Sunday, May 13, 2012

Animation in 2012

Until the 1980s it was normal that there was only one new animated feature film widely released per year in Finland, usually a Walt Disney production. During that, the first full decade of the home video era, there was still also one theatrically re-released Walt Disney classic during the other part of the year. But since the success and new confidence in Disney animations such as The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), and The Lion King (1994), other producers got in the game in a big way. Until then in the Western world Walt Disney had been the only long-running producer of theatrical animated feature films. Now the Disney company got serious rivals. Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata's Studio Ghibli was established, and other talents of Japanese anime found global success. In Britain, Aardman Animations was launched with short films at first. Beavis and Butt-head and The Simpsons expanded to theatrical feature films. Tim Burton and Henry Selick made their first feature-length animations. Fox Animation Studios with Don Bluth and Gary Goldman was established to compete with Disney in 1994, as was DreamWorks Animation. Blue Sky Studios (the Ice Age series) also belongs to Fox. Pixar became a partner of Disney in 1995, and it became also at once the most visionary leader in animation along with Studio Ghibli. Nordic producers got in the game, too with Astrid Lindgren animations etc., and for the first time in Finland, as well, there was a continuity in feature-length theatrical animation production. In 1998, Michel Ocelot released his first animated Kirikou feature based on African imagery. A wide range of animations for grown-ups emerged, including Paprika, A Scanner Darkly, Beowulf, Persepolis, and Waltz with Bashir. Wes Anderson, Luc Besson, and Steven Spielberg debuted in animation.

In 2012, 86 feature-length animations are due, not all theatrically.

Animation is still expensive, and there seems to be a frantic fight for survival in the theatrical market. I hope there is room for everybody and that animation producers don't panic and overcrowd their movies with more action, more loud sound effects, more garish colours, more pop hits of a generation ago, and more hysterical characters who never seem at ease with themselves. I can't help wondering whether they are self-portraits of the producers of today's overcrowded theatrical animation marketplace.

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