Letters to the Editor

The Kitsch-Meister of Burbank

Embedded within R.O. Blechman's spirited, high culture philippic against Disney ["Transfixed and Goggle-Eyed," June 1996] is a revealing slip. He describes how UPA's graphic invention took the wind out of Disney's sails in the 50's, causing the Kitsch-Meister of Burbank to overcome his own vulgar literalism and turn out a modernistic cartoon of suitable stylization and reduction (Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom). He then adds "If animation is the sincerest form of flattery, it is also the surest sign of artistic bankruptcy." Of course Blechman means "imitation," not "animation," and yet there may be a more sinister truth unconsciously buried within this grammatical archeology.

Let's assume that Disney is animation. Forget about Lotte Reiniger, Bill Plympton, Brothers Quay, and the other subjects of the "Independent Spirit" issue. He (not any one person, but the media Golem that Walt built and Eisner continues to aggrandize) has colonized our imagination and embodies all that is pernicious in our art. Not just because he has no taste. Not just because he is a monopolistic capitalist who will use every scheme to maintain market share. Not justbecause he is socially conservative. I think his biggest crime is flattery, the sincerest form of pandering. The Disney product is designed to reassure its audience that everything is OK: sit back, relax, and have a good time. Yes, we are goggle-eyed at marvelous visions of virtuoso animation and, having checked our brains at the door, we truly believe that someday our prince will come, and in the meantime we can congratulate ourselves for empathizing with a lovable little hunchback.

While I concur with Blechman's esthetic critique, Disney's chief offense is his non-controversial, vanilla disposition, which can be summed up in one word: "nice." If independent animators are to reclaim any measure of respect in this eternal, Oedipal conflict, we can certainly do worse that follow the recipe offered by Tina Turner in "Proud Mary" when she sneered, "We never do anything nice 'n easy; we do it nice 'n rough."

George Griffin
New York City

The author is an independent filmmaker.

Letters to the editor can be sent by email to editor@awn.com, by fax to (213) 464-5914, or by regular mail to Animation World Magazine 6525 Sunset Blvd., Garden Suite 10, Hollywood, CA 90028.

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