Animated Works: Ability to Induce Strong Emotions
All of us are acquainted with animated works of most kinds such as an animated film from a prestigious studio like Pixar or Dreamworks, an animated TV show, or a modern first-person shooter game. One thing we all can agree on is that animated works are exceptionally powerful at delivering emotions and are often more likable than their live-action counterparts.
What gives them this magical appeal? In this article, various popular animated works will be analyzed, and it will be discussed how these works manage to stimulate more emotion in us than most live-action films and TV shows.
Ability of Technology
Although there are many software for animation, the animation giants are not confined to tailor-made software, which are mostly incompatible and cannot be customized for specific needs. Rather, they have a storehouse of personal software used for designing, programming, rendering, and affecting specific parts of an animated work. For example, Disney used a tool called Matterhorn to design all the snow for the film Frozen that incorporates mesh working with grid manipulation schemes. Similarly, a lot of software are created for various purposes in their films.
The following paragraph is taken from a post by Amanda on The Technology Behind the Magic blog.
Elsa undergoes an entire hairstyle transformation right on-screen, a concept that was pretty much unfathomable until recent years. The software used to make this possible is called Tonic, and it was developed for use in this film. Tonic allows artists to sculpt and animate a character’s hair in volumes, then during rendering it can be broken down into individual strands. If that doesn’t sound complicated enough, Elsa’s hair has a total of 400,000 individual CG strands while Rapunzel’s hair has a grand total of 140,000.
Just a couple decades ago, imparting motion to a girl’s long hair or designing a dancing scene with beautiful steps couldn’t be imagined. Things were limited to hand-drawn artistic skills and coarse computer-based movement and transition frameworks.
Today, splendid and truly magical feats can be achieved with animation. This ability of technology sets the stage for the animated works to induce strong emotions.
As much as animators have to do individually in making the art, polygons, meshes, grids, tubes, and motion snippets, a large quantity of motion data is manipulated and handled by software placed on highly capable computers.
Today, animation companies have designed software equipped with fast algorithms that can apply a filter of luster or brilliance on a surface like a dress tightly worn by a character. Even in image editing, such filters are not difficult to find. Photoshop, a bitmap editor, and Inkscape, a vector editor, both have a set of predefined filters that do various things without the need to manually do it.
For example, a filter would be the Ink Bleed of Inkscape. It can be broken down into simple SVG commands of manipulating an object. When we do it with a filter (when it’s pre-coded to do something) and not manually, it seems magical and takes less time.
Same happens in animation, though the filters used are private to the companies and pretty complicated.
So, such a filter would automatically take care of the curves, bulges, and bumps of the texture and calculate the amount of shine to place at each atomic point (usually defined by polygon structures). Of course, it still took time and minds of innumerable people to create such a filter.
Such technological advancements lead up to the beauty of animation. Live-action cannot achieve many effects that an animated work can, which is discussed in the second next section exclusively. Therefore, the magic of animated works stems from such capabilities that have been mastered through software and computers over time. If the technology was worse, we would be getting lesser emotional attachments, if it was better than today, we would be getting better experience of all emotions like sorrow, joy, and fun.
Lack of Live Actors
The lack of live actors in animated works steals some amount of fanfare from the work. Sometimes, producers try to compensate by bringing popular voices, if not faces, through voice acting for characters, but nevertheless, the lack of a known face performing on-screen dents the commerce of the work.
Some works that have a popular personality, like a Disney princess or a Marvel superhero, don’t face this syndrome.
However, it’s disputed whether bringing in star actors for voice acting is a good practice. It robs the talented and versatile voice actors who lose considerably when top voice spots are filled in by stars. It can also distract audience because the image of a character is established uniquely with a suitable voice, not from the voice of somebody you know is completely different. Arguing this is out of the scope of this article, so a good discussion for further details, which is also the idea behind this paragraph here, is Do Animated Movies Really Need Big Name Voice Actors? on Film Junk.
Besides actors, in animated works, there’s a lack of many real-world objects to which everybody has grown so familiar. But finally, the overall feel has a lot of emotion and truism, which makes up for the lack of reality.
It’s not clear whether the lack of popular faces is inversely proportional to the commercial success of the work. Sometimes, star-studded films can make less money than a heavy-budget animated film with no mention of a Hollywood star. Although it’s not the point of this post to discuss the pros and cons of voice acting in animated works, the negative impact could be seen in Jay Baruchel’s voice acting for the How to Train Your Dragon protagonist Hiccup. The steady depreciation of voice artists in animation is covered strongly in an article on About Entertainment that states, among other nice things,
Jay Baruchel’s performance as How to Train Your Dragon‘s protagonist, Hiccup, strikes all the wrong notes virtually from start to finish, as the actor finds himself unable to shed his rather distinctive persona – which effectively ensures that he’s never quite able to wholeheartedly become his character to any degree of success (which basically means that we’re always aware that we’re listening to Baruchel).
Malleability of Animation Over Live-Action
Any animation starts from a lump of virtual clay. From there, it can be made into anything. This inherent quality of computer animation makes way for exaggeration in animated works. As a result, an astounding number of reactions, behaviors, and atmospheres are completely specific to animated works, providing them an edge over live-action works.
The extreme flexibility it grants cannot be questioned, as becomes clear time and again in animated fight scenes, specifically with superpowers, and funny moments that common physics doesn’t allow for. A splendid example would be the lovable supervillain, Megamind, from the film Megamind.
A lot could be brought in this section. For example, unreal creatures, unreal worlds, alien atmospheres, and distorted surfaces. Animation gets the door to endless imagination flung open. This is the malleability it grants over live-action.
You’ll be hard-pressed to believe that the film Guardians of the Galaxy was mostly animation. Let’s take a small section of the film from near the conclusion. When the starships of Nova Corps of Xandar formed a sticky shield around Ronan’s Dark Aster spaceship, it was animation. Groot himself and his veiling everybody inside the ship was animation. And when the Dark Aster landed crashing into the water, it was again animation.
Obviously, scenes in modern films that depict swarming armies (Lord of the Rings stereotype), large monuments (Harry Potter‘s Hogwarts), alien titans (War of the Worlds will be a good example) or giant destruction scenes of cities with water surfaces (2012 is the perfect example) are animation.
Risking property and life to get a uncommon scene isn’t considered commercial, is unpredictable, and often isn’t easy or even possible to materialize. Animation comes to the rescue. This proves the flexibility animation provides.
Animated works have motion and brilliance that together achieve the magic and make the entire work fully adaptive to the demands of the story thanks to this malleability and ease of exaggeration.
This power to adapt to the story is the most important part of an animated work that decides the level of emotional attachment it’ll provide, and it is the reason an animated film makes you laugh, cry, applaud, or boo a character.
The Line of Separation
Although not very important, this idea is central to this discussion. Even with a good story, flawless characters, and music, an animated work cannot be very catchy and powerful enough to make the viewers remember it. In other words, the emotional attachment it provides isn’t a direct product of animation. It could be said that animation itself isn’t magic, given all the malleability it has.
In India, there’s a show about a duo who do all sorts of crazy stuff. The concept is very old. My father remembers reading their comics in childhood, so undoubtedly, the story would be good and enjoyable to still be remembered. Its TV version is fully computer animated.
However, now that I’ve seen countless animation films from various industries, played dreamy games, and witnessed the true potential of 21st century animation, the show is pathetically plain for me. Others might enjoy, but I can spot so many flaws that it feels so boring to even try watching.
So apparently, what brings in the magic of emotions? Or in other words, what is the line of separation between the good, emotionally strong animation work and the wannabe offspring of animation industry?
A simple rule of thumb is that the more experienced animators are deployed, the more emotionally strong it’ll be.
Films from Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, Lucasfilm, etc. aren’t a single team’s project. All centers, home and abroad, work together and contribute essential parts. They constantly revise and update and are masters of modern software and skills of animation.
Given such a background, it can be safely assumed that any animation work from their house will be a blockbuster and record-breaking success. It will be stronger, both in emotions and the fun quotient, relative to live-action. That’s pretty much the reason behind popular animation studios taking so long to make their films, and those films always ending up being loved in plenty.
The strong bonding and realism of story are achieved by great hard work.
Interactive animated works, like games, show the power of animation to a higher degree. You can design a world of your own in Age of Empires or see the seamless coalesce of information with animation when you gun down opponents in Call of Duty.
Notwithstanding that, animated films are special in their own right, even if quickly exhaustible (most are around 200 minutes) or rigidly non-customizable. They have the meat of our discussion: the emotions.
The beautiful merger of animation malleability and technological capabilities makes an animated work more fantastic and adventurous than a live-action counterpart.
All the aspects of a story can be, seemingly infinitely, exaggerated in animation. Until the limit is maintained between sane, natural action and insane action, such exaggeration of actions is still enjoyable. Let’s take a small example.
The rough and wild, frenzy human-chase scene of The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn cannot be imagined in live-action. Quite impossible, but still lovable. We don’t care about physics here, as no absurd happenings are proposed, it’s merely an exaggeration.
For chase, the best you can expect is Fast & Furious 6 car-chase against the jumbo jet. Now, although not very compatible, but a nice alternative to an animated counterpart to Fast & Furious 6 will be the car-chase scenes of, well, Cars.
In Cars 2, the entire piece from McQueen getting out of the Big Ben clock tower to the conclusion is an awe-inspiring scene. Although Cars 2 was more of a lighthearted fun film, unlike the utter seriousness of the late Paul Walker-starrer, so we cannot truly compare. But it showcases the exaggeration quite well. All of McQueen’s bodily flexibilities and turning distortions aside, no car in the world could run through other cars like that!
So, wrapping everything up, it could be said that animated works are mostly elegant and beautiful. Many integral parts of films, like physics-defying action or unreal creatures and structures, are provided by animation, and after the clean line of separation, all animation works are incorporated with the power to induce strong emotions into the audience. Thrill, adventure, sorrow, happiness, everything is enhanced because the work can be exaggerated by animation. And the jewel of animation is its ability to create funny situations, which are the main factor behind the popularity and acknowledgement of animated works.
What do you think? Leave a comment.