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Why Animation Matters

A special guest column by my daughter Lexie. Today, she talks about animated films, and why they’re an important part of the cultural landscape.

I went to go see How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World about a month ago, and being the animation geek that I am, absolutely loved it. Not loo long before that, I also saw The Lego Movie 2 and got quite a kick out of it. Both of them had good, solid stories with beautiful animation, great jokes, and even some genuinely emotional moments. However, I’m still a bit embarrassed to admit that I’m big fan of the animation medium. After all, it’s a bit awkward for me as a seventeen year-old high schooler to ask my parents if I can get a ticket to the next big “kiddie movie,” or what some people still derisively call a cartoon. Nonetheless, I still feel as if these films are a very important part of the entertainment landscape, and they ought to have more recognition. 

​Why exactly should “kiddie stuff” be taken seriously? Well, for starters, childhood is a very critical time in life. Childhood experiences have a significant effect on how a person grows up—and while movies and television may not be the most important aspect of a child’s life, they are what often inspires them and lights up their imaginations. If we were to just give table scraps of entertainment to children, they would end up living less interesting lives. After all, we do want to give children our very best rather than shoving a bunch of bright colors and pop songs on screen.

​Second, animation can expose children to a lot of complex and even frightening themes in a constructive way. I can still remember how I felt when I watched The Lion King when I was little. That film introduced me to themes dealing with death and finding out where you belong. When I watched Coraline with my brother for the first time, even though we were scared out of our wits, we got to vicariously experience more extreme versions of the everyday fears kids deal with. In a way, it taught us that the world isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. A few of my friends even consider such movies to be their only “window to the real world” in an otherwise sheltered household. In a time where parents are becoming increasinglyoverprotective, I feel as if the darker aspects of animation need to make a comeback.

​Animation, at its very best, is also incredibly difficult to create. Your typical 3D animated feature film costs millions of dollars and requires a crew of hundreds, ranging from talented artists to technicians. They oftentimes take about two to three years to finish, and many employees of animation companies work long hours into the night in order to meet deadlines. It is both artistically and technologically complex, and should never be underestimated.  If you do not believe me, try checking out behind-the-scenes footage for something such as The Incredibles

​Unfortunately, the animation medium is often not taken entirely seriously. The stuff aimed at kids can be dismissed as banal (which it sometimes is), and when animation is aimed at adults, you might get embarrassing train wrecks such as the later seasons of Family Guy. The animation medium is also increasingly being seen as a way to make a quick buck off of children, so companies are cutting costs and making lower quality movies stuffed with saturated colors and catchy music in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator.  Even sadder, some of these companies don’t even bother to try very hard with their animation because it’s just for kids, so they don’t know any better.

However, in my humble opinion, the medium should be revered and treated with as much respect as any other medium. After all, wouldn’t you like your children to grow up with the same fantastic content you did?

Lexie Giller is a junior in high school.

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