Animation was not always something that I looked at so rigorously. It wasn’t until I got to college that I began to see it from a brand new point of view, and my love for it deepened and expanded in so many ways. This site is a direct response to that, so I’m so happy and proud to share the first in what I hope are many, many videos delving into the wide expanse of this artform that I love so much. Please check it out, and let me know what you think!
What a time to be alive and in love with animation. This year saw a record number of film qualify, and I know that we’ll just continue to see each year yield a larger pool of contenders. We’re seeing more diverse films, more innovation, bigger budgets, smaller budgets and a more global representation. Not saying that in previous years we weren’t, as indie films have been cracking the nominations a number of times in the award category’s sixteen-year history. That’s a whole other post I’m excited to dive into!
I have to be honest. I love the Oscars. But it’s also one of my biggest pet peeves as an animation fan. There have been a lot of debates about the validity of the animation categories, particularly feature animation, and how votes are cast. They have tried to fix this by adding more voting members, but one can’t help but continue to be a little cynical about it all. Again, I do enjoy watching the Oscars–for me personally, growing up, it was always a yearly motivation. It’s a very self-indulgent night for film. It also tends to be a fun night to poke fun at animation, either by having a comedian introduce the section with disparaging jokes, or have a director whose film is 95% VFX win and then thank everyone except for the artists who literally made it. It’s also been dominated by the same company for years, which, as the article I linked previously highlights, does have you asking questions. And that issue doesn’t just plague the Oscars, but rather every awards show. Even the Annie Awards–a show specifically for animation–has had its share of controversy in the past, and like the Oscars, have taken steps to remedy it, such as revamping the voting and adding an Independent Animated Feature category, a debatable move in itself.
Another thing that often irritates me during awards season is, sadly, the fans at times. I have had enough debates with animation fans of forums such as ASIFA-Hollywood president Jerry Beck’s Cartoon Research Facebook group to know that there are many self-proclaimed “Disney purists” out there who will blindly support the company. I think we’ve all seen that in some degree, whether someone says they loved the new Star Wars because they just love Star. And we are all very guilty of it too. I love Disney, but I’m not so blinded that I can’t criticize it.
I think the thing that frustrates me about these types of people is that their mind is made up before it even gives any other options a chance. Or even worse, they pick their clear winner without having actually seen all of the nominated films. That, in my mind, immediately invalidates your opinion. You can’t be a fully-informed voter if you are NOT fully informed. You can’t judge based on some of the information. You may have loved Moana, but perhaps The Red Turtle will blow you away. You can’t know that unless you see it. I remember sitting with friends after seeing Inside Out wondering how any Disney/Pixar film could top that, and then Zootopia came along and knocked me completely on my ass. I saw pictures for My Life as a Zucchini and didn’t know what to make of it at first, but gave it a try, only to realize that it was one of my favorite films–animation or otherwise–of the year.
Founded in 1997, the New York International Children’s Film Festival (NYICFF) has become a staple of the NYC animation scene. What started as a single weekend with a few screenings has blossomed into a massive, weeks long event featuring sold-out screenings of films both old and new, short and feature length, and animated and live-action, as well as workshops, Q&As with filmmakers, awards, and parties. They’ve just posted their full 2017 festival line-up, and I’m so excited for their animation offerings! I’ll be highlighting a few below.
Of course with the year ending comes the slew of top-ten and year-end blog posts. It was certainly an impressive year for animation in terms of the sheer number of releases, and is only going to continue to increase as it becomes more and more accessible to people and companies globally. Though there are still issues and improvements needed in terms of representation on and off camera, treatment of works, and diversity of content and what stories get told, there are always things to celebrate and appreciate. I’m not going to go into large blurbs about these, as those longer posts/podcasts will slowly roll out in 2017. Here are my top 5 animated feature films of 2016:
The 2014 animated feature, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet is one of those projects that seems so implausible that one can’t help but wonder how it got the green light. Thankfully, it was a passion project of actress Salma Hayek who, along with The Lion King director Roger Allers, created a truly beautiful and unique gift. Based around Lebanese-American poet-philosopher Kahlil Kibran’s book, “The Prophet,” the film follows Mustafa, an artist and activist who, after being held under house arrest is escorted through town to a dock where he will be sent back to his home country. Along the way, he encounters many locals who welcome his appearance with unbridled celebration and open arms, much to the displeasure of the local government. Mustafa advises the townsfolk, assists them with their daily problems in the form of poetic sermons, which break apart from the larger story, and visually, often to more effect than the main story.
Welcome to Animation | Complex. This is a newly created site intended to be a resource for people who want to learn more about animation in historical and cultural context. Animation is an amazing medium–it can tackle literally any subject matter, be targeted at any age group or type of person, and convey any type of emotion. It can be a powerful tool for education and instruction, to inform and to entertain. But it often doesn’t get that type of credit. More often than not, animation is seen as a genre. Fodder to distract children with, or toilet humor targeted predominantly at adult men. Animation has received little serious attention over the years. There have been valid attempts, with more books available now, and more offerings to the public in the form of talks with film scholars and dedicated museum exhibitions. But it’s still something that goes largely unnoticed in the larger film community.
That’s where Animation | Complex hopes to bridge a gap. It is my sincere intention to introduce a more critical and educational perspective on the animation we know and love, while also keeping things entertaining and accessible. Although we will get into deeper topics, we hope to present them in a way that people who aren’t steeped in cinema studies can digest and enjoy. Through articles on this site, videos on our YouTube channel, and a podcast, we aim to shed light on animation culture. Additionally, we also look forward to diving into other related forms of sequential art, like video games and graphic novels!
To learn more about our goals, please listen to our introductory podcast:
A lot can be learned from a cartoon, starting with the actual production of it itself: was is mass-produced in the studio system? Created with a grant from a supportive government? Toiled away at for decades? Was it done with resources the creator invented themselves, or used with open-source technology? Who made it? How was it funded? Why was it made? Then of course, there’s the content of the film, which can of course be affected by all of the above questions, and more: how was it exhibited and distributed? How was the story conveyed? Who was the target audience? And beyond: what does the film say about race, gender, and class?
We sometimes ignore the deeper questions when it comes to animation, but it’s important, just as it is important to analyze any other piece of art. Viewed through an academic lens, animation can help us understand more about the intersection of politics, education, and entertainment. It is especially important because animation is so often one of the earliest forms of media we expose children to. We want to know what is being reflected in these films and shows, we want to understand how our current culture–how race, gender, sexuality, and so many other topics are being introduced, and we also enjoy seeing how it is presented or critiqued in animated films meant for older people.
Not only do I think it’s important to view ALL of the media we consume with a critical eye, but for me, it’s just fun. I honestly enjoy it. Some times of course, the information is depressing or angering, or sobering, but it’s amazing to be able to look at this amazing and beautiful and constantly evolving artform and want to see and expect more out of it.
So please feel free to stick around and join me on this journey. We’re just getting started! : )
Welcome to Animation Complex! A site in its infancy, meant to bring you in-depth discussions, information, debates, and analysis, and overviews of animation from around the world.
As you can tell, we are still shaping up, so if you are interested in learning what we are about, please listen to our introduction podcast, linked below, and follow us on Twitter for the latest updates.