Did you catch it during last night’s ceremony? It was quick,
underhanded, and ultimately says it all. No, it was not when Dwayne ‘The Rock’
Johnson called animation a ‘genre’, but it was just as bad, if not worse.
It’s an almost annual occurrence at this stage; when the
award for Best Animated Feature comes around and our favourite artform is
called a ‘genre’ in front of hundreds of millions of people. The hashtag was
created in no time at all, and although #animationisnotagenre
quickly permeated through the twittersphere, it only serves to reinforce what
we already know.
However, what was slipped in immediately before that
infamous remark was something that many within the industry and beyond have
been battling against for decades; the notion that animation is only suitable
for kids. Co-presenter Zoe Saldana did all that hard work no favours at all
when she teased Johnson for not only watching The Lion King at a time when he
could legally drive, but for crying while doing so as well.
Now what degree of truth there is to all this is up for
debate, but what is undeniable, is that a grown adult who proclaimed he freely watched
an animated feature and let his emotions flow while doing so, was almost
castigated for not knowing better. The audience had a bit of a laugh, as many
viewers at home surely did too.
The flippant opinion is that of ‘who cares’, and ‘it was
just a joke’. OK, true, the intent was probably to play up tough-guy Johnson
actually having a soft side, but the notion that animation=kids and how
ingrained it was in the US is something that should be on everyone’s mind as
they watched last night, and as they read this today. Such views stifled the
industry creatively for many years, and it was not until ideas and concepts
that challenged the notion, or ignored it completely, did the situation begin
Animated features have come a long, long way in recent times
and are no longer mere entertainment. They are complex visual stories that
ought to inspire the viewer and leave them in awe at the skills of the
creators. Pixar wowed audiences back in 1995 with a film that did just that,
and things have only gotten better in the two decades since.
Movies are designed to elicit emotions too. There are very
few people on this planet who have not teared up while watching a film at some
point in their lives. Heck, the Oscars themselves are practically about weepy movies!
So why is it necessary to tease an adult (especially a man, but we won’t go
down that road today) who confessed that he cried during an animated film that
is famous for it’s intense emotional scenes. Perhaps it may come as a surprise
to some people (and the ceremony’s writers are likely in this camp) that Walt
Disney himself was known to break down over films even before they left the
Do Sunday night’s events reinforce the notion that animated
features are inferior films? I believe so, because to admit to succumbing to
your emotions while watching an animated film is seen as almost tantamount to
accidentally letting your guard down when you should have known better. You’re
a sissy because you let a kid’s film get the better of you, an adult, and are a
fool to admit to it in public.
To rub salt in the wounds, this year’s list of nominees had
at least one film, and probably two more that would be considered full-blown
dramas. Nobody should be ashamed to admit they cried during the Tale of Princess
Kaguya or Song of the Sea. In the case of the former, the cinema I saw it in
certainly wasn’t dry by the end. The optimist in me hopes that in another 20
years, there is nocause to suggest that adults who watched either film were
weak for tearing up.
I get the humour in teasing a tough guy about his soft side.
It makes for a cheap laugh, but there are plenty of other ways to do so besides
taking aim at how an animated film was able to affect him as deeply an
emotionally as any live-action one. This doesn’t roll the clock back, but it
doesn’t advance it forward either.