The Problems with Modern Animation

The Problems with Modern Animation

Oliver Barnfield, Cool Guy/Entertainment Editor

Animation is a powerful art form. It can quite literally do anything. Whales with laser mouths can fly through the sky with locust wings.

 

  • A bull can be made of nothing but ice.

  • A robot samurai can be a flutist and a killer machine.

  • A swamp can manifest itself into a physical form and kill people.

  • This…can, um… happen.

  • And, most illustrious of all, a family can talk to each other!

Yeah, kinda makes Bob’s Burgers look a little less impressive. See, this is one of my problems with modern animation. Why is it animated, if it could easily be accomplished with live action? 

This, along with some other problems, is what I’m going to be talking about today. Here is what annoys me about modern animation.

1. Why is it animated? 

The clear motive of animation is to showcase visuals and sequences that could not be accomplished with real actors and sets. That’s why kids enjoy animation so much, it isn’t just people talking all the time, it’s action, adventure, beautiful imagery, and when the people talk, it’s usually in front of a striking background or interesting location. And this still happens, of course. Current shows like Steven Universe, Adventure Time, Rick and Morty, The Amazing World of Gumball, Star vs. The Forces of Evil, and most anime use animation to their advantage. But there is something these shows have in common. All of them are kids shows (except for Rick and Morty), and the reason for that baffles me. Bob’s Burgers is a decent show, but does it need to be animated? Sure, it gives it a slight advantage over the stream of live-action comedies, but that’s the only reason it is drawn.

The reason shows like The Simpsons and Rick and Morty were so successful is due to the fact that they used the animation to their advantage. Homer couldn’t fall of a cliff painfully, “‘oh!”ing all the way, in live action. It would look fake. The Simpsons wouldn’t be anywhere near as clever if it was filmed. It would lose its genius visual gags and its iconic yellow skin color.  And Rick and Morty would lose its sci-fi action and chase sequences, as well as it’s creative monster designs. Other shows should take this as a lesson, and use the art of animation to their advantage.

2. It’s OK to use 2-d animation on the big screen

The last major 2-d animated film was The Princess and The Frog, and all other animated movies after that have been CGI. And that’s not a problem. All of Pixar’s films look amazing, and Zootopia, Frozen, and Moana are all beautiful to look at. So what happened to hand-drawn animation? It’s mostly a lost art, and the only mainstream movies to use it have been based off TV shows, like the My Little Pony movie. 2-d animation is amazing to look at, and it also gives a more personal feel. While I understand that CGI is a little easier to produce, you just can’t beat that old-fashioned, gritty charm of hand-drawn. And consider this: Most, if not all, of animated TV shows use 2-D, and a CGI animated TV series is very rare. So why can’t movies do this? This is mostly a minor gripe, however, and not a major one like above.

3. A character shouldn’t be funny if it sacrifices story and growth

Imagine Gravity Falls. We have a character like Grunkle Stan, an interesting and flawed character that goes from loud-mouthed huckster to a kind and caring father figure to the Pines twins. There’s something rare about that, I think. So many of the kids cartoons today have characters that never change, sacrificing true growth for the sake of returning to the status quo. Characters like Robin in Teen Titans Go never change in the slightest, and probably never will. Sometimes this can be fine, in shows that aren’t very long, but if your show has gone on for a while and the main characters are the same as when you started, it’s going to be boring.

4. Too many comedies

Who doesn’t love to laugh? Not many people. I know I love funny shows. But today’s cartoon landscape is flooded with comedies. Why? I don’t know for sure, but I have some theories. First, it’s cheap to produce. Especially the kind of comedies where people talk to each other in a static environment. But other animation genres like action are dying off, mostly because it’s difficult to animate action sequences. The new Powerpuff Girls reboot takes all the action away from the original, replacing it with XD RANDOM LOL humor and memes, as does the reboot of Ben 10. Action can be beautiful and spellbinding when animated, as seen in Samurai Jack and in various anime shows, but it’s slowly on it’s way out.

In conclusion, I feel as though modern animation and cartoons is at a midpoint of quality. The new Disney movies are getting better and better, and Adult Swim is putting out quality cartoons, but Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon continue to air nothing but Teen Titans Go! and Spongebob. Write your congressman!