A very big big year in animation

animation.jpgLions and penguins and ants oh my! This year at the cinema there’s one type of movie that has been very busy; animation. I happen to like slasher flicks a bit more that the child’s play of animation but there is no denying that there has been quite a good market for movies about cute, fuzzy animals who learn life lessons and fight bullies.

Problem is, the giant wave of cartoon characters this year is watering down the grosses on any given animated movie, since there is so much to choose from. The folks over at yahoonews.com give us this:

Ten years ago, Hollywood released as few as three or four animated movies a year, with Disney the only steady player. This year, 16 films are expected to be eligible for the Academy Award for feature-length animation, only the second time in the six-year history of the animated Oscar that there were enough movies for a full field of five nominees, rather than the usual three.

There’s been a wonderful selection of films and it’s encouraging to see so many people getting into animation,” said “Flushed Away” co-director David Bowers. “Not all the films made as much money as people hoped. I think in a couple of years we’ll maybe see fewer animated films. Studios being more cautious.”

As a filmmaker doing these, you certainly wish it was back to the day when it was just DreamWorks and Pixar going head to head. It makes them feel more special and more of an event,” Over The Hedge co-director Karey Kirkpatrick said. “On the flip side, having that many, it certainly keeps you on your toes to do your best and make yours exceptional.”

With all of the toon flicks in 2006 this is going to be a very exciting year for animation at the Oscars. I’m hoping that one of the cartoons with a decent story wins. It seems that the animation world is falling victim to the same dilemma that all the giant action adventure movies have suffered from in recent years.

Too much flash, not enough story. Like with Happy Feet, good music and great animation can only take you so far, and without a proper and interesting story the audience is going to feel ripped off. And that is a shame considering the costs of animation.

The problem is that there only a certain amount of appropriate stories for children to watch. With so many flicks fighting each other for the audience the stories become less important that the concept, dancing penguins, bear brothers and escaped zoo creatures sometimes sound a lot better in a pitch than they do on screen. Cartoons are geared towards the very young going up towards age ten and their parents. So to tell a fresh and entertaining story, have it age apropriate, and make the parents laugh as well is quite difficult.

One thing is certain in my mind, the animals have got to go. Bambi needs to leave the building. The furry creatures have been played to death. My favorite cartoon this year was Monster House, it was about kids and a scary house, it was fresh and fun and more importantly it would have worked as a non animated movie.

If animators want to continue getting kids and their parents out to see movies they have to start thinking about the whole package, animation, voices, characters, music and story.

Hopefully the Oscar voters will ignore flashy concepts and think big picture as well.

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