Live-action has a virtual monopoly on lots of the entertainment industry. Animation is slowly making inroads, but one area that has been staunchly resistant to change has been television dramas. Comedy series are a dime a dozen and prove that animation can be popular with adults as well as kids on the small screen, but drama is whole different kettle of fish. Thankfully, some proof has recently come to light that suggests that dramatic animation isn’t as much of a pipe dream as we believe.
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?
The theatrical market for animated feature films has remained much the same for many decades. A few things have changed of course, but on the whole, things operate in much the same way that they always have. That is to say, films are released to cinemas first, then home media, then PPV cable, then regular cable, before finally spluttering onto regular TV many years after the initial release. Such a model has served the industry well for decades, but for cinemas, the jig may finally be up, and animated features are going to have to change if they are going to survive and thrive.
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.
Writing for Forbes.com at the end of June (and escaping my attention until know), Merrill Barr postulates that Nickelodeon were wrong to alter their marketing plan for Book 3 of Legend of Korra after the Mexican arm of the network inadvertently let a few episodes from the season get loose on the internet, and are beholden to internet ‘pirates’ as a result. I say that’s poppycock.
This week sees the highly anticipated Sailor Moon Crystal series begin broadcast. Besides being an entirely new version of the original manga (and not a remake of the original anime), it’s also notable for eschewing traditional licensing-based release models, but interestingly, is not embracing the ‘all you can eat’ type that has defined web-based media. Why might that actually be a good thing, and could it be a model for others to follow?
Animation and comics have always been somewhat related. The latter is, after all, a more polished version of the storyboard for the former. Using one as the inspiration for the other is a long-standing practise dating all the way back to the Fleischer Superman shorts of the 1940s. Tie-ins are nothing new either, being around at least as long as shorts but only really hitting their stride with the advent of television. So how do things stand today? Well, the relationship has become ever closer and could even be considered a full-on marriage.
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.
No really, hear me out. I’ve waxed lyrical about Kickstarter projects before. I think it’s a great tool for the independent animator/producer who’s project is perhaps a bit too risky for a serious investor. Some great projects have found backing through it while others have stuttered to a halt despite 6-figures in backing; not naming any names. Yet Kickstarter could actually result in less animation being made. That sounds mad, right?