By Daniel Reif
It’s February, and tomorrow is Oscar night! This weekend is a time to honor. A time to reflect. A time to rent thousand-dollar suits and bejeweled gowns. A time speak to a billion people about the importance of storytelling. A time to delude yourself of the opportunity to do half of those things.
For our purpose today, a time to scale down the scape of this series, soak in the self-indulgent subjectivity of awards and rankings, and whistle in the best animation of 2016. More specifically, our movie mothership’s outputs. A Year for Animation was inspired by America’s poor yesteryear of content, and thanks to the Academy, the few charms of illustration found stage in the organization’s preeminent night.
All 5 of this year’s nominees deserve welcome attention, but here’s how the Hollywood exports stack… and why this year, our exports are more important than ever.
1. Kubo and The Two Strings
Laika Studios (Coraline, Box Trolls) notched significant rep when the nominees were announced. For the first time since 1993’s A Nightmare Before Christmas, an animated film garnered nods for Animated Feature and Best Visual Effects. Their new fable about a young boy who harnesses the spiritual power of his caring mother’s gifted genes to embark on a magical conquest full of banjo ballads and origami warriors, is drop-dead gorgeous in design. The acclaimed stop-motion from the studio has not been as sharp or bountiful, and don’t fret visionary distraction- the rooted relationship between a son and his mother fuses lifeblood into the weathering panache of effects.
2016 – Focus Features – 1hr 42m
2/3. Zootopia and Moana
Heads have turned to Walt Disney Motion Pictures Studios. Internally, news has peaked about potential workers’ strikes against their top bosses’ association with the current presidential administration. You would correctly guess this in-house anger reflects a deep history of the studio’s poor racial and sexual politics.
Externally, 2016 reflects the opposite. Last year, the two wheelhouse productions from the family-fun corporation peek-a-booed perspective into social issues and re-embraced diverse images. One movie not only gave the classic Disney princess a Pacific Island identity, but gave her the physical reign as the strengthened heroine in a community of men and women. Talking animals are familiar in Disney’s other tradition, but atypically symbolize the most pressing discussions on race relations in America.
The intelligence will harrow, but cute bunnies, a sunny score by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and poppy coloring do not undermine accessibility to the Disney craft. Fun is first, and concrete answers to each film’s themes come second. Enjoy discretely.
As for the target audience, kids found and will continue to find reason in Zootopia and Moana. I commend a healthy discussion on the wrong of our youth’s content creators, but give them this Disney experience. The two films move on wheels plated by a silver-polish shine and rousingly rusted by thematic terrain.
2016 – Walt Disney Motion Pictures Studios
Animation is a gimmick. Its purpose is its greatest flaw. We know the medium is completely open to experimental journeys and mature themes, and foreign co-noms, The Red Turtle and My Life as a Zucchinni, are fresh examples of the artistic integrity possible (the latter is especially nabbing the raves upon on its limited release this weekend). Disappointingly, our stories are often reduced to the simple task of conventionally illustrating immature mythos.
In the remaining 10 posts of A Year For Animation, we will graze how Hollywood manufactured the medium for gimmicks, but in turn, how the best of their machinations dominated a craft, as well as our real world culture. Stop-motion and Disney will not be strangers, and last year, managed to give us a great preview of such industry. Kubo and the Two Strings, Zootopia, and Moana are high watermarks, because they transcend the gimmick, and pulsate the art of their instrument.
Tomorrow, sip your champagne in comfort knowing your kiddo’s new favorite movie is a movie worth their time. Then smile, as you see them smile, when they discover the faces of the illustrators who illuminated their imaginations.
And go Kubo!
February 25, 2017
Are you hyped to see your new favorite animated film cash in tomorrow? Tell Daniel!
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