Are Realistic Characters Endangered in Animation?

King of the Kill case
For all the inherent silliness that went on in King of the Hill, the characters wer very much grounded in reality and could exist in any neighbourhood.

The impetus for this post comes from (of all places) The Onion, who’s recent piece entitled ‘TV Viewer Relates To Totally Unbelievable Character That Could Never Exist In Reality‘ highlights the fact that some characters in entertainment have become quite far removed from reality and yet are presented as being supposedly realistic characters.

Characters are meant to be somewhat unrealistic; we’ve been accustomed to that for years thanks to many an anvil being dropped on a Looney Tunes character. And before that, Davy Crockett, a completely unrealistic character and yet a hero for millions of kids despite the fact that his fictional depictions took huge liberties with the true American hero.

What the Onion piece should contemplate is how characters, by their vary nature, evoke reactions and emotions among the audience; that’s their purpose. You know how there’s that one person you know who’s really boring? Well they’re realistic but could never be portrayed on screen because they would not elicit anything from the audience.

Cartoons feature many wild and zany characters for the simple reason that kids respond better to visual and aural stimulae than adults do. If you’ve ever watched the Simpsons with kids, you’ll know that while kids and adults will laugh at a visual gag, only the adults will get the innuendo or pun. The same goes for Pixar films and their dual-appeal.

The problem of the unbelievable character occurs when they are made to seem completely believable. Shows like Dexter, Mad Men and anything on MTV, all purport to portray realistic, believable characters even though many such characters could not exist as-is in reality.

This blogger’s concern is when will we begin to see such characters infiltrating into animated circles? OK so animated drama is a bit scarce, but it is increasing. Fortunately, the comedic slant of many animated shows give them enough leeway to create unrealistic characters because they can. The problem is when an animated TV show stops being comedic and instead attempts a serious tone.

Arguably, the Simpsons was the pioneer in the regard with its veil of comedy masking a complex family drama. Such a situation persisted because of the unspoken rule that the Simpsons couldn’t do anything that a normal family couldn’t do. Once that rule went out the window (and when that was depends on who you ask), we started to see Homer become more overtly unrealistic and his character suffered as a result.

The point to all of this is that as animation develops in popularity, we are going to see a broader range of characters, and it is preferable to see ones that could exist in real life as opposed to those that are portrayed as being real when they could never be.

What do you think? Will animated characters go to far? Have they gone too far? Let us know with a comment!

Guest Post: Most Memorable Animated Characters

Today’s post is by guest, Stephen Gerard.  Stephen graduated from Salve Regina University in 2012 with a Bachelors degree in English/Communications.  Animation sparked his interest ever since he saw the movie Surfs Up.

With the exciting progressions in animation moving so rapidly, I thought it would be fun to stop and take a look back at the characters that were most memorable to me, specifically on the big screen. These characters are in no particular order, so feel free to arrange them sparingly in your mind and follow me on my journey as I retrace some of the most memorable animated characters of the last 20 years.

One of my favorite animated characters and a true legend to the animation world is Toy Story’s very own Cowboy. Created in 1995 by Pixar productions, Woody is one of the most genuine animations to this date. Seeing as Toy Story was the first fully computer animated feature film, history was indeed made. Woody being the most complex character to create, his name on this list was properly earned. Created by Pixar’s RenderMan, Woody has flown far and above his buddy Buzz Light-year this time.

The next character could come as a surprise to many of you due to his recent rookie status on the big screen. Produced in 2010 by Dreamworks Animation, How to Train Your Dragon’s Toothless is quite the dynamic character, as he spends most of his time hovering in the air.  Categorized as a Night Fury, Toothless is the rarest of all dragons. Though at first he was quite reluctant to use his strengths, by the conclusion of the movie his heroic acts land him safely on this list.

A memorable list of animated characters would not be proper without one that scared the fun out of you.  King Kong is the star of his movie, for good reason. Created in 2005, the movie features one of the meanest animated characters to this date. Wrecking everything in his path, Kong was no easy character to create.  With the program of Maya, the crew was able to achieve massive results, literally.  Seeing this one in theatre definitely had you jumping out of your seat.

Transition from King Kong, its important to note that not all over sized animated characters can be scary. Fighting off neighborhood crime and violence, Mr Incredible of The Incredible’s is a special father to say the least. Though he struggled to bottle in his super power strengths, he proved to be the hero that everyone needed. Produced in 2004, The Incredible’s proved to be one of Pixar’s most challenging projects.  The crew faced some difficulties when animating the cast of humans for CGI, but ended up creating an ‘incredible’ securing a 100 per cent success rate for the studio.

Last and not least we must mention one of the most beloved animated characters of our time. A big green monster of sorts, Shrek alongside his close friend Donkey, has helped animation lovers all over the world embark on a journey.  First created in 2001, who would have thought a big green Ogre would see so much success.  PDI/DreamWorks with the help of Autodesk’s Maya made a big contribution to the films various animation aspects.  From the looks of it now, Shrek’s infamy lives on as the most lovable monster out there.

So there it is; my list complete full of Ogre’s, superhero fathers, flying dinosaurs and monstrous primates. As animation practices continue to progress, we look forward to new and exciting characters in the future. With that so, don’t forget the classics!