If you’re reading this, you’re probably an Animation fan. You’re annoyed when people say animation is for kids. Why can’t everyone just see how amazing these movies are? Do you even know why they’re so amazing? Basically, it’s because animation is a collaborative effort that produces a universal film that everyone can relate to.
The process of making a live-action movie goes roughly like this: Someone writes a script, the studio gives notes, the screenwriter tries to incorporate them into the script, a director is chosen and also gives feedback on the script. So while the screenwriter gets notes from different people, it’s usually a one-man job. And sure, movies can turn out to be amazing this way. But out of the hundreds of live-action movies that come out each year, how many are worth seeing?
Now take animation. The Best Animated Feature Academy Award is voted from a shortlist of five nominees if there are 16 or more movies submitted. This has only happened 4 times in the 12 years since the Award was introduced. So usually 15 or less Animated Movies are released each year. And most of them are great! Take 2010 for example. Despicable Me, How To Train Your Dragon, Tangled, Megamind, Toy Story 3…That’s one fantastic crop of films!
The thing about animation is that it’s more collaborative than live-action. Films not only get the input from a director, an editor and so on but from entire teams of Story Artists that come up with ideas and gags. They also usually have a lot of screenwriters. The Lion King was written by two women and a man. Beauty and the Beast only had Linda Woolverton credited as screenwriter but it had more than 10 different people credited with the story. Shrek had four screenwriters. All Pixar films but two have more than one screenwriter and only The Incredibles doesn’t have a bunch of geniuses credited for the story (We can logically conclude from this that Brad Bird is an animation god and should be worshipped and celebrated). Animation is a collaborative process. Much more so than live-action. Just look at the credits! Look how many work on each film. It shows.
Some people think of animation as a genre. However, animated movies are like comedies. They have to be able to stand up without the superficial stuff. Let me explain. The Hangover was a successful comedy because if you take away the comedic elements, you still have a good story. It’s basically a detective movie where the characters have to figure out what happened that last night. Add some comedy and you’ve got yourself a great movie. Animation is just like that. A father who loses his son and will do anything to get him back, even if it means facing all of his fears? That could be a serious dramatic film but Pixar chose to take this great story and turn it into a fantastic family film.
Animated movies also have to have a clear message kids can connect to. And this means it has to be something universal. So everyone can enjoy it! In Shrek, we learn what matters is what’s inside. All Toy Story films teach us about letting go and about friendship. The Lion King teaches us about responsibility and facing your problems. These are all things we can all relate to.
So we get a movie that has to keep children entertained (which is a hard thing to do, therefore almost everyone will be entertained), a movie that has a strong theme everyone can relate to and usually we get a bunch of genres combined. Animated movies have comedy and action and romance and songs! Live-action is more genre-confined (Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, two of the most decorated movies last year are both historical thrillers). The Incredibles, on the other hand, is an action-comedy superhero/spy movie. That way, more people can enjoy it.
And since more people collaborate on the story for years, the joint creative forces of all these filmmakers are more likely to come up with a great story. We all know about Pixar’s Brain Trust. Every one of their movies gets the input of Brad Bird, Michael Arndt, John Lassetter, Andrew Stanton…How can their movies not be amazing? They all work together to make a movie everyone can relate to that will mix comedy (Mr. Tortilla Face!), action (The Daycare Escape Sequence) and emotion (The end of Toy Story 3). And that’s why animation is great.