I’ve watched a lot of cartoons. Especially in the past…6, 7 weeks that I’ve been isolating. And I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about them as well.
Which I have a lot of time to do. There’s not exactly a lot else to do since I was job searching when this all started. Not exactly a lot of jobs on the market now. And I’ve noticed a few trends in animation, particularly American animation lately.
Some are good. Some are bad. Some are somewhere in the middle. I just like having a little variety sometimes.
- Meta textual commentary as a way of addressing these issues.
This is mainly a Disney thing. It was funny the first time they did it, probably in Frozen but it kind of stopped being interesting after that. After seeing the characters criticizing how Anna shouldn’t marry a man, she just met; Maui explaining why Moana is a princess and Vanellope’s concerns for the princesses in the Wreck-It Ralph sequel.
It’s also been pretty prevalent in the Disney live action films. And I’ve mentioned this before, but I want to reiterate how much I hate it. It doesn’t actually do anything to fix this issue -and only further highlights the piece of media as an exception rather than the rule.
Kids aren’t stupid. If you show them a princess being bad-ass, they’re not going to need characters in-universe, explain how revolutionary it is. She doesn’t have to give a speech or anything. She can just be awesome.
I’ve always found this kind commentary pretty self-congratulatory and masturbatory. I think it contributes to the problem more than it helps.
2. You can get over colonization
Frozen II, Trolls: World Tour, How to Train Your Dragon: The Lost World, Steven Universe… lots of animated media are exploring the idea of colonization – and how it can harm the indigenous people and how the descendants of those responsible aren’t to blame but should fix the issue.
I don’t think any of them do it quite well though. It’s a good idea – but it’s always shown that the colonizers didn’t know anything about their past. Like all shows, Avatar: The Last Airbender did it better. Zuko and the whole Fire Nation thought colonization was a good thing -that they were helping the poor Earth Nation, destroying dissidents (who they were told would harm them) and were sharing their greatness with the world. It was their destiny…their obligation.
Which is a hell of a lot closer to how it works in real life.
And often in these other shows -there’s no real consequences for the colonizing people. They learn to live in peace, somewhat. Except on rare occasions, the two groups make up, but they stay divided -the colonizers don’t lose anything and those responsible are long dead, so there are no consequences.
I do think Trolls: World Tour handles this better than Frozen II -since their land consists of mythical creatures, they didn’t have the need to create a clan of dark-skinned, magical Indigenous people in a Norwegian expy country. Especially since, Indigenous people already exist in Norway – and despite being white are not very well known. Having brown skin doesn’t mean the group is inherently more magical, Disney. And you did nothing of worth with any of the Northaldrun characters anyway.
3. Trans/Non-binary non-human characters as representation.
This… I understand to an extent. A lot of children’s networks still aren’t comfortable airing shows with LGBT characters for many reasons. Making a non-human character like the Steven Universe fusions or a character with shape-shifting powers non-binary allows them to include the representation without pissing off too many people.
But this also has the issue of saying that transess or being non-binary isn’t a human characteristic and is indicative of otherness. You can’t be an AFAB or AMAB human and non-binary. You need to be a fusion or you need to be able to change your appearance at will -which means you can change into a boy or a girl -never a combination -depending on how you feel.
4. 10 minute long episodes
If you’re working on a more comedy or slice of life show such as We Bare Bears or Craig of the Creek, then 10 minutes is a pretty decent length to tell the story you want. You don’t have to pad out scenes or forcecertain jokes -though at times, they do feel rushed, they mainly work.
But in shows with lore and actions like Steven Universe, this hurts the show a lot. There needs to be more time to set up and handle a conflict within each episode -especially when it comes to important episodes like A Single Pale Rose, or the final few episodes.
They don’t work because you’re trying to cram all this important shit into the length of time it takes to cook spaghetti. Even giving these episodes a two or three extra minutes can really help.
I know we think a lot of kids have shorter attention spans these days -but maybe if you make it interesting and mentally stimulating they’ll pay attention longer.
Apparently because most don’t marry their high school sweetheart or stay friends with the same people in real life – characters in animated movies must do the same, especially if it makes the audience cry -even though it makes no narrative sense. It’s a movie! You can’t always go with the most “realistic” option, no matter what Cinema Sins said -It needs to be narratively and thematically cohesive, so if that means a happily ever after, I’m fine with that.
And that’s the scoop!