Were you surprised about the announcement earlier this week about a brand-new series of Avatar: The Last Airbender? I sure was, but outside what was discussed around the net this week, there’s a few things that make the announcement really interesting, and potentially game-changing.
The revelation that a well-known, and somewhat respected veteran animator is alleged to have engaged in behaviour that crosses the line of decency and inhabits the realm of predatory is disturbing. The animation industry is small, tight-knit, and immensely friendly. To learn that such behaviour and harassment exists shatters that reality and to know that it is far from an isolated incident raises many important concerns.
Last week I attended the Sweaty Eyeballs monthly animation festival here in Baltimore and besides imbuing me with a greater degree of motivation, it also reminded me that great animation lives in far more places than on Netflix and TV in general. For one, it lives right on my own doorstep.
Baltimore is not a major centre for animation, but it is the east coast’s quirky, weird equivalent to the west coast’s Portland. Art there is unafraid to be bold, independent, and challenging of the status quo; everything that mainstream art is not. It attracts a crowd that dares to be different and aspires to be something more than a cog in a machine at a large studio.
Some of the animated shorts on display were student works, while others were collaborations with artists in other cities. Yet they were all remarkably different from what you’d see on a TV screen. They had a sense of ‘life’ to them that exhibited a vibrancy and excitement. Even the shortest student films were alternately amusing and stylish. Better yet, they were all different from each other! There was no repetition or slovenly imitation! Every short was a feast for the eyes and gave pause for thought.
What all this served to do was to remind me (as I’m now reminding you) that great animation actually doesn’t reside on the screens we’re been brainwashed into believing they are. Mainstream animated features are not great animation; indie features are. Animated TV shows (even those on Netflix) are not pushing the envelope; shorts on the internet and elsewhere are.
So perhaps consider this a recommendation to check out what’s animated events are happening in your area. You might discover something you’d never see otherwise. And if you can’t make it to a major city, consider starting a screening event of your own; there’s no reason why not in this day and age.
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