Dr. Toon: The Animation Critic's Art - Part 1
Welcome to a new direction, my longtime readers. Since 1999, when I first joined AWN, I have been doing monthly commentary on the animated scene, especially as it relates to American culture past and present. Much of this writing, by necessity, has been in the form of critique. But what is animation critique? What functions should it perform? How should it be practiced and communicated to readers?
In April of 2010, I wrote a column critiquing critics. I contended that many who harped on Disney's The Princess and the Frog seemed to be inattentive echoers of more professional critics, and in some cases even fastened on the wrong criteria in evaluating the film. The column sparked some wonderful comments from readers, including several who had excellent points to make. One comment, in particular, however, had nothing to do with the film. It was a request for "any recommended reading for beginning critics." It was refreshing to read this plea from an animation fan who wanted to further develop existing critical skills and it birthed my new direction for 2011. I've decided to present my own answer to his or her query.
There are three ways I could have approached this task, and it took me eight months to decide which was best. The first approach would involve listing a compendium of books and articles, but anyone with a computer or a campus library card (remember those?) could find the same titles. The second approach would have been a series of articles on how to critique animation, but that would be a limited approach at best since it would only reflect my viewpoints. Therefore, I went with the third approach: I am going to attempt to convey what you will most need in order to become a competent animation critic and an informed voice on your own.
I am not going to put my credentials up for examination here; suffice it to say that I believe them strong enough to be up to the task. Besides, this is not a university; the entire purpose of this endeavor is to point you in the direction of exercising and improving your critical skills and to have some fun. Fun is why I write these columns every month, go to see every animated feature I can and seek out rarities and independent work wherever possible. If you are intrigued by this new journey, please join me. I shall do my very best to share my thoughts and entertain you along the way. Ready? Let's roll!