Tyler Smith, Guest Writer
I am an adult and I watch cartoons. There, I said it. Go ahead and judge me, I’ll wait. But why would you judge me, or for that matter anyone else that watches cartoons and isn’t a kid? Animation is an art just like painting or sculpting, right? We consume other media like movies and Broadway shows, why is animation considered a lesser form, even though it takes just as much time, effort and talent to make a beautiful polished product? It seems as though Americans don’t respect animation as much as they do live action entertainment. The animation we do like, however is relegated to kids shows or comedies,
I mean, think about it. When you rewatch your favorite Disney movie, you view it as though you’re acting like a kid. “I don’t feel like adulting today, so I’ll watch ‘The Little Mermaid’ or ‘The Lion King’”—one of my favorite childhood movies. Why can’t you enjoy “The Little Mermaid” for its stunning innovation in CGI?(It’s the part where Ariel runs down the stairs if you’re curious. Pretty advanced for the 90’s!) Why can’t “The Lion King” be your favorite movie now?
I think a lot of the reason we view animated movies as a thing for kids has to do with the marketing powerhouses that is Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks. Everytime they make a movie the characters from said movie are plastered all over cereal boxes, kids apparel, and made into mountains and mountains of toys. Whereas for adult movies you get a couple of trailers and maybe a commercial tie in at best. The lines drawn by these companies has not only split consumers into rigid demographics to sell a product to, they seem to have, in a way, dictated what we watch and how we think about it.
To better understand what animation could be for the adult consumer, let’s go back in time and take a look at what was happening in America in the year 1989. It was considered the Disney Renaissance, when after a string of commercial and critical flops Disney finally seemed back on top. This year kicks off the time period when many of the fan favorites, “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King,” etc., came from. In America, these were aimed mostly at kids, but if we go to another country during this year say, Japan, we would see that animation has taken a very different turn.
The movie “Akira” opens up with Japan being nuked. You read that right. The opening act of this movie consists of an atomic bomb desolating Japan. Buildings disintegrate in a blinding flash of light. And then, “AKIRA” flashes onto the screen in blood red letters. This is a movie about a city built on the ashes of a broken civilization. There are panning shots of protest as the police officers of neo-Tokyo struggle to keep riots from breaking out. Somebody gets mowed down by machine gun fire and blood goes everywhere (no spoilers for you, go watch the movie) and biker gangs duke it out with lead pipes and chains in a chase scene which ends with one of the most iconic shots in movie history: Kaneda’s famous bike slide. Oh, and this is only the first ten, maybe twenty minutes of the film. If what I just described was a live action film, American audiences would scramble to stream this movie. However, people see the hand drawn style and are immediately turned off to it. They miss a beautiful masterpiece of a film all because of the media the artist chose to use.
Today there are many examples of beautiful films and cartoons that get swept under the rug for the same reason Genndy Tartakovsky’s “Samurai Jack” is a heartbreaking, profound and beautiful exploration into love loss and what it means to fulfill your destiny. Daniel Chong’s “We Bare Bears” is a lovely and heartwarming series about life and all of its idiosyncrasies while also introducing Korean culture to an American audience. There are tons more examples of wonderful cartoons like these. However, the longer we continue to ignore their potential and withhold the credit due to them, the less chance we give these artists and animators a chance to share their lovely visions with the world.
So please, let go of your biases, let your inner child stay inside for a little while. Use your adult eyes and enjoy the wonderful artistry that is cartoons.