The title should prompt obvious responses that animation is
already great at infecting audiences… with laughter! Especially so, given that
every animated feature being released at the moment is a comedy. That said, the
piece by Jonathon Gottschall over on Co.Create that prompted this post, uses
story as its base instead.
It’s easy to point out that animation is far and away a
visual technique. After all, doesn’t it’s very existence depend on
making static images move? While the answer is clearly yes, the ability of
animated features (and shorts) to worm their way into audiences hearts and
minds has been as much the result of how it looks as it is the stories it
Consider any classic animated film and think about what
makes a great movie to watch. While
readers of this site will gleefully point out the use of the multi-plane camera
and super character animation as the stars of Pinocchio, the vast majority of
the public miss such traits entirely. They focus instead on the characters and
their story that is told.
This is animation’s strong point when it comes to infecting
audiences with stories. As a technique limited only by the imagination of the
animators and other artists involved in production, animation has long been
able to explore worlds and characters that live-action has not.
What this means is that even the most mundane stories are given
an entirely different sheen when put under the animation spotlight. Think about
Aladdin. It’s a tale that everyone is familiar with and that has been told a
thousand times in every kind of iteration you can imagine. Disney’s animated
version from their renaissance period took that exceptionally common tale and
aside from putting their own take on it, created a film that audiences fell
instantly in love with and still do
“So stories have a unique ability to infect minds with
ideas and attitudes that spread contagiously. The next question is obvious: How
do we get a piece of that power? It isn’t easy because the story has to be good
or it doesn’t work. Here’s what I mean by “good”: psychological studies
show that we don’t get infected by a story unless we are emotionally
transported–unless we lose ourselves in the story.”
That quote from Gottschall’s article drives the point home.
Animation is excellent at transporting audiences (physically and emotionally)
into another world. It’s inherent in the skills of the animators themselves who
must not only convince us that what we are seeing on-screen is moving in a
realistic way, they have to create the entire world the characters live in too.
They’re quite good at it too. The rudimentary lines of the Simpsons has been a
facsimile for America for 25 years and nobody has yet to complain.
Animation as it stands today continues to infect audiences
despite the malaise that has enveloped feature animation for the most part.
Independent features continue to inspire (this writer was incredibly taken away
by A Cat in Paris) and animation on TV has never been better with the likes of
Adventure Time heading the pack of shows that have spread through mainstream
audiences and older vieers like, well, influenza!
Charles Kenny writes prolifically on his own blog, The Animation Anomaly.