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Editor's Notebook

How adult is animation really getting?

Heather Kenyon

While animation is breaking into new realms, especially prime time as discussed in Martin Goodman's "A Prime Time Explosion," there are still a lot of exciting areas into which it can move. There is no denying that competition between studios is stiff. The secret to survival will be creating different niches in the market. Different looks, different styles, different stories will entertain and surprise general audiences. Indeed, as Cedric Littardi's trial results prove, many people out there still consider animation kids' stuff. There are a lot of opportunities for bringing different genres to animation that will take audiences by surprise. Prime time animation has settled in comfortably as an alternative to the set family sitcom. Who is going to take the chance and bring a high profile animated drama, or action series to television? It has been done (Invasion America, Spawn), but hasn't quite stuck like the comedies have. Imagine the possibilities of an animated horror film -- a really scary one with an R rating -- or a psychological thriller? How about a stylized western? While accepted entertainment in Japan, the West lags behind. These are all possibilities for animation, but they mean risk taking and to succeed the projects need to be high quality which involves an even greater financial risk. He who takes the risk and succeeds will be a hero -- a very brave hero for jumping into the pond first.

While we as animation professionals and followers think these are great ideas...we have to contend with a public that largely considers animation as a kids medium. (How I wish everyone could sit down and watch a videotape of the past ten years of Annecy winners. Wouldn't they be amazed at what animation has to offer!? I know I am every time I go to a festival.) Remember the flap about South Park when it came out? I heard people exclaiming in sheer amazement, "It isn't for kids you know!" Well, duh! Why do people believe that this medium of animation determines the content? No one contends that live-action is just for adults, or that radio is just for news. This is one of my pet peeves and ranks in my opinion as one of the two most incorrect perceptions held by the general public about animation -- the other being, "Oh, animation...isn't that ALL done by computers now?" Hopefully our industry can educate the television and feature film audiences into realizing that with animation to ain't seen nothin' yet. I think that if folks tuned on their sets and saw the independent shorts that we know and love so well, they'd like them too.

I also want to make a mention of a very serious subject currently in the news in the United States. In light of the terrible Columbine shooting and the resulting copy cat crimes and threats, it is no surprise that the media is under new scrutiny. However I was happy to see the two animated features of this summer, Tarzan and The Iron Giant have strong anti-violence/anti-gun messages. Both films were naturally started years before the events in Colorado unfolded and I think Disney and Warner Bros. Feature Animation should be recognized for offering quality, thoughtful entertainment.

Until Next Time, Heather