The Downside of the Evolution of Artistic Taste

There was a time I was genuinely excited for each new release from major studios and TV networks. Not any more.

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Is it an age thing? Your taste does change as you get older, right? Musically, everyone stops growing at an average of 31.5 years; after that, new music loses its appeal and we stop listening to it. Are visual forms of entertainment similar, or is it more to do with an evolution of personal taste?

This is something I’ve confronted in recent times, but perhaps most obviously over the last twelve months. New Disney and Pixar films hold no appeal. TV shows have stopped becoming interesting. Friends, colleagues, and acquaintances continue to find them fantastic, exciting, and even boundary-pushing. Not I though, none of the recent crop of American animated releases has tickled my fancy so to speak.

Which is extremely disappointing on a personal level because they used to, and the vacuum that has been created has become intensely difficult to fill. Some anime series (Kill la Kill, Gurren Lagann, etc.) have helped, as have some unexpected western sources (Equestria Girls.) Yet they are not necessarily new, or current, which means that any debate surrounding them has already happened and has been consigned to hardcore fans who are willing to debate only the most minute of topics.

The end result is that my consumption of animated content has dropped spectacularly to barely an hour a week (if even that.) I still keep up on industry news and developments, sure. I still put out my weekly newsletter after all, and it’s doing quite well with readers. However, it could be said that I’m no longer an active consumer; a development that could partly be to blame as I am in the process of producing a short. Straddling both worlds is hard, but it seems to be especially hard if the standards that your own production is being held to seem to be far above those you see being done by others.

Personal bias is an obvious and undeniable influence on such an opinion, but then not only is it natural, it makes it difficult to spend the time watching content you feel is inferior. The feeling that the industry is moving in a direction you dislike (maybe even resent) is quite strong, and when it appears to be true, a degree of repulsion sets in.

Such repulsion is hard to ignore, especially when it can be equated with repetition. I had high hopes for Frozen (having enjoyed Tangled), but that film truly was the one that shattered the illusion. The fact that the screening was in the Walt Disney Studio theatre merely added salt in the wounds. Here was a film that should have excited me, yet was the first film that made me want to pull a Miyazaki (when you get up a leave a film you don’t like.)

TV shows haven’t fared much better either. Korra lost me at the end of Book 1 (repetition), Adventure Time, and Steven Universe, et al, while featuring strong characters and decent themes, lost me with the rudimentary animation. Current fan favourite Rick and Morty seems to be written with scripts that have no place outside of school. Web animation hasn’t really lit a fire either. Bee & Puppycat had an excellent pilot, before the series went in a drastically different direction. Even the beautiful Song of the Sea was riddled with blatant flaws according to my own impression.

If this sounds like the ranting of a cranky old person, maybe they are. As I’ve progressed into my thirties, perhaps my tastes have matured beyond what the current crop of shows and films is aimed at. I have entered the second ‘animation age ghetto’: too old to get the stuff aimed at kid/teen audiences, too young to get the stuff aimed at parents.

Is there great animation being made and released? Absolutely, but even films as lauded as The Boy and the World, or Anomalisa don’t seem to be sparking much of an interest.

Another factor is being relatable. An article I wrote recently on Animation Scoop proposed the the theory that Pixar’s films are actually artistically average. Unfortunately the [admittedly poorly-articulated] argument seemed to have flown over every reader’s head: average being neither the worst, or the best. Only one commenter took the hypothesis at face value and provided an excellent counterargument. The point I was trying to make was lost, and it also made me realise that the topics I was more interested in discussing, are to put it mildly, beyond a lot of people’s field of vision.

This blog ought to be an outlet for that, but it has become increasingly difficult to come up with suitable talking points to write about here. This is the first one in a month. There was a time I used to have one a day.

The point of writing this out is partly to illustrate the struggles that come from losing a degree of interest in something that you are intensely passionate about. I love animation as much as ever, but it’s place in my daily life has declined quite significantly. Maybe it will increase again as the short nears completion, but for now there seems to be little amongst the current crop of features and shorts that is convincing me that I’m missing out.

3 Comments on “The Downside of the Evolution of Artistic Taste

  1. An animation director I worked with once told me that they rarely watch animation anymore, they prefer live action. He was experienced enough with animation that he could see all the flaws and the missed opportunities in most animated films he saw.

    Perhaps you have reached that point. Perhaps you have reached the point where you should be making the kind of animation you want to see, because no one else is making animation like that.

    Which means that you will have to turn to other art forms for satisfaction, and then try to bring those aesthetic values to your own productions.

    A simpler way to say it is: the more you watch, the higher your standards become. That’s a good thing.

  2. Have you watched any Steven Universe? If not, give it a shot.

    • He gives his opinion of Steven Universe in the article.

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