When we talk about animated content (films, Tv shows, etc.) unless we’re being specific, we’re not just talking about the actual animation but the entire entertainment package. Today though, we are being specific, because, as great as the current crop of animated TV shows are, the actual ‘animation’ part leaves a bit to be desired.
This isn’t meant to be a gripe post, but consider a few examples:
These are from two, high-profile American shows of recent vintage. Notice the actual animation, there isn’t much to say is there? Now yes, I will accept that the bottom one is a GIF made for the sake of it and not necessarily representative of the rest of Gravity Falls, but it’s still par with other shows.
However! The rise in popularity in animation has meant that we’ve seen a rise in focus on the content and characters as opposed to the actual animation. This isn’t to say that’s a bad thing, but it does become a concern when people proclaim a show to be a great animated show even though the animation itself is, for want of a better word, boring!
Even the recently lauded shows like Steven Universe and Uncle Grandpa seem to have fairly stiff and lifeless animation outside of key action sequences. That’s dismaying in a way because as kids shows, their audience relies more on visual cues than scripted ones. It’s dismaying in another way because that’s what anime shows tend to do, and even then they instil plenty of quirky animation into their ‘boring’ scenes.
To test this theory, watch two pieces of animation with the sound muted: an old Looney Tunes short and a modern animated show. Can you still tell what’s going on and follow the story closely? My hunch says that the former will be easy, but the latter will be difficult if not impossible.
That’s because the older shorts put a lot of effort into the actual animation and made sure they got their money’s worth. Yes, they were spending more money but supposedly every cel is being hand-drawn or made with CGI today.
While we’re not at the dark depths of limited animation that Hanna-Barbera pioneered to keep their careers afloat, we’re not too far from it either. You won’t see legs cut off to cut costs, but instead characters will stand still with all but their lips moving.
Animation is about making us believe in the life behind static drawings. It’s tough, but far from difficult thanks to decades of refinement. I just wonder how so much action can be simply left out even though there ought to be ample budget for proper animation.
Is it an educational problem? Is it technology? Is it merely taste? The Simpsons opening got a remake a few years ago and the wonderful loose cartoonyness of the original was lost to a stilted and sterile replacement. The reasons are obscure, but rumour has it that the original was considered too childish because of it’s Klasky-Csupo animation.
The main thing that makes all of this a concern is that there is no reason for it at all! Even extremely cheap and simple animation can have lots of wonderful animation:
What do you think? Has contemporary mainstream animation become somewhat stilted and boring?