I’ve just finished listening to a short radio discussion between my old boss and animation academic Suzanne Buchan, writer of just about every book written on the subject Paul Wells and some bloke called Philip Dodd (who was apparently ICA Director 1997-2004 and is probably therefore very important) on Radio 3’s ‘Nightwaves’ program. The subject: ‘Is animation its own worst enemy in the public eye?’
Although not traditionally a Radio 3 listener, I thought it was a very enjoyably debate, covering animation’s history, its uses and its future. Always enjoyable to hear Paul Wells and Suzanne Buchan speak on a subject they both have such passion for; highly recommended listening.
To give my own perspective on the debate: animation is not it’s own worst enemy in the public eye.
Animation, through years of use as a children’s medium thanks largely to its early adoption by studios like Disney and Warner Brothers, has an assumed innocence that works to its advantage. When people see that a film is animated, they lower their guard, expecting light hearted, warm and fuzzy entertainment, probably involving talking animals and magical rainbows. Films like Persepolis, Waltz with Bashir and even South Park are then able to make an even bigger impact by shocking the viewer out of those expectations and comfort zone.
This is why animation is used so often for both advertising and propaganda. The public doesn’t expect animation to deliver a deep or meaningful message, and is therefore more susceptible to those messages. So long as people grow up on a diet of Disney’s brand of animated innocence, they will continue to associate the medium with the same emotions. This, rather than being animation’s downfall, is its greatest strength.
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