It’s clear we’re all fans of animation here and getting hyped for the latest movie is what we do. Not too long ago, I put together a list of the highs and lows of being in that state of “hype”. Only recently have I pondered about how hype is not always a good thing. A couple of movies have come along recently that have made me wary of getting myself too excited for an upcoming release.
Firstly, I’d like to talk about Disney’s Zootopia. A big hit with fans and critics. A big hit with me. Honestly, I loved this movie. It was mature, thought-provoking and, more importantly, it had dimensional characters. When I watched the movie I had a great time. After I had seen the movie, I’d forgotten about it. This isn’t like me at all. Normally I would read trivia, check out fan-art, talk about it in detail to whoever would listen and read countless reviews. I did none of this. Eventually I started to nit-pick at it (thinking it had too many modern references like apps and product placement puns that I don’t like). Was I convincing myself that I didn’t like it? Why did I do this?
This will make more sense when I take you back three whole years ago. The first piece of concept art for Zootopia was released and it blew me away. Who was this fox? Are they really doing an anthropomorphic animal movie like Robin Hood? “Like” is the key word here. Robin Hood is one of my favorite Disney movies. I instantly compared it to the latter because it was the same studio. Fast forward to a couple of weeks before the movie’s release and I started to see merchandise pop up. I hastily treated myself to the art book (having previously been disappointed when The Art of How to Train Your Dragon sold out that I vowed to always pre-order “art of” books) and I even got myself a little Nick and Judy Tsum Tsum plush. What’s the harm in getting these things early, I thought? I was sure it was going to be one of my favorite movies of all time.
Yes, I did love it, but it wasn’t my favorite movie of all time. It was as close to perfect as an animated movie could get, and so to quote a classic break up line, it was a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”. I had set the movie up to a standard that it could never possibly achieve. It went further than that too. A feeling of “completion” happened after I had seen the movie. A movie I’d been waiting three years to see was suddenly over. I didn’t feel a real need to see it again so soon. My hype and anticipation of seeing this movie took away any surprising enjoyment I could have had.
So, maybe I went too far with Zootopia. Maybe it was the obsessive need to see it that was my downfall. So what happens when there’s an opposite effect? I had no expectation when it came to Kung Fu Panda 3. I wasn’t really too hyped for this movie (even though I loved the previous two) and I had even forgotten the day it was coming out (I know, amateur, right?). After I had watched it at the cinema I ended up falling in love with this movie. This is how it should be. The lack of expectation created enjoyment and entertainment that ‘snuck-up’ on me. I hadn’t put Po on a pedestal like I had with Nick Wilde.
One of the big problems with animation fandoms is that we put so much expectation on the studio. The Good Dinosaur is the perfect example of this. When reviews in the animation community circulated a lot of them had a similar opinion, “it was good but not Pixar good”. Is it fair to compare it to something like The Incredibles? It’s not a prequel or sequel. It’s not even the same director. It just comes from the same studio. Somehow watching The Good Dinosaur for the second time and knowing exactly what exception I should have allowed me to enjoy it so much more. I didn’t judge the movie by what I wanted, but purely as it was.
So what have I learned? I know I need to allow myself to enjoy the anticipation of an upcoming movie with as much hype as I like but – and here’s the tricky part – without setting any kind of expectations for it. In a world of early trailers, fandoms and franchises, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of any animated movie. For me, trying to withhold expectation involves not comparing it to other movies before I’ve seen it, not judging it by the animation studio and, for me, not being too quick to buy that “art of” book until the movie itself has inspired me to get hold of it. After all, we’re supposed to take a little bit of the movie away with us, not bring too much to the movie.
How do you feel about the dangers of too much hype? Have you ever created expectations for an animated movie?
MJ is a writing and film graduate who loves to relax with scented candles and herbal teas. She is a dog-walker by day and a pie-maker by night. She loves movies starring Christopher Reeve and her favorite animated film is Meet the Robinsons. MJ also loves anything that LAIKA and Tim Burton come out with.