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Perception of Animation in the U.S

Despite its innovations and endless creativity, animation has and continues to be dismissed by general audiences as only suitable for children in the U.S. While there are many historical and industry reasons for this, animation has proven itself to be a legitimate medium just as any other, whether in the U.S, France, Japan, and through other platforms such as Newgrounds and YouTube.

Companies such as Netflix and Sony Pictures have shown to be investing heavily in animation and trying to globalize productions and creative voices in the medium, with Spider-Verse being the most recent example. Even Japan has recently been recruiting more foreigner animators, and South Korea and China are starting to prop up their own animation industries.

On the other side, you have Disney live-action remakes/retellings which may be perpetuating the notion that animation is inferior to live action. General audiences, especially adults, can often be insecure about watching cartoons, and seeing them as live action seems to deliver the idea that realism makes these stories more mature.

How do you think animation will be perceived in the future in the U.S? Do you believe the perception will even change at all? If so or not, how?

  • It's an interesting topic, but I'm not sure I agree that cartoons aren't seen as legitimate forms of adult entertainment. For instance, it seems like many people nowadays recognize that anime can be for all ages, not just for children. And it seems like you also see more and more Western cartoons out there that contain jokes and plotlines intended as much for adults as for kids (Adventure Time and Regular Show come to mind here). Can you come up with specific examples of people looking down on cartoons because they think they're for kids, or is it just your conjecture that people do this? – Debs 1 year ago
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  • As stated by Debs ^, I would also argue that many American cartoons cater to (and are sometimes even written directly for) adult audiences. I would look specifically at cartoons such as Warner Bros Bugs Bunny cartoons, as well as modern shows like Spongebob Squarepants or The Simpsons. In some cases, these series' go beyond mere adult themes or jokes; they are written with direct adult messages. There is, I think, growing demand for animated entertainment among adult audiences. Perhaps the question to explore should be - what audiences or demographics tend to embrace animation the most in the United States? What can we point to as possible reasons for any discrepancies found? – jkillpack 1 year ago
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  • I suppose I should've been more specific and stated 2D animation instead. Animation as a whole has been embraced, but in the general zeitgeist, most of that admiration is directed at feature animation from Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, and Illumination. Animation done outside these studios doesn't receive as much attention and can be actively dismissed due to not being tied to the Big Four.For example, while Into the Spider Verse made its budget back, it didn't do as well as it could've. While a lot of this can be attributed to competition from Aquaman (2018), there are many anecdotes that have described general audiences being put off by Spider-Verse's animation, which doesn't adhere to the standard, smooth animation people are used to from Disney and Pixar. These also add that people dismissed Spider Verse because they didn't want to watch a cartoon.Many people lament the absence of 2D animation in cinema, but general audiences seem to believe it as being reserved only for TV/streaming. I completely agree that U/S animation has catered to other demographics, but many of these shows also seem to be overt in their adult targeting through vulgarity, nudity, violence, etc. just to prove it. I also believe you'll be hard-pressed to find the average adult on the street who would openly admit to enjoying animation, particularly if it's 2D and not from Disney or Pixar. – ImperatorSage 1 year ago
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Animation as a Medium for Mature Themes

It’s 2019 and animated series and movies are finally tackling some more serious themes and ideas in their stories, but on the whole are still marketed towards children and younger age demographics. While I can appreciate exposing children to these kinds of stories, why are most adults still scoffing at the idea of watching anything that isn’t made with "real actors" when animation can sometimes achieve what the largest of special effects budgets can’t? It should focus on western media mostly, as I am already aware that anime has been doing this for ages already.

  • You bring up a great question, MissAila! I'm in my mid-40s, and I accept animation as a medium, but I know a few people in my parents' generation who will not watch animated movies. Those are solely for kids. And if they aren't for kids, then they are not only anomalies but abominations. I remember trying to watch the 1981 movie Heavy Metal when I was a kid, and my Dad was flabbergasted by it. He thought it was disgusting. I can only imagine his reaction to Netflix's Love, Death, and Robots, which is even more adult. So I don't really have an answer to your question, but I wonder if there is a generational difference and whether growing up with Saturday morning cartoons and Disney animated films makes a difference, too. – ChadW 1 year ago
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  • You bring up a very good point in the lack of animation as a medium for films/tv shows with a more mature setting. Perhaps people see it as a childish alternative to having actors portray something on screen (in terms of Western media), due to the fact that cartoons are mainly used to produce material with a target audience of children. It's hard to grasp that a medium with so much economic power in the East (namely, Japanese Anime) has little power to grasp audiences' attentions in the West. – davparth 1 year ago
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  • This is such a cool topic idea! I definitely think it's worth touching on "adult animation" that has been geared toward an older audience--think about the shows that have aired on Adult Swim, like Robot Chicken, the Boondocks, Rick and Morty, etc.--and also how streaming services like Netflix have tried to capture that niche as well with Bojack Horseman and Tuca and Bertie. Typically these shows use adult humor rather than darker subjects, but it would be interesting to see what you think might separate it from animation geared towards kids. – Eden 1 year ago
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  • I believe origin of animation as a medium played a huge role in it. Animation when it was initially made was a tiring process within itself it was almost impossible to include mature themes in animation in those days (given it was made in 1900's) and the imagery that was projected was cute, childish without much theme. This set the benchmark for most of the animation slowly people's ideology towards anime changed and people started felling animation was for kids(mainly because movies started tackling mature issues and animation remained as it was).In more recent times companies like Disney and Pixar had a lot of influence on animation they created family friendly animations(kids films) and channels like cartoon network, pogo, and other big names aired cartoon shows (kids films again) slowly creating the stigma that animation is a medium meant for kidsThough, really I loved your topic and the questions it raised I must point out that this is not entirely true yes, main stream animation is not very famous for portraying adult themes and yes adults think animation is for kids , due to rise of web streaming another kind of animation is slowly becoming more famous(The Rise Of Anime),a medium which was doing it since its humble beginnings.If you can dig deep there are many really old anime that are adult themed (hell lot too many).Upon closer inspection there are a very rare few European and american animations that dealt with serious political,Social themes and served as critiquesBut saying that it is also true that tough they were always there, they never got the mainstream attention that they are getting now . I must give you a thumbs up for thatAnyways great topic buddy – PSSRV 1 year ago
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  • Animated films tackling darker or mature themes isn't really new in my opinion, I think the difference is that they're more prevalent and more people are aware of them. Japanese animation is obviously far ahead than U.S animation in terms of tackling more mature subject matter, but U.S animation has had it too with Samurai Jack, Avatar TLA, Spectacular Spider-Man, The Boondocks, many of the Disney/Pixar films and a few Dreamworks films, etc.I personally find it very frustrating how much animation is looked down as by general audiences, especially by older generations, though they have somewhat more of an excuse. With that said, I think it's also close-minded to generalize an entire medium just because all what one was exposed to from that medium were low-quality Saturday morning cartoons.There's also the fact that there were and are people who expect all media to cater to kids and thus try to censor or restrict anything that doesn't fit their preconceived idea of "child-friendly programs", and animation (and comic books) received the bulk of this, in my opinion.– ImperatorSage 1 year ago
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Online Animation Communities

The Internet is rife with communities encompassing various topics and mediums, ranging from niche comic-book properties to history buffs. Animation has spawned different communities within the realms of anime, western animation, online independent animation, etc. The most known, or vocal at least, seem to be on Newgrounds and YouTube, in which the latter consists of YouTubers reviewing cartoons. What are the aspects of these communities who dedicate themselves to discussing cartoons? What types of people are involved, and how do they view and treat the subject matter they name themselves after?

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    Young superheroes in DC's new streaming service

    The new original content that is available on DC’s streaming service are Titans and S3 of Young Justice. Both are matured interpretations of DC’s "younger" teams and both have Dick Grayson as the primary character. What is the appeal of making shows about younger heroes. How do they differ from prior interpretations (Teen Titans, Teen Titans Go!, S1&2 Young Justice, etc.)

    • I think this topic definitely has to delve into the history of superhero comics, particularly with teenaged sidekicks. As far as I understand, for so long, superhero sidekicks were often young teens who weren't developed much beyond aiding the main heroes. Heroes such as the Teen Titans and Young Justice allowed comic-book readers, who were mostly young children and teens, to see themselves represented and allow them to relate more to them.The sidekicks weren't just sidekicks anymore, they were their own heroes, but like youth, were still learning about the world and themselves. Many still faced regular teenage challenges while navigating dangerous lives.From a more cynical and business perspective? Money.Having younger heroes allows networks to target younger demographics, and thus catch more views and sell more toys for kids. This is especially present with action cartoons, many of which have of course been in the superhero genre. TTG, as hated as it is by many, is CN's most profitable ongoing IP due to this, though its views do seem to be waning as of late. (Though this may be a part of the general decline in cable TV ratings) – ImperatorSage 2 years ago
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    Animation and Political Satire

    "Pinky and the Brain" and "Rocky and Bullwinkle" were two series that often contained subtle and, at times, not so subtle jabs at politics. An example is an episode of "Pinky and the Brain" where the Brain found a Rush Limbaugh record where Limbaugh sings and the Brain is going to use it to "try to takeover the world." There may be other series that can be added to this essay, these are included here as examples. The broader theme is that political satire can be found weaving itself through several animation series. An essay can address the writers and what they said. In addition, did viewers pick up on the satire? Did the satire reach beyond the viewers? So, several issues, perhaps others, can be addressed in a well-developed essay.

    • I would try to be as specific as possible for this topic. Because the various political issues are many but certain shows somehow managed to greatly capture those issues. – BMartin43 2 years ago
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    • I would also add that you should analyze how political satire in animation differs from political satire in live-action genres – Michael Scalera 2 years ago
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    • Good points raised regarding whoever may pick this topic to write about. I was undertake impression that topics proposed are to be written by others (not the writers proposing them). So I hope someone picks this topic, I'd enjoy reading the essay. – Joseph Cernik 2 years ago
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    Published

    Mulan - What sets the 1998 classic apart from its fellows?

    Analyse and discuss what makes Mulan different from (and arguably better/richer than) other Disney movies. Factors to discuss include the incredible historical story (based off a real Chinese legend), the fantastic music and most importantly, the heroine. Mulan is brave, smart and selfless. This is a girl who risks her life to save her father, serves her country and even saves her male love interest (rather than the other way around). She fights well physically but combines this stereotypically male approach with creative smarts and subtle tactics which represent a more feminine approach. Her character is not reduced to a basic caricature such as tomboy, sassy cynic, ladylike woman, or silly gushing girl. Mulan is a fantastic, multifaceted personality and the movie celebrates this by showing that Mulan succeeds ultimately because she embraces her whole self and brings a unique perspective and approach situations. It is arguable that no other Disney movie has quite lived up to quality of Mulan, whether by story, music or heroine standards.

    • Love the topic! It might also be beneficial to compare/contrast Mulan to other Disney women. For example, Ariel saves Eric's life--but she's also whiny, headstrong, and spoiled, unlike Mulan. Belle selflessly sacrifices her freedom for her dad, but doesn't stand up to the Beast or fight physically, the way Mulan does in serving/saving her country. Esmeralda also saves her male love interest but is arguably "reduced to...a sassy cynic" in a lot of her scenes. Additionally, discuss the facets of Mulan's personality--compare when she's more traditionally feminine vs. when she's trying to pass herself off as a man, and how/if her personality changes. – Stephanie M. 3 years ago
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    • Interesting, but for the person who picks this up, just remember that there are A LOT of articles on this site about Disney women. I suggest you read all of them and figure out how this one stands out from the rest. – Christen Mandracchia 3 years ago
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    • The fact that it's a war movie makes her character stand out most. She's socially awkward and clumsy, but she still joins the army to save her father. That takes sacrifice and courage on its own, but she later grows more confidant and takes more risks. She even taking leadership in the final battle. Like you said, her character isn't based on some trope, she's just doing what needs to be done. Her humility is another admirable trait, as seen when she turns down a position in the palace to return home. What makes her realistic is how she reflects real-life soldiers. They know the sacrifice they're making, but they would give anything to see their families again. We didn't have a character arc like Mulan's until Moana came out eighteen years later. – MaryJane 3 years ago
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    The Failed Steampunk Era of Disney

    Treasure Planet and Atlantis are both two early 2000s Disney movies that both had a steampunk/sci-fi vibe going for them. However, besides their few loyal followers, they are largely unpopular compared with the more mainstream movies such as The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, and Frozen. Why did Disney’s era of "steampunk" animations seem to fail with their audience?

    • I'd highly recommend the video essay "Disney's Biggest Mistake" as it goes in-depth as to why Disney's own marketing, mismanagement, and meddling went to to destroy Treasure Planet's own chances at success. It's such a shame too, as I think both these movies are pretty good. Treasure Planet is genuinely so well-written and well-animated that it's really saddening to see it fail commercially. – Dimitri 2 years ago
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    • They did suffer from poor marketing and behind the scenes politics, true, but I think, while enjoyable, they also suffer from significant issues in content. I'd also look at Atlantis's "scandalous" PG rating, and how it effected box-office performance (similar to The Black Cauldron in the 80's). In general, the early 2000's was a rough time for Disney--maybe look at how the politics led to their problems, and whether the steampunk genre was something worth pursuing for Disney, and executives blamed the genre for their failure rather than the execution. – Allie Dawson 2 years ago
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    Published

    Sensitive topics made appropriate for kids by Disney

    Lately, Disney and Pixar films have been touching on some deep themes and subject matter that normal children’s films wouldn’t dare approach. Disability as a strength in "Finding Dory," loss and overcoming grief in "Big Hero 6," and self acceptance in "Frozen" to name a few. Why is it beneficial to present such weighty topics to children? How can this positively impact the younger generation?

    • I think by normalizing these tough subjects through the use of fun/beloved characters children can come to their own understanding of mental illness/disability/trauma. Like instead of being a movie about a character who hates herself and who she is doesn't matter, Disney created a character out of Elsa that people (kids and adults alike) can connect to. This humanizes these real-world issues in a way that kids can at least kind of understand, even if the movies don't go too intense on these serious issues. Like, by knowing Dory and how her memory loss impacts her, kids can get to to know the character and love her - with the disability included as just a part of who she is. It doesn't detract from who she is, it's just a part of her and who she is. – Dimitri 2 years ago
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    • I agree with what Dimitri has written. The truth is that children these days are becoming more and more accustomed to social media- which means the risk of them seeing these adult topics in an adult fashion is only increasing. Showing it to them in a kid-friendly way- with heroes that they can be inspired by and look up to- is a great way of broaching the topic and perhaps even starting a discussion about it. It also helps that more and more female heroes are being introduced into these movies- now both boys and girls have someone they can look up to! – Thenoshman 2 years ago
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    • Love this topic! Children are a lot smarter than we give them credit for, and I think Disney has made some great choices in the topics they choose to present, as well as the way they are presented. I just might grab this one... :) – Stephanie M. 2 years ago
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    • This is a great topic, Disney have done some really great things in helping children understand topics that are quite difficult to express to them. As an adult, I find some of the films heartbreaking but an important lesson for all the children watching while their minds are still developing. – jesschaudhry 2 years ago
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    • Really interesting topic and worth exploring. To add a new slant/get the most out of this discussion, I would suggest contrasting the newer 'deep' themes with Disney's original intentions. When he established the company, Walt Disney stated that his films appealed to "that fine, clean, unspoiled spot down deep in every one of us." This aim is evident in a lot of his early, sanitised adaptions of fairy tales, where traditional ideas of female maturity are eschewed in favour of idealising childlike innocence. There's also been a tendency for Disney films to omit darker themes, such as the original endings of Snow White and The Little Mermaid, even though these stories have been told to children to centuries. This newer tendency to depict more emotionally hard-hitting themes is a far cry from Disney's appeal to the "unspoiled spot", but it shows how far the company has come in its time. Now, Disney is willing to adapt to a new age that recognises and explores the difficulties that children are likely to encounter in their lives, instead of just covering them up. – EllyB 2 years ago
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    • In my opinion hitting these tooics in a big company like Disney isn’t that bad. You have to think about the kids today and of course they grow up to fast. We live in a progressive era where technology exists and social media controls society. Of course the old disney had shows where they talked about topics like this. Our life wont always be a fairytale and I think thats is what Disney is trying to capture in their new movies and shows. They want to have a theme. A real theme and formulate it into a kid friendly way even though the adults will notice it. – 2klonewolf 2 years ago
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    • I've actually written a full essay about the connection between Elsa's struggles and my own with anxiety that I hope to publish here. I like that Disney isn't afraid to explore these topics in a relatable way, so that even if kids don't know how to verbalize what they're thinking and feeling, they still come to understand that they're not alone. That's the most important realization I've made yet! – EnsignBush 2 years ago
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