Wednesday, February 22, 2012
I Love Animation
So the other day I'm sitting around watching an episode of Young Justice and my mom berates me for watching cartoons. This is mostly going to be a history, but let me say that especially when it comes to action animation allows for shots you just couldn't get in live action.
And yes, 5 years later The Matrix would rip off this scene.
So I am now going to defend myself in a quasi academic way. First off let me say I was incredibly lucky growing up. Some of the best animated stuff came out in the 90's. And I'm not saying that to be snarky.
The Dark Age of Animation
Animation especially good animation is incredibly labor intensive. Your average live action episode takes about a month to produce. Animation, try 9. See the way animation works is by presenting a bunch a images faster than the eye can process the difference.
Normally that's somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 per second. 20 minutes times 60 seconds times 30 frames, that's 36,000 frames. Now I know a lot of folks are going say, well what about computers. In 2-d animation they help in inking and editing, but a lot of the penciling is still done by hand, on paper or sometimes digital tablets, but still by hand.
After the fall of the Hollywood system and the decrease of shorts in theatres, animation had to move to TV. And schedules and budgets got tighter. As a result shortcuts such as limiting animation and reusing animation were taken and quality did go down.
People noticed and eventually the animation ghetto was born. The idea that cartoons are so bad that only kids could enjoy them.
Okay this post was supposed to be about TV and I'll get there but you need background so let's go to the movies.
A lot of animators hated the cartoons are for kids idea and tried to eschew it, but well folks you know who weird the definition of mature can get. Don't get me wrong, though. I love Ralph Bakshi.
Now Disney is a weird case. For a while they were the only animation movie studio in town. They were still making critically acclaimed stuff in the Dark Age, but a lot of the animators hated it.
Because animation is so labor intensive Disney had become an animation factory. And a lot of artists, wink wink, nudge nudge Don Bluth, had a problem with that.
Oh Don Bluth one of the greatest animators ever. You gave me both Iron Giant and Titan A.E. All hail Lord Bluth. Miles that was like 20 years later.
Right what was my point? A lot of the animators felt frustrated. There was a lot of a sense that Disney wasn't as good as it used to be, and that they were at the end of an age. It didn't help that the king had died. This all came to a head with the Secret of Nimh. Yeah, eventually Bluth left Disney and forged and a rivalry with them.
Disney had been offered the rights to the book but turned it down and a lot of the animators, Bluth included, really wanted to work on it. The word on the street is that Disney thought the story was too dark for kids. In total 11 animators left to work on it.
In the industry it was no secret that Disney and Don Bluth were competing. Eventually in 1986 Bluth's An American Tail out grossed Disney's The Great Mouse Detective. That caused Disney to rethink how it was doing things, leading to.
The Renaissance Age of Animation
The Renaissance age is so dubbed because it's mostly remembered for the Disney Renaissance, a period of time when Disney was making cash hand over fist. Now when most people think of the Disney Renaissance they think Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King etc. , but in my mind there are two movies that are even more responsible that get too little credit.
Narratively speaking Who Framed Roger Rabbit is one of the weirdest movies in the Disney lexicon. In all honesty it's one of the least kid friendly movies Disney ever made.
It works as a send up to everything Hollywood in the 1940's and 50's. Both golden age cartoons, and old school noirs.
Look I obviously love the movie, but that's only part of it's charm. It really was innovative and along with the The Rescuers Down Under paved the way for digital inking. All this led to richer crisper coloring. And it seemed that Disney wasn't as afraid of going dark.
Just like everyone else kids like a little bit of pathos. Sometimes a good story has to punch you in the gut.
The TV Arena
Disney was making so much cash they decided to throw their hat into the TV arena. For a time it seemed like all the time and effort good animation takes can pay off financially.
Now a lot of Disney's TV fair were adaptations of their movies.
The WB eventually had the same idea and it lead to what is considered by many to be the best animated television show ever. The writing was exquisite, the music was great, animation great.
If you haven't, watch it. Watch it now! Stop reading this and go! It holds up and again many consider this to be the best adaptation of Batman. People think we nerds like Mark Hamill because of Star Wars, and we do, but to us he is not Luke Skywalker. He is the Joker. It's never been a competition between Jack and Heath it's always been Mark and Heath.
Anyway, in a lot of ways Batman The Animated Series set the bar. Saturday morning cartoons could be dark again they could be well written. They could be good.
Now I can go into what both Batman and Gargoyles got right but the Nostalgia Critic already did it for both. But I will say compare how animation improved over the years
Now mostly I've about Disney, but I can't overstate the importance of Toonami either.
A lot of kids were getting their first taste of Anime.
Again a lot of those shows weren't afraid to punch you in the gut.
(Rainmaker just make a season 5 already. Stop toying with us.)
My point I guess is that Cartoon Network in general was doing some really interesting and impressive stuff.
Then Toonami was canceled, and for a while I thought things had fallen.
And don't get me wrong they got bad.
But then Generator Rex, Ben 10 Alien Force/Ultimate Alien, Young Justice, and ThunderCats came. Heck if they wanted to they could rebuild Toonami with those shows as a core.
Note: I was wrong. Don Bluth didn't do Iron Giant. That would be Brad Bird.