The unlimited art form

Courtesy+of+anythinklibraries.org

Courtesy of anythinklibraries.org

James Bickford

Why animation should be taken more seriously in Hollywood

            When people dream, they can tell their friends about it. When animators dream, they can show it to the world.

When “The Lego Movie” was not nominated for “Best Animated Feature Film” this past Oscar season, I may have been the only person who was not surprised. When “Big Hero 6” won the award in front of the arguably more deserving “How to Train Your Dragon 2”, I was also not surprised.

I am never surprised when the Academy, and mainstream American culture, does not give much respect to animation. Despite the potential of animation, and some of the truly glorious masterpieces out there, animation is still considered by many to be either children’s entertainment or irreverent–“Simpson”-esque television, rather than a worthy art form with arguably more potential than any other out there.

Consider the man who is arguably the greatest auteur in animation history, Hayao Miyazaki. The only foreign director to ever win Best Animated Feature (“Spirited Away”, 2002), his filmography is replete with fantastical worlds and wonderful creatures with ever-present flying machines adding to the gorgeous scenery.

Who would not be astounded by the Giant Soldier in “Nausicaä”? Who doesn’t want a “Castle in the Sky?” Or to visit a kingdom consisting exclusively of house cats? In a day and age when Hollywood pumps out stale plots and dull sequels year round, an influx of imaginative ideas and worlds is sorely needed.

And yet, when his final masterpiece “The Wind Rises” made it to the 2013 Oscars, it lost to “Frozen”. Not to knock “Frozen”, but it was far from the best animated film that year.

When a group of people get together to work on an animation, they are communicating a vision to their audience that goes beyond anything else on the planet. What you see when you see an animated film is the artist’s vision—how it looked in their head from the start. They are not constrained by sets or actors or special effects, they don’t have to leave anything to your imagination.

The sights, sounds and atmosphere can be perfectly controlled and manipulated until you arrive at a world unlike any you have ever imagined. Or, as with the brilliant war film “Grave of the Fireflies”, animation can emphasize the real world, drawing and animating realistic characters and environments, exaggerating what it needs to effectively tell the story the director and animators want. What the animator imagines, the animator can show, and it is the only medium that can show an unfiltered look into the artist’s mind.

Animation can do things no other art form can do, and it’s about time that audiences and Hollywood recognize the potential and critical merit in animation. It is a truly unlimited art form that deserves respect. If the Academy, and the country in general, would treat animated film as film instead of as a childish distraction they would find an ocean of creativity and possibility they never imagined.