Cartoons as art

Many of you who know me will know that I love cartoons and tend to believe strongly that good cartooning is art. The obvious choices of Fantasia and Snow white come to mind but I think that more recent animation such as Ren and Stimpy with its beautiful kitschy retro art stylings, Invader Zim with its surrealism and social commentary and Teachers Pet by renowned artist Gary Baseman are overlooked.

With all of these amazing advancements in technology and creative reasoning, how is it that cartoon movies have taken a turn for the worst? Well, the New York Times thinks it has the answer. Cartoons are too wordy these days and by filling up the movie with unnecessary and annoying chatter it distracts from the visual impact of the artwork itself. Its an interesting article and I think it has a point, One I will be thinking of when I watch my nightly cartoons!

8 thoughts on “Cartoons as art

  1. I never know what people think. I often think of Zim as being widely known, but even within our geeky social group many people have never watched it. But Ren & Stimpy did get a lot of newspaper and magazine articles back in the day, as does Spongebob Squarepants now.

    Charles Solomon’s diagnosis is interesting, but I think mistakes a symptom for the cause: all that chatter is part of the general postmodern stew of external referentialty that these movies brew. When the characters yammer on they are generally dropping references to a million other movies, songs, and recent events. But the images do too. For instance, take the numerous silent “homages” to The Matrix in modern cartoons – even without the sound these scenes talk to the audience loud and clear.

    I think the silences in the films of Pixar and Ghibli are not just aural, but visual too. When the pictures and voices speak only for themselves, they don’t have to say so much.

    The postmodern approach was captivating in The Simpsons, but I think it had gotten old by the time of Shrek. Now I think it needs to be used with more discrimination and sophistication.

    Like you, I have high hopes now that Lasseter is in charge of Disney’s animation!

  2. I think you are exactly right here, Dave. there have been a lot of symptoms of the cancer that is eating animated movies. but despite that 3D animated movies in particular are more popular than ever before and seem to go further downhill with each movie made. I actually saw Home on the Range and it was.. nothing.. not good, not bad, it just equalled a huge zip.

    I think what the NY Times may have been getting at is the need for a ‘Moment’ in these movies. The Moments are the bits you remember and the parts that make the whole great. The Lion King would have been nothing without the Moment of Mufasa’s death. the sweet with the bitter, the swelling music and the stark silences. they make up Moments. Not all are deaths although its easy to focus on that, but the Moment of holding Simba up on pride rock, was a Moment, just as strong. to me, its about unifying the visual imagery, the music and the script, making them flow as a cohesive unit.

    Thanks for your observations Dave! and I really hope Disney does improve – I hear they are shutting down the Sydney animation studio (that is where they make all the terrible sequels and spinoff shows – no great loss there). Meanwhile there is always Zim repeats and Studio Ghibli to keep us warm!

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