That cat is out of the bag as
far as the Los Angeles Times is concerned. Animated films are coming out
thick, fast, and too close together for the market to bear. Box office grosses
are down, and large studios like DreamWorks are starting to feel the pinch
(although they claim that Turbo will be profitable in the end.)
The problem of course isn’t so much that there are too many
animated films, rather it’s that there are simply too many of the same kind of
Pixar set the gold standard with kid-friendly films that had
more than a wink and a nod to the adults in the audience. The world and his dog
took notice, and started to crank out facsimiles en masse.
Unfortunately, the market can only ever support so many of
the same kinds of films. If you want a cautionary tale, just look to the
Western. Hollywood flamed out on them 40 years ago, and they’ve been a tough
sell ever since.
Animated films face the same problem today. The concern is
that animation continues to be treated like a genre (even though it isn’t) and
guilt by association could hinder adult-oriented animated films if the
kid-friendly ones overstay their welcome.
So what kind of animated films should we be seeing if we are
to avoid this fate?
High school comedies? Sure, why not. Action films? That ones
easy, we just need to re-classify a few that are already out there from
live-action to animation. Family dramas? Absolutely! The Incredibles
could easily count if it had a few bad words in it, right? I mean c’mon, it
already had the whole infidelity angle going for it.
The point is that animated films that adults will enjoy and
animated films suitable for adults are not mutually exclusive. It’s tough to
get a kid to watch a courtroom drama because it’s simply not interesting to
There’s no reason why there isn’t more diversity in animated
films besides studio’s reluctance to embrace them, and a mentality that the
juvenile approach is the best way to attract the 18-34 demographic.
The only obstacle is grabbing the headlines away from what’s
out there today. News organisations cannot resist falling over themselves for
the latest kid-friendly animated film but won’t touch one for adults with a 10
foot pole. If we can get over that, maybe we can start to see greater variety
in animated form at the cinema.
Charles Kenny writes prolifically on his own blog, The Animation Anomaly.