In a world where animation is reality, how would animated characters judge the best of filmed narratives?
The Annies, Oscars, and other “real world” awards miss the mark.
This is not a rant against the winners or the award process. I’m just wondering if these awards do justice to how story and character are dealt with in narrative animation.
The story world in animation is bound up in animation’s history of exaggeration, of visually bending reality, and shaking up conventional wisdom of what is physically possible. Actually, anything is possible in these imaginary worlds as long as the physics and story logic are established.
In many respects, it seems that the more absurd the physical reality of the animated world, the more formal the story and character logic has to be. Sure there are gaps and inconsistencies in animation that I’m sure someone in pre- or post-production hoped the audience would never see. But these are not the award winners.
So taking narrative animation’s penchant for folktale or myth structure as the point of departure, I’m thinking about awards that would take seriously key story elements, and not just merge them together under “best picture”.
Here are some golden statues waiting to be inscribed:
- Best hero/heroine (gender specific, ambiguous, neutral; human, animal, humanoid, alien)
- Best – or scariest - villain/villainess (gender specific, ambiguous, neutral; human, animal, humanoid, alien)
- Best hero/heroine BFF (see above sub-categories)
- Best villain/villainess BFF (see above sub-categories)
- Best false friend
- Best supporting individual, group, or crowd (see above sub-categories, although I’m picturing Minions)
- Best inciting moment
- Best final action
- Best I-didn’t-see-that-coming struggle, conflict, or resolution
- Best buddy movie
- Best mixed-world interaction. This category highlights the creation of a merged world in which the animation does not drop out as merely CG.
Think of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Mask, The Muppets (all), Loony Tunes: Back in Action, or Enchanted (I’d vote for Pip’s charade scene as the best mime action in live action or animation).
- Best meta-reference to the real, adult world (did this start with Shrek?)
- Cutest child (under 10-ish, gender specific or neutral)
- Cutest critter (as in Bunny, Muppet-babies, Olaf)
Of course there is a problem with any breakdown that treats story or performance – or in this case, story, animation, performance - separately. We can talk about these parts separately in theory but in actual viewing, the effects are cumulative and influence each other.
But the purpose of this exercise was to carve out that very special place that narrative animation deserves.
And taking this entire outlook to its necessary conclusion, who would make the best, or wildest presenter for these awards -- Gru, Bugs, or Genie?