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Outside the Bubble: What the Main Street Papers Say

In the animation community, we hold high expectations for the animated feature film to break out of its "kid's only" realm. However, what do editors from papers across the U.S. have to say? Joan Kim surveys these hometown gurus on the status of animation.

Here in the animation community, we hold high expectations for the animated feature film to break out of its "kid's only" realm. However, we, and our readers, might be a bit biased. Therefore, we went out to the rest of the news community to hear what they had to say. Finding the entertainment editors and movie reviewers from cities across the U.S., we heard their views about animation, and how they feel their readership -- a readership most familiar with Disney -- regards animation.

What is the main street speak about animated features? Are we breaking out of the "kids only" mold yet? These home town gurus with their ear to the ground break it down for us and tell us we still have a long way to go...

Kevin Cox, Datebook EditorThe Des Moines Register, Des Moines, Iowa

Animated feature films are viewed very highly, especially in Disney's case. Adults have come to expect high-quality, entertaining stories that they can take children to see. DreamWorks also has shown promise with The Prince of Egypt and The Road to El Dorado. Other studios' films haven't been so lucky (Titan A.E., for example), but they can't all be successful. The success goes beyond standard animation though, as the Toy Story movies have shown the promise of computer-animated movies.

I've seen only a few attempts at catering animated films specifically to adults. Princess Mononoke was the latest I can think of, and it was only successful on a small scale. Most of the adult-oriented animated fare has been on cable TV and direct-to-video, with many of those features based on comic book heroes like Batman and Spawn. In terms of animated films for adults and kids, films like Toy Story have been successful. Overall, I think the animated feature film is beginning to evolve out of the "kids only" realm, but it hasn't gotten very far yet in the eyes of the general public.

Larry Toppman, Film CriticThe Charlotte Observer, Charlotte, North Carolina

I think that box office totals show us that unfortunately most people regard animation as primarily for children. Good animated films that offer non-kid content, although they might be kid-friendly, are not really for kids and tend to get overlooked which I think is unfortunate. My feeling is that animated movies are for a wide, wide range of people and it is actually my favorite genre. I'll try not to get on my soap box, but if I had to take one genre to a deserted island that's what it would be.

I think animated films can be made that satisfy children and adults on different levels. Even something as simple as The Emperor's New Groove does that. It has humor for kids and humor for adults, but I think adults tend to ghettoize them.

I'm a dreadful predictor, but I think Emperor's New Groove will do well. Obviously Disney's name is the most potent selling point that you can attach to any kind of film, mainly any kind of animated film. The main interest in it is that there is a huge demand for the Disney name regardless of what is being offered under it. So, I think it will do well -- whether or not it grosses as high as some of the more kid-friendly movies like Tarzan, I'm not too sure, because it isn't particularly directed at young children.

Jean Prescott, Marquee EditorMarquee Entertainment GuideThe Sun Herald, Biloxi, Mississippi

I think that people are interested in feature animation. My experience is certainly with Disney movies. Even The Emperor's New Groove, which I understand had a lot of production problems and changed gears mid-stream, has parents taking their kids to see these movies just because if they don't the kids won't stop nagging them. But I think movies like Chicken Run and even Emperor's New Groove are getting away from the "kid only" realm. With Disney movies why look at Robin Williams in Aladdin! I laughed so hard at that movie -- at things I know my grandson didn't have the slightest idea of what was going on. These multi-level jokes where you've got to keep mom and dad from falling asleep and pulling their hair out [really work]. So you have to put in some inside jokes in there and keep in mind we're up to our elbows in rednecks -- and I say that lovingly.

I think that people across the board enjoy them whether it's a Disney movie and you take the kids or not. I don't think they see it a couple of times the way teenagers go back to see their Dude, Where's My Car? movie, but I think that animation is well received. I see loads of people who like Wallace and Gromit and made the connection to Chicken Run as being done by the same people, plus it was enough to get even the so-called elitists out there who might not go and see a Disney movie. It is becoming something that adults go and see and don't feel like they have to have the token child with them so they don't feel foolish. They watch Futurama on TV and they watch The Simpsoms, of course, and that's not silly. The single guys in this newsroom will carry on about the latest celebrity voice on The Simpsons, so yeah, I think it's not just for kids

Jennifer Cooley, Entertainment EditorEl Paso Times, El Paso, Texas

I think it definitely is evolving. With Titan A.E. my husband saw it and really enjoyed it. I wasn't able to see it with him, but it sounded like it was very much an adult film, more than just a kid's cartoon. That's a good example of how it is definitely evolving. People are starting to learn, especially with what's on TV now, that cartoons or animation doesn't have to be just for kids. Really, like with Looney Tunes, it started out more for adults than how people view it now.

I think audiences receive animation well. I know a lot of adults without children who went to see Rugrats in Paris, because they enjoyed the first one so much and enjoy watching the cartoons on TV. People are enjoying animation and are more likely to see all sorts of animated movies than before. Part of that I think is because Disney has done such a good job with movies like Aladdin and Lion King putting in adult stuff along with stuff that their kids can enjoy. So they got a taste of that through their kids and realized, 'Hey, I don't have to borrow someone's kid to go see the movie.'

Ron Cowan, Writer/Reporter,Statesman Journal, Salem, Oregon

Obviously, they're doing a lot of new things with animation techniques, particularly with computer animation as seen in the two Toy Story movies. Emperor's New Groove has more of a pop look to it by contrast and it is the more traditional cel animation. But I think that people like this new [amount of] variety. The studios are showing that there's not just the classical Disney style of animation anymore. The people that make animated films are reaching out to a broader audience. It's not just for kids anymore, which makes sense. Parents have to bring the kids and [the filmmakers] want films to reach a modern audience and a more diverse audience.

Not all of them do well, but there have been some examples at the box office, like Titan A.E., that had some unusual animation. However, for the most part, particularly when films have the Disney name, and now the DreamWorks name, they are finding an audience. Audiences still tend to look for brand names.

Joan Kim received her B.A. in English Literature from UCLA and currently is the editorial administrator for Animation World Network. Previously as a graphics consultant she produced several company reports and manuals and continues to pursue an education in computer graphics.