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 movies 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 Gibran’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. This is our first foray into the world of animation podcasts and we are still trying to find our voice, so if you are interested in learning what we are about, please listen to our introduction episode below, and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube for the latest updates.