Please login or register.
Login with username, password and session length

The Nihon Review Forum

October 17, 2017, 08:36:35 PM
News: Check us out on Twitter and Facebook!
Pages: [1]   Go Down

Author Topic: The Animation Age Ghetto  (Read 4424 times)

Offline historymanzp

  • Animation connoisseur extraordinaire
  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 21
  • Bakemonogatari: Proof Anime is Art
    • Google+
    • Chat with jordan.harms using Skype
    • Steam Community :: historyman101

The Animation Age Ghetto
« on: August 26, 2012, 12:29:01 PM »
Something that I have never seen a lot of anime blogs talk about is a specter that hangs over the entire animation industry and constantly subdues it and pummels it into mediocrity. It's a problem that has been facing animation since time in memorial, from the earliest days of silent cartoons to the modern multi-million dollar 3D animated feature length films. It's something that has continually hampered animation from reaching its fullest potential, and has erected boundaries the medium cannot push. And even when animation tries to push those boundaries, it fails because of this problem.

I am talking of course about the Animation Age Ghetto.

For those who don't know what this is, here's a bit of backstory....

Back in the earlier days of animation, say around the 1930s and 1940s give or take a few years, animation was seen as something everyone could enjoy, adults and children alike. There was humor in cartoon shorts that were aimed at the more mature mind as well as slapstick to get kids to laugh. Watching film was a very different experience in these times, as movies would be played on a loop in theaters and moviegoers would come and go as they pleased. Cartoons in those days were wedged inbetween the main features. And due to the passing of the Hays Code, cartoons were regulated to be appropriate for all audiences, and this is before "All audiences" meant "Kids only." This is how it was for a very long time, until something changed.

In the 1960s, Hanna Barbera started making cartoons for television to compete against Disney, and since the majority of their content was relegated to Saturday mornings, the perceived demographic of animation shifted to children, and gained the reputation of being a frivolous art medium not to be taken seriously alongside live action film. The majority of limited animation shows ended up as Saturday morning fare aimed primarily at youngsters, again for bottom-line reasons: Children weren't as sensitive to quality issues as adult viewers, and cartoons were cheaper and more reliable to produce than the kinds of live-action shows normally made for children (animation features no last-minute bloopers, no need to control live untrained children, and less pay/credit for the people who do the work). Of course the studios and networks loved it.

Nowadays, the ghetto is not as bad as it was in the 1960s, but it is still there. The best example of this kind of prejudice is the fact animated film still is put in its own separate category at the Academy Awards, feeding into this notion that animation is not worthy of being considered alongside live-action film. And if a cartoon is not for kids, then it's comedy, where you can get away with anything (see: Family Guy, Simpsons, and every Adult Swim cartoon ever). There is still no major attempt to rock the boat, to break out of the ghetto. Even anime when it tries to defy the ghetto, gets shafted and cast as too inappropriate for viewers. In Japan there is still a prejudice against animation, although more nuanced compared to what is here in the West.

tl;dr So I ask this question to the members of Nihon Review, because I respect your judgments and outlook on animation as a whole. Why is the ghetto still here? What's causing it to perpetuate? Is there a way to break out of it? If there is, how?

For those who want more info on this topic, here's a good link: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AnimationAgeGhetto
My anime review channel: www.youtube.com/user/historymanZP

I have a temper. Don't let it scare you, though. I love people, but have no time for their bull****.

Death to the Animation Age Ghetto!

A lover of all things animated, from 1928 to today.

Offline Shadowmage

  • Mobile Suit RX-0 Unicorn
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1399

Re: The Animation Age Ghetto
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2012, 02:56:39 PM »
The age ghetto still exists because preconceived notions die hard and unless someone is somehow exposed to the exceptions, he or she will continue to hold the outdated (or outright incorrect) opinions about animated media.  People think animation is for children because almost all animation in the West is indeed made for children. More animation for adults need to be made for this to change, but there is no market for adult animation because most adults think animation is for children. 

Personally, I think this is where Japanese animation can come in since there are a small handful of shows every year that can appeal to a Western audience and serve as proof that animation can be much more than just kid's stuff.  Redline, Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen, Millennium Actress and the assortment of Ghibli productions are movies I would recommend to anybody who asks me about good anime.  If they are still interested, I can recommend television shows based on their tastes on live action productions, books and games.

I would argue that the future looks pretty bright for animation since stuff like Dragonball Z, Bleach and Naruto has broke into the mainstream across the years, so people know that anime exists and they may be more open to the concept of animation for adults than their parents.  I suppose the only problem is if they decide to stray off into the world of anime alone, find Kodomo no Jikan and never look at anime or animation again.

I recommend Mobile Suit, RX-0 and Unicorn from the Unicorn OST.

Offline historymanzp

  • Animation connoisseur extraordinaire
  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 21
  • Bakemonogatari: Proof Anime is Art
    • Google+
    • Chat with jordan.harms using Skype
    • Steam Community :: historyman101

Re: The Animation Age Ghetto
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2012, 05:16:56 PM »
The age ghetto still exists because preconceived notions die hard and unless someone is somehow exposed to the exceptions, he or she will continue to hold the outdated (or outright incorrect) opinions about animated media.  People think animation is for children because almost all animation in the West is indeed made for children. More animation for adults need to be made for this to change, but there is no market for adult animation because most adults think animation is for children. 

Personally, I think this is where Japanese animation can come in since there are a small handful of shows every year that can appeal to a Western audience and serve as proof that animation can be much more than just kid's stuff.  Redline, Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen, Millennium Actress and the assortment of Ghibli productions are movies I would recommend to anybody who asks me about good anime.  If they are still interested, I can recommend television shows based on their tastes on live action productions, books and games.

I would argue that the future looks pretty bright for animation since stuff like Dragonball Z, Bleach and Naruto has broke into the mainstream across the years, so people know that anime exists and they may be more open to the concept of animation for adults than their parents.  I suppose the only problem is if they decide to stray off into the world of anime alone, find Kodomo no Jikan and never look at anime or animation again.

Problem is anime faces that same kind of problem in the West. Anime is looked down upon in Japan as childish, and the people who do like it are ostracized over there. No surprise considering how the most reliable crowd of anime watchers for studios are 20-something-year-old neckbeard basement dwellers with no jobs. In the west it's either perceived as weird, creepy or downright disgusting. Best way to phrase this prejudice is "All anime is naughty tentacles."

I remember how when I was in college, the only people I really felt comfortable talking about anime with were in anime club. Outside, there's a stigma that comes with being an anime fan; it's like you're admitting to watching porn. Anime doesn't exactly have the best fan community in the states (go to any con and see what I'm talking about). Network execs just look down on it or just don't care; If it's not Studio Ghibli, they just don't want to ****ing know.
My anime review channel: www.youtube.com/user/historymanZP

I have a temper. Don't let it scare you, though. I love people, but have no time for their bull****.

Death to the Animation Age Ghetto!

A lover of all things animated, from 1928 to today.

Offline Ejecting Pilot

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 42

Re: The Animation Age Ghetto
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2012, 07:08:25 PM »
Wao, I wasn't expecting this on a Sunday afternoon.

This reminds me a bit of the video game industry and current public assumptions by people who never game. Games at their conception seemed to just go with child entertainment. Enjoyable games for kids. Eventually storytelling became mixed in with games (Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Fallout, Baldur's Gate, etc.) The storytelling was always there, but the only people who appreciated it were gamers. Aside from gaming culture (like anime culture) the respective medium is considered childish, juvenile, and lacking. But today, with the risks that both independent studios and big name professional studios are taking, the video game as a medium is consistently being redefined. And I think this ties into the Animation Age Ghetto.

You have the industry and the audience. And I feel the main problems stemming from the Animation Age Ghetto come from the disjoint between the two. Aside from the usual racy comedic entertainment (which I don't mind at all) the West has always had shows which were relatively dark. Even under the facade of child entertainment, shows like Hey Arnold! and The Secret of NIMH (movie) have been able to deal with adult problems with quality storytelling. The problem is that the audience themselves rarely recognize it. Even with Pixar, the West's analogue to Studio Ghibli, with their masterful storytelling is relegated to the kind of entertainment for shutting kids up. The industry in the West is ready to mature, it only that the audience doesn't want to. I enjoy anime as entertainment as many people do, but I also enjoy when conventions are broken, stories are told, and real innovation is evident. The problem is that the many people that are entertained by anime simply don't know about that "other side".

So to try to answer your questions,

Why is the ghetto still here? What's causing it to perpetuate?
-I believe it is a combination of audience ignorance (if anyone has said that animation sucks, they've just never seen a good animation.) along with an industry that is very afraid of creating a product which breaks conventions and expands boundaries because there might not be an audience. I also find that the West's tendency to be extra protective over their children discourages the risks of creating darker and edgier.

Is there a way to break out of it? If there is, how?
-Honestly, the West just needs to make an animation masterpiece. For graphic novels, it was Watchmen. I think there just has to be a movie that his theaters and defies convention yet still retaining accessibility. The comic book industry went from geektown to freektown. Now it's cool to wear anything related to comic books. Though I would loathe if animation became bastardized. The Animation Age Ghetto just needs an Animation Renaissance. It happens to a smaller degree with short films at festivals. And I think with films like Persepolis and Waltz with Bashir, we're stepping in the right direction.

Offline Kaikyaku

  • Reviewer
  • Jr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 65

Re: The Animation Age Ghetto
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2012, 10:00:38 PM »
I don't think this is something that will change quickly. As Shadowmage said, the problem is circular. It would take a series of extremely successful animated movies that appealed to adults specifically to have any kind of broad impact on people's perceptions. There are some films out there that break the mold. One that immediately comes to mind for me is Waltz for Bashir, which was a great example of using animation to increase the impact of the material. But as soon as a film is kid-friendly it automatically becomes FOR kids. Movies for everyone aren't enough, even if scores of adults praise and enjoy them. Wall-E comes to mind, but this would apply equally to a lot of anime as well.

There are some animated shows and movies that fit this category of being made specifically for adults, but for the most part, adults seem to want these stories told in live action. If you look at even the gazillions of superhero movies that have been made over the last decade or so, these are exactly the kinds of stories that could be extremely well told through the medium of animation. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is a good example. Yet adult audiences still demand an actor in a silly rubber suit instead, for it to be for them.

However, the younger generation (i.e. most of us) seems to be more open to animation as a story telling tool. Perhaps with the passage of time, as with other things, the perceptions will gradually change. On a side note, it will be interesting to see, in a few year, what kind of impact the Brony phenomenon has on this. It's certainly introduced the concept of adults watching and enjoying animated series to a lot of people, but in this case the material was not targeted towards them to begin with and a lot of stigma has arisen around that.

As for the anime stigma, I think it's there, but it's lessening. I don't mind telling people I watch anime, though they usually don't know exactly what I mean. A couple month's back I took a class and one the first day we had to introduce ourselves and say one interesting thing about yourself. Mine was that I reviewed anime on the Internet. A couple people had no clue what that meant but most people were genuinely interested and asked what site I wrote for. (However, I do not recommend telling people you watch anime for adults. I did that once and they somehow got the wrong idea ;))

EDIT: Ejecting Pilot posted while I was writing. Jumping from there, I would also add that one of the reasons gaming is not perceived as being just for kids is that the gaming industry WAS able to successfully produce games that were meant for adults and not kids and avoided that automatic 'for kids' classification.

Offline Kylaran

  • A Priori Impossibility
  • Administrator
  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 128

Re: The Animation Age Ghetto
« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2012, 03:44:51 AM »
Alright. I'll bite.

First of all, I think any talk of anime as a business requires a very different perspective than anime as a medium. A priori, there is no reason why anime as a medium is incapable of telling every bit as good of a story as any other medium. However, the current age gap is the result of conscious business practices that we easily forget when discussing anime as a form of expression; often, fans of anime like to champion their medium by comparing the quality of storytelling and art to Western animated TV series. Instead, what anime fans really should be asking is: What reasons would lead someone to watch an animated show over a live action show?

When we consider this question I think the answer becomes a bit more clear. From a technological and historical perspective, powerful animation techniques have only developed recently, while film technology has been used since the turn of previous century as an accepted method of documenting the daily activities of individuals. By the time the film industry grew popular, it was also producing caricatures of real life situations through silent films (both horror and comedy) in order to attract an audience that was looking for an escape. It was, for the audience, something that wasn't central to their lives and was sort of low entertainment. This is incredibly similar to how early anime had to find certain topics that suited the medium (Gundam and Yamato were both sci-fi, along with the earlier Tetsuwan Atom/Astro Boy), which at its inception had been a hugely technology-dependent art format that both required innovative machinery and time-consuming artistry.

Eventually, American cinema took off in the post-war era to create the world's largest entertainment complex, which to this day dominates the entertainment world. For example, whenever a technology company like IBM, Sony, or Hitachi attempts to develop new media technology (DVDs and, more recently, Blu-Rays), they must first convince Hollywood to support their cause or else they'll lose the hardware war. So long as people continue to look toward live action movies and TV series as a huge source of entertainment, the market space for animation is small. The only possible way to get animated series on TV 40 years ago was to market toward children because the medium is well-suited to the imagination. You don't have to bring in many live actors, which may be difficult in the case of a live action children's show because adults may not want to have a children's show on their acting resume, and you also don't have to bring in child actors, a notoriously volatile group to work with even today. If you can be expressive, creative, and magical... Why not do it?

For that reason, Walt Disney's many first films gained an appreciation by children who were interested in the strangeness of the content sometimes depicted. Disney's choice to produce full length animated feature films using traditional fairy tales (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves) was a choice that was both artistic and economic; artistic because it had a fantasy element that allowed him to explore animation further, while economic because the completed film would be able to fulfill a niche market in the film industry that targeted children and family. So for both the sake of himself and his company, fairy tales were a very intelligent choice of source material.

Really, animation took off thanks to the television in the latter half of the 20th century. Theaters saw rapid decline from the 60s to the 80s as more and more families gained televisions to watch shows at home with, and TV serial formats gained ground within Hollywood studios because a huge market opportunity had blossomed. As the television industry grew as an offshoot of the movie industry, animated shows became a frequent reality both in the U.S. and in Japan. However, quality for TV animated series could never be as high nor as smooth as film animation until computer animation in the past few decades. For a period of about 30 years, TV only had animated shows that were meticulously drawn by hand but also relied on stop animation to produce certain effects. For example, the original Tetsuwan Atom from 1963 was only economically feasible because Tezuka relied heavily on recycling already finished stills in order to get the artwork done on time each week. That hasn't changed to this day, because TV anime has horribly brutal production times that require a lot of work.

In other words, the current state of animation is largely the result of an absolutely dominant film industry having arisen far earlier, the continued success of Hollywood and TV live action, and the difficult of producing animated series.

1) Films were one of the biggest forms of popular entertainment in the first half of the 20th century, and during the global depression of the 1930s movie theaters were an escape for much of the population. Marketing animated films with fantasy content was a business move that helped establish Disney's business market.

2) Anime is hugely reliant not only on artistic ability, but also technological changes were necessary. Thomas Lamarre, in his book "The Anime Machine", notes that Miyazaki had to use a special machine designed to create a realistic sense of motion in anime (rather than stop animation, which generates the illusion of movement) in order to produce many of the movement effects seen in the clouds and airships of Laputa, which was 1986. If that's the case, then anime's maturity compared to film still has a long way to go to produce any sort of realism that is characteristic of "adult" tastes, which may deal with real life issues.

3) So long as TV animation remains time consuming work, we'll have to wait for better technology before TV animation can even begin to catch up to the smoothness of film animation, which in turn has to compete with live action in the movie markets.

4) Modern society attributes "dealing with reality" as an adult thing, while a wild imagination is the tool of the child. So long as the emphasis is placed on reality and real world issues even in entertainment, live action will probably be dominant simply because, well, it records things in reality as opposed to animation which can only reach likeness to reality with extremely high production values.

Until any of these problems are dealt with further, animation will most likely remain economically unfeasible for a broader audience.

The comparison to video games raised by Ejecting Pilot is apt, and has certain parallels with animation. Like animation, games are also highly dependent on technology, at first being played largely in arcades because there were no machines capable of playing them at home while remaining affordable. Only universities and the military really had access to such technology well into the 70s. Anime focused a lot on Sci-Fi because of the technological background from which it came, much like the earliest video games. Video game designs were simple, and often relied on simplifications of real life details much like the first silent films and/or animation did to provide expression. For instance, Mario was designed so his bright colors would be easily seen on the screen and his mustache and clothes could be easily understood by audiences, despite the shitty graphics of the time. Likewise, Tezuka developed the modern manga style with the big, cute eyes precisely because it helped to convey what he wanted better.

Video games really only started becoming more mainstream once it escaped its niche market on multiple levels, including the growth of realistic games outside of fantasy and Sci-Fi (Leisure Suit Larry comes to mind) and the graphics really started getting so real that it was no longer about using one's imagination to experience a magical world, and instead about how well games could mimic realistic things. Some of the first games that really got into main stream consciousness were things like Doom (networked entertainment is a recent development and illustrates how important technology is in producing entertainment), Grand Theft Auto (realism and questionable content), Everquest (one of the first MMOs that gained massive media attention, which was a further technological and economic climb from Doom), Madden (and other sports games modeled after real life), and recently hyper-real and violent shooters like Modern Warfare.

I wouldn't be surprised if anime has a hard time breaking out of its shell because it just has too many economic and technological barriers to overcome. Even then, it'll need time to mature and find out what appeals to a broader audience, much like gaming has done (and quite honestly, is still searching to do).

Offline Shadowmage

  • Mobile Suit RX-0 Unicorn
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1399

Re: The Animation Age Ghetto
« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2012, 05:40:01 PM »
I remember how when I was in college, the only people I really felt comfortable talking about anime with were in anime club. Outside, there's a stigma that comes with being an anime fan; it's like you're admitting to watching porn. Anime doesn't exactly have the best fan community in the states (go to any con and see what I'm talking about). Network execs just look down on it or just don't care; If it's not Studio Ghibli, they just don't want to ****ing know.

Ah, the legitimacy question.

I honestly think you're asking for an impossibility in the short term since virtually every form of entertainment had to fight tooth and nail for many years to become acceptable in the eyes of society.  Until something hits critical mass where everyone has had firsthand exposure to the good side of anime, it will still be a niche thing.  The bright side is that our generation forward has been exposed to anime early on so that we may be open to more stuff in the later years. 

I recommend Mobile Suit, RX-0 and Unicorn from the Unicorn OST.
Pages: [1]   Go Up