Saturday, March 27, 2010

Will Convergence Kill Traditional Animation?

In comments on the last post, Ian Perez (our first commenter ever! All hail Ian!) expressed concern that the convergence of live action and animation is bad for animation:
As an animation lover, I look at this trend with some dismay. Animation is already looked down upon by some segments; now that it's losing its one trump card, I expect that traditional 100% animated features will go down the wayside, and we'll likely never see something like "The Secret of NIMH", "The Last Unicorn" or "The Great Mouse Detective" again.
I'm not worried about this at all. Every time a new medium or genre of art emerges, fans of the old media express dismay. "CGI is going to kill 2D animation." "Home video is going to kill movies." "Radio is going to kill live orchestras." "Writing is going to kill oral performances." (No, seriously, Plato worried writing was going to destroy society. He also complained about how today's youth dress strangely and don't listen to their elders or respect tradition.) It doesn't happen.

Now, it's true animation is going through a bit of a bad spell on American television right now. Cartoon Network pretty much took over in the late nineties to early two-thousands; the major networks no longer bother with early afternoon or Saturday morning cartoon blocks. And Cartoon Network itself is showing more and more live action as part of their ongoing network decay. I'm not worried, for a few reasons:

  • Fox is showing The Simpsons, Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, and American Dad every weekend, put the first two in wide syndication, and occasionally experiments with other animated sitcoms.
  • Comedy Central is also releasing a couple of new animated series for adults this year, along with renewing South Park for several more seasons.
  • Although Cartoon Network has created a lot of new live action crap, they are also still commissioning new animated series, some of which look really good. (I am counting the days until Adventure Time! with Finn and Jake comes out).
  • Television animation was nothing but half-hour toy commercials when I was a kid. Then came the Disney Afternoon, the Warner Brothers-Spielberg co-creations, the DCAU, the birth of Cartoon Network... there have been dark times before, and it got better.
Ian's comment was mostly about film. Again, I'm not worried; animation in film is the healthiest it's been in my lifetime. Every single movie Pixar has made is a hit, and almost all of them are wonderful movies as well. Most of Dreamworks Animation's movies aren't as good, but they've mostly been hits, too. And if Princess and the Frog is anything to go by, Disney is ready for a second renaissance.

Not to mention, if all else fails, there's always Japan.

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