standpoint, it makes me wonder if there isn’t something more deep-seated going on here.
Don’t get me wrong, animation is still regarded as an art form – just not in the same way it used to be. Is this something to panic or lose sleep over? Probably not. But it’s definitely an interesting shift, to say the least.
What’s your opinion, are animated films less highly regarded today than they were originally – and is it for good reason?
Tanya Marcy is a writer and artist with a love for marketing, online media, and the independent arts. She blogs at stickTnotes, where you can find her story tips and tricks, and her ideas about being a creative artist in today’s changing world. Check out her own art at deviantART and sample her writing at Figment