Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Why Animation Should Be Taken More Seriously

by Joe Brennan

With this year's Oscars less than a month away and as the reactions to all the nominations have flooded in, I feel as though one picture in particular should have been nominated for the best movie of 2016.

The film in question is not only my favourite film of 2016 but is up there with my favourite pieces of cinema ever created. This is partly a review of this film and partly a rant on the snubbing of animated films when it comes to The Best Picture Academy Award.

Now what film has triggered such a response from me- what caused me to put together an entire article about this? (Other than the deadline to submit something)?

The animation in question is Walt Disney Studios' Moana. The last few years has seen somewhat of a second animated renaissance with Pixar's Inside Out, Warner's The LEGO Movie and Disney's Frozen being some of the best films of the last decade. And if we are in a second Golden Age of animation, Moana is the new Little Mermaid (I'd say Beauty and the Beast - but that got a Best Picture Nomination).

Moana tells the beautifully simple and well known story of a girl who looks to the horizon and dreams of more than her life at home who has to go on a journey to save the world with the help of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's Maui. What makes this film stand out from the hundreds of films that share similar plots is the heart. The love and care put into the performances, the script and the absolutely breathtaking animation. The decision to bring in Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda (genius) resulted in some of the best songs in any Disney musical to date (anyone who is still caught up in Frozen hype can just let it go). The stellar casting of newcomer Auli'i Cravalho as Moana provided a youthful life and energy (and a phenomenal singing voice) to a long line of Disney princesses.

Also, there's a silly chicken that could've become an annoying comic relief slapstick character for the little kids who couldn't comprehend the wit and complexity of the regular dialogue but Hei Hei The Chicken ends up being loveable and funny- a valuable addition to the cast.

I could write for hours on why I love Moana but that's not the main focus of this article...though it should be. 

I have more to say. Just a bit. 

The Rock's larger than life on-screen presence even in a purely vocal performance was charismatic and funny in every scene. The gorgeous animation and characterisation of the water (and everything for that matter) should be enough to get it the Best Animated Feature Oscar. The combination of music, performance, animation and writing (along with Baby Moana topping Finding Dory's spot of cutest animated character) should have been enough to push through genre and get it a nomination for overall picture, not just animation. But just as last year's Oscars struggled to represent minorities, I feel this year's nominations have a significant lacking in animated acknowledgment.

2016 and early 2017 was arguably the best period of time for animation in history. With Zootropolis/Zootopia coming out in March and becoming my favourite Disney film for about 9 months, Kubo and the Two Strings surpassing all expectations, Sausage Party being...well... yeah, Finding Dory was a passable sequel to a classic. Even Trolls surprised me when it was a fun, enjoyable musical flick. Coming up in February, my most anticipated superhero movie of 2017 (as 
I've said beforeI'm not confident in Warner Brothers' DC Cinematic Universe) but there's one Batman that I can get behind:

I'm not arguing that The LEGO Batman Movie deserves an Oscar (I'm also not arguing that it doesn't...) but I think it's time the Academy (and the general public) begin taking animation seriously. On my second (don't judge me) viewing of Moana, there were two parents who had obviously brought their children to stare at the pretty colours but were themselves just talking throughout most of the film. I'm sure they wouldn't behave like that in a regular film, so why does it matter that Moana was a kid's film? So far, only three animated features have ever been nominated for Best Picture- many have been snubbed and failed to break through the barrier of animation.

This hasn't been a very structured article- starting as one thing but branched through into a different genre, but I guess that's a metaphor  for how I view animation. Anomalisa and *sigh* Sausage Party proved that it isn't a medium limited to children's entertainment. Even one of my favourite TV shows, and an extremely popular comedy, is animated but aimed at a more adult audience. Rick and Morty's animated style reduces limitations to the insane extremes they want to go to.

However, films like Moana, Kubo and Zootropolis, while being appropriate for children, are not limited to a young audience and I think films that aim to appeal to all audiences shouldn't be criticised and limited to pure fluff. Instead they should be commended for telling a good story well while not alienating an audience.


  1. I love all these movies

  2. I love Moana and I totally agree with you.


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