This week saw the announcement of not one, but three reboots to popular old shows. The Powerpuff Girls are being trotted out again, ReBoot gets well, rebooted, and even the Three Stooges refuse to die with a new animated show in the works. It’s all too much for me to bear!
Art is always held in high cultural esteem, yet only the best and most widely acclaimed retain any kind of longevity. The rest is quite literally disposable as any dumpster behind a library will happily attest to. Animation is no different than any other art, and just like them, the internet has brought about an even greater degree of disposable animation and produced a real struggle to create cartoons with any sense of quality, and timelessness.
As I prepare to produce a series of very short, er, shorts, I find my viewpoint of animation as an art and industry being forcibly changed. Not necessarily in a bad way mind you, but rather that it’s breadth and scope have changed as the reality of production becomes my greater focus. Here’s a few thoughts in no particular order.
The rise in popularity in using technology for animation has brought about a subsequent explosion in creative output. For decades, animation was the preserve of a few who had the right resources and location to do it. That’s all changed though, and while today anyone can create, produce, and distribute animated content, many offer only excuses as to why they’re efforts do not produce results.
Although the company hasn’t got as far as MTV when they chopped-off the ‘Music Television’ part of their identity, YouTube is nonetheless following them down the same beaten path. Anyone can still post content for free of course, but it is everything that surrounds that tenant of the service that has changed, and not necessarily for the better.
Animation has always had a strong creative streak with plenty of variety to it. If you didn’t like that Walt Disney was chasing realism, all you had to do was look across town to the Warner guys on Termite Terrace and see cutting edge character comedy in full flow. Today is no different; while major studios have become increasingly bland in their offerings, there are plenty of others taking up the creative mantle. Is what they’re doing worth the effort and risk involved?
The Small Press Expo (SPX) is an annual gathering for creators and fans of independent comics and everything to do with them. It’s a two day affair that (mercifully) takes place near Washington DC and is often both a showcase and barometer for what’s happening in the indie comic world. It’s also full of many talented individuals creating some of the finest comics you can find. Given the relationship between comics and animation, you would think it would be a great place to discover great ideas to animate. You wouldn’t be wrong.
Bojack Horesman is Netflix’s attempt to break into the lucrative world of animation that caters to that holy grail known as the male, 18-35 demographic. The innovation of course, is that this is from Netflix, the pretender to the HBO crown of critically acclaimed programming. For all the success of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, Bojack fails to hit the same mark and provides the latest scrap of evidence that making animation for anyone older than 16 is a conundrum the continues to bedevil anyone willing to take a crack at it. Why is that the case though?
Is this finally it? Has the last nail been hammered into the coffin of Pixar’s credibility? Long held in high esteem for the quality of their films, their unique NorCal-influenced approach to filmmaking, and the resulting highly artistic masterpieces that embodied the vision of a truly artistic and collaborative effort won them friends and admirers the world over. It would appear however, that a string of sequels and the studio’s inclusion in the recent Silicon Valley scandal that ensnared many tech companies in the region, may finally put paid to Pixar’s esteemed reputation.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 has been one of the most anticipated films of the year. The massive sleeper hit that was the original, made out quite well back in 2010 thanks to its brilliant blend of story, animation, and character; setting a new bar for a DreamWorks film and proving that they had the chops to match Pixar if given the chance. Fast forwarding a few years, and after viewing the sequel, I came away with the feeling that although inferior to the original, there was something else that bothered me about How to Train Your Dragon 2.
If you’re not familiar with Warren Buffet, pretty much all you need to know is that he’s one of the richest men in the world. That doesn’t have a lot to do with animation, at least on the surface, but what Buffet is good at doing (investing) certainly is and his advice is well worth heeding too. Let’s take a look at why that is.