Before I entered the online animation fandom, I must own that I thought animation was primarily for kids. However, once I entered that domain, I quickly realized it was an extremely sensitive subject for many fans. However, even in my amateur days, I knew that animation existed for adults. It just seemed like the exception rather than the rule.
Clearly a medium for making movies can produce a variety of products. Just like black and white cinematography can make movies for any age group, so can animation. In recent years, I’ve been pleased to see adult animation like Anomalisa or Waltz with Bashir praised and given award- recognition. That’s a wonderful step in expanding the reach of animation; however, I have also noticed that this expansion can be a bit one-sided. It seems to me when I say a film is ‘made for kids’ it is seen as a great insult. It leads me to the question—what is wrong with something being made for kids?
We currently have several different kinds of animated films. You have the independent sometimes more mature films. Then there are direct-to-DVD films like the Barbie movies for younger children and the family films.
Family films are the golden ticket most studios seek—to entertain both parents and kids. There’s nothing wrong with family films. My favorite movie of last year was Inside Out, which is definitely a family film. Most Pixar movies are family films.
However, the Cars movies are made for kids—particularly Cars 2. You might think I’m making excuses for it, but I’m not. The fact is most kids can’t see spy movies. So Pixar made a movie riffing on spy movies but that kids can actually see. It wasn’t made for adults who can see lots of other spy movies. I guess I just don’t see why that is such a bad thing? Most kids I know, especially little boys, love the Cars and Planes movies, and I don’t have a problem with that.
Shere Khan is amazing in the new Jungle Book but too scary for many small children
Just like we make room in the animation space for adults, why not allow for some films to be made for kids? I sometimes wish cinema could be similar to the publishing world where you have picture books, easy readers, middle grade books, etc. Books have a lot of different products made for different aged kids. They don’t try to rope the entire family with a single book, obviously because only one person is doing the reading.
Where I think this becomes a problem is certain ages can be left under served. I loved the recent Jungle Book,but one thing that frustrated me is I could not take my nieces to see it. It is way too scary for them and they are 6 and 7. Zootopia is borderline. Some of the scenes with the savages are pretty scary. This leaves young ones with little to see. Isn’t that a strange thing? You would think Disney of all studios would release movies I could take a 6 year old to see.
One of the things I love about 2011’s Winnie the Pooh is it was made for little children, toddlers in fact. You know how rare that is? It’s a good experience for little ones to go to the theater and see movies, and yet so few are made for them.
One of the things I liked about the How to Train Your Dragon films is they are good compromises for mid-grade kids who are not quite old enough for Lord or the Rings or the Hobbit films, but they can still have an epic fantasy adventure. I think that is great.
Recently, I was discussing Ratchet and Clank online and mentioned it was more for kids, and this was treated by some as a bad thing. I think it is great to have a space adventure for kids! What’s wrong with that? Most space adventures are too mature for little kids so it’s actually kind of a novel film in a way.
It takes a lot of craft to make something that entertains and stimulates young children. And I wish the studios would occasionally throw the younger audiences a bone instead of worrying about pleasing everyone. At the very least, let’s stop, as an animation community, looking at ‘made for kids’ as dirty words or a designation of poor quality. Sometimes it is; sometimes it isn’t.
What do you think? Is enough quality entertainment made for all ages? Do you see what I am saying or am I exaggerating the problem?
Rachel is a rottentomatoes approved film critic that has loved animation since she was a little girl belting out songs from 'The Little Mermaid'. She reviews as many films as she can each year and loves interviewing actors, directors, and anyone with an interesting story to tell. Rachel is the founder of the popular Hallmarkies Podcast, and the Rachel's Reviews podcast/youtube channel, which covers all things animated including a monthly Talking Disney and Obscure Animation show.