Saturday, July 14, 2007

Taking the cartooniness out of the cartoon does not make it realistic

It just makes it bland.

This my biggest complaint about modern animation and it goes back to Disney. If you are going to go to great lengths to take the cartooniness, magic and imagination out of your cartoon characters, then you better replace it with something else - like maybe good specific designs and and an understanding of human nature and individual multi-layered characters.

Rich personalities derived from observation of real life humans interacting the way they really do in the actual world around you.

This never happens.

Instead we dig into the file of "animated" personalities-characters from Disney films or Saturday Morning cartoons. Very inhuman simplistic characters from the archaic past or from the modern TV cliches. These characters don't look, or act like anyone you have ever met nor do they have normal human motivations or believable reactions to familiar and odd situations.

Try taking some typical one-note animation characters out of a cartoon and shooting a live action story with them. You would see instantly how shallow these modern animated characterizations are. Wait a minute...someone did do that! Ever see "Titanic"?

If you don't want to animate silly cartoony characters, and you really have a talent for a more acute observation of human nature, if you understand honest motivations and psychology, you would create characters that aren't cliches torn from previous Disney cartoons, Saturday Morning Cartoons or sitcoms.

You would make stories that come out of the characters' dynamics and chemistry with each other. You wouldn't just take a stock animated feature story, plug stock leads, villains and wacky sidekicks in and then beg everyone to take you seriously, like you are a real FILMMAKER, rather than a mere lowly cartoonist.

But then you'd have to have a way to SHOW the audience this depth of character.

With the drawings, expressions, design, gestures, vocal artistry, etc.

It's not enough to just have the character tell the other characters what their one personality trait is and why they have it. Am I the only one that notices that? "I'm a strong woman living in a man's world and I'm not gonna let a wimpy snot nosed kid like you stand in my way!" "Oh yeah!? Well I'm the villain! I hate people who are happy, because I had a lonely youth with 3 Moms and no Dad."

But most likely, if you really did understood character and story and didn't like imaginative exaggeration, you probably wouldn't make cartoons at all. You would write novels or make dramatic live action movies - which is really what everyone who produces or writes animation these days wants to do anyway. They just aren't good enough to get into the real world of live action.

Bland formula cartoons to me, and to every cartoonist or animator with a mind of his/her own are just big boring lies. They aren't realistic, have nothing important to say (unlike what the producers would have you believe) and are completely transparent. "This is not merely a "cartoon". It is an experience, a study of the nature of the family." That kind of stuff.

No matter what the marketing and press releases tell you about how everything is new and daring and has a message, this is really what it comes down to:

Conservative animators and definitely executives just don't like cartoons. Real cartoons are too much fun at once. It's too-big helping of imagination and the audience doesn't deserve that. Serious animation people want to poo in the ice cream.

They have a million theories as to why an audience couldn't bear to sit through non-stop entertainment, but the theories are just a mask to cover up the real reason: Bland people make bland entertainment.

Worse than than that, they see to it that talented people don't get to use their talents, whether their talents are observational or imaginative, or some combination.

How many artists have been told to tone down their stuff, even if it is not "wild" at all or "Tex Avery"?

"Trace those model sheets! More pathos! More contrived misunderstandings between the two bland characters who are obviously in love! More crowds! More camera angles! Let's have someone die! More Pop culture references than the competition! More pores! No soul! Our movie is QUALITY!"

You would think that with the billions (not an exaggeration!) of dollars being spent on formula cartoons every year, someone would be smart enough to carve a measly few million off to make imaginative cartoony cartoons that take advantage of the medium.

They'd clean up, because there would be no competition at all.