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Animation: The cost of the unlimited

Graphic by Kyle St. John

Animation has been tied to the movie industry since the Golden Age of Hollywood, and there is no shortage of animation seen in entertainment now.

However, many of the animated films created today have stuck to a format that has rarely deviated since the early 2000s. 

This format includes the heavy use of CGI models and mature themes directed toward a younger demographic. Pixar has put out films like “Inside Out” and “Zootopia,” which tackle mature themes like anxiety and racism that not many pieces of media are willing to touch upon when targeting an audience that includes children.

There is no end to varied animated television series on different streaming services. Films, on the other hand, have fallen by the wayside when it comes to variety in animation.

Animation in the film industry is largely stuck as an oligopoly (a market largely controlled by a small number of producers), as the cost of the labor that goes into it is an insurmountable obstacle. To that end, it is understandable why so many studios tend to play it safe when it comes to creating animated movies.  

Major studios like Disney and Netflix have decided to create CGI, live-action adaptations of previous animated properties while also making much of the same comedy/adventure movies they have created before, with “Lion King” and “Sonic the Hedgehog” being two significant examples. 

Largely, the stigma surrounding cartoons has only made them occupy the same spot in American culture.

This stigma prevents more serious animation akin to the acclaimed “The Prince of Egypt” from being made, as it makes dramatic uses of the medium become seen as hokey and corny.

So when “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” was released, it stood in stark contrast to anything that was being put out by other studios. The vision behind the movie and the bold new style presented netted the film a rightfully deserved Oscar. It simultaneously provided great writing and brilliantly directed sequences, displaying the strengths of the medium. 

Ideas behind how an adult-oriented animated film could be created have gone unexplored in the past decade. The weight of an emotion flashing across a character’s face in both live-action and in a cartoon can take wildly different — but equally impactful — directions. 

Only by expanding the genres of animation in film can the stigma behind it be diminished.

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