6.09.2006

Animation snob

My sister has on more than one occasion called me an animation snob. This outburst is usually directed at me after I mention that I won't be buying any Disney direct-to-DVD films, or "cheapquels," for my kids at all.

"Oh, you're such an animation snob!"

The description is also usually meant in jest, but I know that there's truth to her joking. I know because I am an animation snob. There, I admit it. I'm an animation snob. I can't help it. I've studied the art-form for far too long to plunk down 20 bucks on a product that is considered sub-par in my opinion. The way I see it, all those direct-to-DVD "films" released out into the unknowing public are produced with one thing in mind: the all-mighty DOLLAR. There is absolutely no entertainment value in them at all. Sure, this is nothing new. It's been debated about and argued over for several years now, but mostly within the animation community. Rare is the argument overheard in the family/children's DVD aisle when it comes to anything Disney produced. The majority of the general public out there simply do not care about whether or not this animated film is better quality than that one. If the name "Disney" is on it, then what's the use of arguing? It's bound to be good, right?

Now, my sister is no spring chicken. She knows her share of animation—all thanks to me, of course. But she's been a parent longer than me and knows that her kids like to be entertained. She knows what her kids like and she'll do anything to make sure they're happy. And now, since I've been a parent for almost 6 years now, I'm beginning to see what my kids' interests are, and yes, I'd do anything to make them happy as well.

But Disney direct-to-DVD movies (and any of those impostor films made quickly to cash in on the current trend) will not be a part of their happiness. Sorry, but I can't do it. To me, it's more about the notion of retaining the Disney name as something that of QUALITY. Remember when "Disney" was synonymous with "quality?" Remember when a Disney film ignited excitement and wonder whenever one was released in the theaters? I still get giddy just thinking about when I saw THE JUNGLE BOOK in the theater back in the 70's. It made a big impact on me as a young boy. The same goes for FANTASIA.

Yes, yes, yes, I understand that everything is vastly different now—the marketing, the venues, the box office, the production, the audiences, the films themselves—everything is different and probably will never be the same again. I understand that. But still, creating sequels to classic films like BAMBI? CINDERELLA? THE JUNGLE BOOK? C'mon, people. I saw CINDERELLA 2 and I wasn't impressed. When we see Cinderella and her new groom fade off into the distance in the original film, we assume that all is okay with the world. They will, indeed, live happily ever after. I didn't want to know anything else about Jacque the mouse, that he wished that he was a human. Or whether or not one of the evil step-sisters will find true love—they were evil and THAT'S THAT! End of story.

Geez, I'm such a snob. I know. But I want my kids to try and experience the Disney canon of films similar to how I experienced them: with wonder and amazement. And to do that, I try my best to make each viewing of SLEEPING BEAUTY or THE JUNGLE BOOK a special event. I sit down with them (well, I try with Ezra, but that little bugger just doesn't like to stay still) and watch the movie and oooo and aahhhh at all the right moments, and look at them to get their reaction as well. I try, mind you. I try. Sometimes it doesn't always go as planned, but if that's the case, I'll put on something else. But I really do try and watch all the old films with them personally, to make it an event that the whole family can be a part of.

Sequels and direct-to-DVD atrocities will never capture the same spirit as the originals, no matter how much money you put into them. Some might make nice with me, but overall, I will not succumb to the watering down of the Disney name. With new people in charge at Disney now, there's hope. I hear that they will stop the cheapquels once and for all. And to that, I say, good riddance.

18 comments:

  1. I seriously doubt the 'cheapquels' will stop with new management. Until they do, ain't a damn thing wrong with animation snobbery. You're far from alone in this.

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  2. The strange thing I hear all the time is that supposedly children wouldn't know or see the difference. Maybe children don't expect as much anymore from Disney but still... when I was young (and since I'm 19 that's not so long ago), me and my brothers used to watch cartoons and animated films every saturday and sunday morning. Our parents would sleep until 10 or even 11, but we'd be up at 7 or 8. So we'd eather watch the TV cartoons, or pop in one of our favorite Disney videos. Or both. And of course, every Christmas, our grandparents bought us new Disney videos. Since I had *loved* Aladdin, of course one Christmas they bought me The Return of Jafar. And we weren't as enthralled by that one at all. Heck, we even noticed and complained about Aladdin and Jasmine looking off-model! (obviously not using that particular term, haha)
    Where Aladdin and all the other classics we owned were "regulars", I bet I haven't seen TROJ more than a couple of times. Needless to say, my grandparents didn't buy us a direct-to-video film ever again.

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  3. I like the term "cheapquel". It sums it up rather nicely I think. I, too, shudder at these cheap direct-to-DVD sequels. They sully the good name of crap. There's enough good stuff out there to expose the kids to.

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  4. You know, it's funny...I think I had this exact conversation with a friend of mine a few days ago, and I KNOW it's something alot of my friends with kids think about (the animation ones anyway). I don't know if it's true that kids are getting less and less concious of what a "good story" is these days, but it sure seems like it. Maybe if more parents did collec the good stuff of of their youth kids today would appareciate more instead of just going to whatever "summer block buster" comes out...I won't go into names but it has an X in it.
    It's probably alot of work and something that take alot of work, but I say keep at it and just remember that most likely no kids going to ever get "good animation" at six...I mean, what was it that hooked you about those shows? I'm sure it wasn't that...For me, the songs. Awesome.
    Anyway, that was real wordy. Good lucky with the kids Jenkins.
    Keep it awesome.

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  5. I remember going to see Snow White. It was such a big deal - a special occasion. My mom remembered being taken to see it as a kid and what a special occasion it was for her. She in turn made it special for my brothers and I, taking us out to the theatre for a matinee and then out to lunch. It was a big deal. I also remember the jungle book being special as well. We saw it at the drive-in while wearing new pajamas that we got for the occasion...
    I too hate the sequels! I just think it cheapens the original significance of it all.

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  6. 'Cheapquels', that's a new term for these... but the shoe fits, I must say. I've had conversations similiar to this numerous times. My sister has stopped asking what I think of some animated films that come out. I guess I just have such fond memories of when Disney was good. The first film I saw in theatres was 'The Little Mermaid'. I remember being so excited everytime I saw a preview for a new disney movie. It's sad that I don't feel that about Disney movies anymore, and I don't think it's just 'cause I'm an animation snob (which I completely confess to being). There is just something that is missing from the recent disney films. I too, hope that the new management will be able to bring that back.

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  7. Kids can tell crap from good. I've seen it. Younger ones (5 + under) not so much.

    As someone who has actually worked on a cheapquel, (in my defense, it was my first job) I can say your snobbery is pretty well-founded. No reason to be divided about it.

    Let's face it, it's a tough act to follow those crews. Absolutely anyone would embarrass themselves trying to top those movies with the same material.

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  8. curious as to what an animation snob thinks about graff

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  9. I think repetition of a good thing is better than a whole pile of almost horrible things. I try to think about what is going into my kids head and what he will repeat, what will be valuable, what songs he will know after watching it. If I have an ethical problem, that's the first red-flag. If I have an aesthetic problem that's the next.

    So far the only Disney I own is Nemo. But Josiah did see Bambi for the first time a few weeks ago and was bounding around the house like a....a little deer. Giggling at "BIRD!!". I mean, those moments are great. I'm hoping to spread out these great media moments so by the time he's 6 I'll have plenty left of the good stuff.

    Keep up the snobbery Ward, it's good to teach your kids what's of value, even if it's just your personal preference. They can see the 'other stuff' when they visit their cousins!

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  10. Animation snobbery exists in many forms. I like yours Ward (and share it I hope) because it comes from a genuine desire for the art form to be at it's best. That's something I think most animation professionals genuinely want, even while they may be working on one of those 'cheapquels' as you so aptly name them!

    It's tough out there for the artists with mortgages and kids to feed; ya gotta keep looking to find a job in the biz that satisfies that desire to do the best work, and pays the bills.

    Everyone in animation benefits, when creative adventurous spirits take chances and put out original stories.

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  11. A friend of mine resolved to insure that his two daughters have the proper cartoon upbringing. Instead of buying what was at the video store, he scoured the collector's circuit for B&W Porky Pig cartoons, Iwerks Comicolor and Flip shorts, Van Beurens, classic Warner and MGM and Fleischer Betty Boops and Bouncing Balls. While their schoolmates were going on about the PowerPuff Girls, his daughters were singing the theme song to Poor Cinderella and the song the little bear sings in Iwerks' Jack Frost.

    All is well with the world!

    See ya
    Steve

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  12. I feel the same way and I don't have kids yet... I think you hit the nail right on the head. Once again, outstanding job.

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  13. You know I see it the way you do, Ward. It's too bad your sister doesn't. You should relate your viewpoint to her in a way she can understand...

    ...for example, would she dress her kids in rags off the street? No? Then why feed them "cheapquels"?

    If I had kids, I'd want only the very best for them...especially when it comes to their minds.

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  14. Rather than plunk down hard-earned bucks for cheapquels (great term) I used to snap up those crappy VHS tapes of old old animation shorts - Flip the Frog, Betty Boop, Fleischer Supes, Bugs Bunny (before he had the name) - tapes called "50 Famous Cartoons" with amazingly sweet stories about ant kingdoms fighting off an invading ant-eater (all the while singing show tunes!).

    I spent serious coin mail ordering Tex Avery and Tom & Jerry MGM cartoons for my boys.

    They grew up smarter, stronger, faster, funnier, wittier, and with a better sense of esthetics than any other kids on the block.

    Encourage your sister not to feed her kids "junk food", Ward - its not about snobbery, its about feeding the mind as well as the body.

    L ;-)

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  15. Wow, what a great response from everyone! I've been meaning to respond sooner, but got a bit busy.

    Well, I have to say in my sister's defense, her kids have grown up with a fine appreciation for all kinds of animation, both classic Disney and 'other' fare. I didn't want others to lambast her for her choice of viewing material for her children, but I merely was setting the stage for my main point about the Disney cheapquels. (By the way, I did not first coin that term. It was thought up by some other animator, but I've forgotten who it was.) My niece and nephew have grown up as smart, intelligent children, who both appreciate a wide variety of animated entertainment, as well as being well-read (they both are ahead of their classes in reading skills). My sis done good.

    Anyway, the doodlers said it best when my frustration over those cheapquels stems from my "desire for the art form to at its best." I think as an animator, I can't help but feel that way. In fact, I'm sure that a good majority of the animators out there share this sentiment.

    But I must say this, in no way was I ripping on the many talented artists and animators who worked on the direct-to-DVD movies. The main impetus for my anger is directed toward the executives who greenlight these horrific things. It's more about the inane thought processes that these money-grubbers possess in their sordid minds. Because of their lack of creativity, they feel it would be easier to dig up previous properties and suck the life out of them for a new generation. It's unfortunate that these movies made so much money, because that tells these executives that there's money to be made off the backs of the classics. And HEY! you don't really have to have a decent story to do this! The kids won't notice a thing! (Yes, they will. Believe me.)

    It's the people at the top of the department who's to blame here, not the artists working on the movies. So, Warren, I applaud you for having to work on one of those cheapquels, and still come out of it alive and with incredible talent to boot. You're right—it is a tough act to follow those crews from back in the day, and I can only imagine what was going through your head while working on the movie.

    By the way, I do know that Lassetter has indeed expressed interest in stopping the sequels, including Toy Story 3, which Disney was going to produce without Pixar's involvement. Once Disney bought Pixar and made Lassetter head of animation, he nixed the movie (which was already in the animation phase) and said that they'll make a third installment ONLY if the right story comes along. So yes, there will be a change in Disney's direct-to-DVD department.

    Thanks, guys for all these comments. I wish I could respond to each and every one, but that would take up my whole day.

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  16. Perhaps the only redeeming quality of the direct-to-video animated feature is that it keeps cel animation front and center for a younger demographic (since you really can't plunk a five-year old down in front of "Family Guy," now can you?) Frankly, the whole video market killed the wonder and anticipation that so many of your posters mentioned; the ability to watch something any time you want it, ad infinitum, sapped the urgency and magic from both the moviegoing and televised animation experience. If you're too young to remember waiting all year to see "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" or "A Charlie Brown Christmas," well, you really missed out.

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  17. HAHA! I never took it as a slam. I just meant cheapqueals are a truly bad idea from the get-go, as you said - Someone at the top thinking with their wallet. Boo. No fun. Shortsighted.

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  18. Yeah.. I really dislike the thought of the "cheapquels" as well. Going with shadows of something better instead of finding something different.

    I can only hope that some of the people that run out of original Disney movies to buy end up throwing some Miyazaki movies as well.

    How odd is it that Japan seems to be the stronghold of 2d while the US goes running for 3d?

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