Theatrical Animation Needs A Rating Below ‘R’

IFCO - 16_cinema

Neil Emmett over on Cartoon Brew has a post where he discusses how to make animation more adult. The issue is incredibly complicated and Emmett chooses to base his analysis on the televisual side of things. Back in 2011, I published a post looking at the theatrical side of things; namely the ‘R’ rating used in the US and how it actively hurts the chances of animation that isn’t overly ‘adult’ but is certainly incapable of being seen by kids.

The Current Setup

As I discussed in my post, the R rating is a bit of an anomaly in the world of ratings. It prohibits anyone under 17 from seeing a film unless they’re accompanied by an adult. Other countries systems provide for unaccompanied teens through intermediate ratings like the 16 one from Ireland, above.

By permitting teens to see films by themselves, you are facilitating the time-honoured teen pastime/social event that is going to the cinema. The R rating eschews that entirely by mandating an adult presence. Furthermore, the only other rating is the NC-17 one which practically all the major chains refuse to screen.

Lastly, the R rating represents a dramatically smaller potential audience for films than the next lowest one, PG-13. So much so, that studios perform a bit of a dance around it. A film is either going to be a very close PG-13 or a very close R. The middle ground is quite thin when it comes to film. The logic here is that if your film is going to be R, you might as well go whole hog.

A Proposed Rating System

The issue currently at hand is that the entire business model surrounding films and TV is changing, Ratings exist on TV merely as a guide to viewers and parents. Theatrical ratings are similarly voluntary but are a hangover from the days when the government threatened regulation.

The internet has no such ratings (although Netflix provides them anyway). While things are almost certainly heading that way, there remains a lot of money in the theatrical market and likely will be for some time.

Animated films can still flourish for older audiences. All they needs is a fuller ratings system that permits teens to see films by themselves. A 16 rating is a good step in that direction.

The reason is obvious, teens have shown no bones about simply finding alternatives to theatrical entertainment. Live-action films don’t suffer because they don’t encounter the same stigma that animation does when its audience ages.

By facilitating the screening of films that are not suitable for kids but not mature enough for an R rating, studios and cinemas could greatly improve the market for animated features.

What do you think? Is this a good idea or is it a case of too little, too late?

POLL: Should File-Sharing Be Considered “Free Speech”?

Despite the humour of the FOX censor, this post has little if anything to do with what it commonly called ‘broadacst standards’ in use today. Nope, it refers to censorship outside of the studio, in this case, by the government, and no, I’m not talking about those naughty cartoons from Japan that have lead to charges for some people either.

The issue is that the entertainment lobby (read: the MPAA) really wants to pass a law called PROTECT IP. Now they claim that this law will give them and the government the legal firepower to stamp out “piracy” or unauthorised file-sharing. However there’s a problem.

That problem is that there are no due process clauses. In fact, the government can simply confiscate a website based on accusation alone, no proof required!

Scary thoughts, no?

Anyway, yesterday, an analyst from Disney by the name of Anthony Accardo wrote on the Harvard Business Review website that granting the government the authority to confiscate websites for file sharing would not run counter to the free speech clause in the constitution. In other words, content owners should be allowed to control how you see and view content because they said so.

I recommend you read Mike Masnick’s response on Techdirt for a good deconstruction/analysis of Accardo’s arguments.

My point is that, as an animator or other artistic type, do you think that this proposed law would cross the line when it comes to censorship? I mean, it’s one thing to use legal steps and the courts to remove your content from places you don’t want it to be but isn’t it quite another to just blithely remove not just the content but also the hosting site itself based solely on accusation rather than evidence?

Please answer the poll below or share your thoughts in the comments.

[poll id="2"]

The ‘R’ Rating Hurts Animation: Here’s How We Fix That

IFCO 16 Rating via

Film classification is a bit of an interesting topic because it highlights the cultural differences that exist from country to country, even those that lie next to each other! The whole purpose is to classify films into categories to give (ostensibly) parents a quick heads up as to what the film is likely to contain.

The US is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to film classification because, unlike many other countries, classification is not government-mandated. As a result, it is undertaken by the MPAA for its member studios. If you haven’t already, I highly suggest sussing out “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” by Kirby Dick which looks at the process and the secretive way in which it is conducted.

Via: Gawker

Above is the MPAA rating system which anyone reading this in the US should be familiar with. As you can see, there is no intermediate rating between PG-13 and R. What this means is that once a film goes over the PG-13 rating, viewing requires the accompaniment of an adult. It also leads to the somewhat bizarre scenario where a child of any age can see anything they want as long as someone over 18 is with them.

In many other countries though, there is an intermediate rating for ages around 15/16. Taking Ireland as an example, a 16 rating means that anyone that age or older can see the film at the cinema, unaccompanied. While 2 years does not sound like much, it is forever when you are a teenager, especially if you want to see a film without a parent looking over your shoulder.

The end result is that some films are classified as R when they probably could get away with being 16. Never mind the fact that some films that are rated 15 in Ireland are PG-13 over here, but that’s a discussion for another day. At the same time, such situations exist precisely because an R rating greatly reduces the potential audience size for a film and is avoided if at all possible.

How does this hurt animation?

It means there is a bit of a glut when it comes to animated films that are a bit more mature in stature than what we’re use to seeing. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of animated material out there that is perhaps a little too mature [wink, wink] for the average person. However, you will never see an R rated animated film on general theatrical release.

My hypothesis is that if an extra rating were added (say 16), we would be more likely to see animated films that bridge the gap between being for everyone and being for adults only, in other words, suitable for unaccompanied teenagers. Arguably Princess Mononoke would come fairly close to such a rating as it is a bit scary for younger kids but more than suitable for teenagers.

If such a move were enacted, it would also have the handy side-effect of encouraging more animated films to be made that target the so-called [Adult Swim] crowd. In other words, teenagers and young adults. Such a result could only be beneficial to the animated industry.

Have you any thoughts? Please share them below, I’m curious to see what others think of the idea.

Why The Tangled DVD Is A Waste Of Your Money


It’s not secret I like Tangled. It’s fun and although the story and characters are slightly less than mirror-polished, it’s an engaging film that manages to astound with it’s visuals, as Jim Hull managed to put it on twitter:

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It’s true, the visuals are stunning and its the main reason I like the film. However, I am one of those folks that has an old-style TV. You know the ones, with a square screen and that take up as much space in the living room as an elephant. Am I behind the times? Yes, I am and I realise it. However for me, if it came down to it, I would rather spend the couple of hundred dollars on a flight to Ireland than a new TV. It’s not that I don’t like watching the boob tube [snicker], it’s just how I prioritize things.

Despite the fact that I like the movie, I was disappointed by the Tangled DVD. The only extras included on the disc are some original “storybook” version of the film’s opening and a countdown of films that makes Tangled the (supposed) 50th feature released by Disney.

Here’s my problem, and it’s likely to be your problem too. Why the heck would you pay $14.99 for a DVD with basically just the film on it? If you’re a truly insane or disadvantaged in who supplies your DVDs, you would have to pay the $29.99 that Disney recommends!

First of all, $14.99 is expensive, even for a DVD (when stores can sell CDs profitably for half the price, you know there’s something up). The extras included were and are available online so you do not gain anything by having the DVD. The ultimate insult is that for an extra fiver on, you can get the Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack but that is a matter of economics and I’m sure most people plumped for that version despite the fact that it offers only a few more extras and even then only on the Blu-Ray disc, the DVD is exactly the same as the stand-alone version.

So ask yourself: “why should I pay money for a plastic disc with just the movie on it? Why not save my money and download it from the internet? It’s not like there’s a lack of choice there”:

Snapshot of just some of the torrents available out there.

I do not advocate downloading films from the internet. The practice is quote/unquote “illegal” and if the MPAA thinks they’ve caught you, it can be a legal nightmare trying to get it sorted out. If you have ethical feels about it, there are always plenty of free (as in speech) and public domain films out there just gagging for your attention.

The point is, why on earth would I fork over a pile of money for something I can just download from the internet (legality aside)? It doesn’t make any sense to sell films like that any more because there is absolutely no incentive to the public to buy the film. If it came with some kind of extra that I could not download form the internet (read: a physical item) than there is a chance that people would be much more likely to purchase it.

I think that’s something that content producers cannot get their heads around. People no longer consider content a physical good whose reproduction can be controlled. People today (myself included) generally assume that if we can get it from the internet, then it probably should be free (there’s an economics background to this that can wait for another day, but trust me in the meantime).

Just to add insult in injury, there was a time when DVDs came stuffed to the gills with extra features. Since the introduction of Blu-Ray, we’ve seen those features gradually get pulled as the studios have attempted to incite use to get Blu-Rays instead. Unfortunately a new HD TV is a heck of a lot of money to spend and a few extras that I used to be able to get aren’t going to be the deal-breaker for me.

With less features on the DVD and with a nominal difference in price, why the heck would I buy the single DVD? If I just want to see the film, there is a heck of a lot of reasons why I should just go and download it or watch it through other means and I’m pretty sure that’s what plenty of folks are doing to the detriment of the studio and the artist who work in the industry.