As a part of our first mini project we looked into the history of animation. For this project I want to focus on adult animation from the 1960’s to present day.
One thing that targeting an adult audience did for animation was to bring more depth into the narrative – this meant that a new reason for animation arose, one which didn’t necessarily involve humorous slapstick anthropomorphic characters such as Bugs Bunny or Donald Duck having to overcome certain situations such as escaping from a hunter or trying to get food – animations which were targeted for adult audiences allowed a deeper underlying point which was often easily distinguishable due to it being the primary theme or reason that the animation in question was made. These animations were often surrounded in metaphor and reflected a concept of the artist or that the artist was trying to recreate/portray.
In film and television, animations with well structured narratives first rose in popularity with small shorts of characters such as Mickey Mouse (Steamboat Willie, 1928), and Bugs Bunny (who’s first appearance was in ‘Porky’s Hare Hunt‘ 1938). At first animations were so new that they were generally enjoyed by all audiences and animators generally didn’t have to specify what audience their animations were aimed at. However, illustration targeted at adult audiences can be traced back to early editorial cartoons, which appeared in newspapers and magazines such as punch (http://punch.co.uk/). Although these were illustrations not animations, they were an early example that illustrations didn’t just have to be for children.
A good example of an animation that is intended to be specifically for adults is Pink Floyd – The Wall, a 1982 film directed by Alan Parker and based on the band Pink Floyd’s album of the same name. The film stars Bob Geldof as the main character, playing a rock star called Pink, who is unable to function within society any longer due to a mental breakdown. The story follows his journey throughout his life but particularly focuses on his growing isolation, creating the metaphor of a wall, which is erected between him and ‘reality’. The most important, exciting and memorable parts of this film however are, to me, the animation. Created by Gerald Scarfe, who’s other popular works include his role as production designer in the film Hercules, made by Disney in 1997. The Wall has truly horrific animations, that in my opinion really capture the emotion of loneliness, depression and self loathing. The film also has strong metaphorical representations of lust (especially in the ‘flower’ scene) and blatant references to consumerism, greed and (arguably) capitalism in the animation to the songs “Empty Spaces” and “What Shall We Do Now?” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CS_FCbQ-okM), personification of conformity, obedience, judgement and authority in “The Trial”: (the school teacher, the mother, the judge http://vimeo.com/22172886) and an outstandingly visually effective representation of the casualties of war in the song “Goodbye Blue Sky” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxrYVFFhryg) – my personal favourite section being the British flag turning into the bloody cross, which to me represents war mongering and power lust and has obvious connections to religion and symbolism of death (Jesus Christ, soldier’s graves).
The animation is not shy in its addressing of (at the time) quite taboo subjects, especially when you consider that this was during the time of the Cold War, and when you consider that there was a ‘national pride’ at being ‘victorious’ during WWII, then the creators suggestions were touching upon a delicate matter. The animation also at times has negative interpretations of romance and lust, and doesn’t shy away from shocking its audience with relatively graphic, distorted vulgarised sexual imagery (again for its time).
I think this piece of art is a great example of how visuals and audio can go together hand in hand. Though fairly, this obviously comes from quite a biased perspective as I am a massive fan of the band Pink Floyd. I was fortunate enough to witness this animation at a live performance of The Wall by Roger Waters (bass player of Pink Floyd and main contributor towards The Wall) along with other, more modern animations, which were projected onto a ‘wall’ that was being built during the performance, and knocked down at the end.It was great to see the old and the new come together with amazing 3d projections digitally projected on to a wall, this was a clear example for me of the advantages of digital.
In terms of animation, it could be argued that Scarfe’s style is outdated and I believe this is probably true when comparing his work to modern designs even in 2D such as The Lion King for example. Though to me this does not matter when considering his ability to create the right atmosphere through visual interpretations of emotion. For me, older 2D high budget animations have so far been much more effective in interpreting darker themes such as fear, isolation, envy and wrath when compared to their 3D counterparts, especially when you compare old Disney films such as Pinocchio (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnamFerzNvw), and Snow White (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RvgkvIVn6E) to more recent Pixar/Disney films like the Toy Story Franchise and Finding Nemo and Universal productions such as Shrek, which actually contains references to older animations (such as Pinnocchio) as ‘fairytales’. These more recent films tend to focus more on humour and adventure compared to darker themes such as revenge or greed (Shrek actually parodies such concepts). All these films are genuinely brilliant in their own right, but in my opinion they fail to capture a darkness that the older counterparts I previously mentioned succeed in. I think that this is due to as previously mentioned the fact that animation used to be directed at all audiences, where as now animations are generally created for a certain age, even though this doesn’t mean that an adults can’t enjoy a film such as finding nemo or young people don’t spend their time trying to watch South Park. Because there is now more concern from parents as to what their children see at such a young age and the fact that it can’t be regulated as well due to the internet the conceptual and morally valuable aspects of stories in animation are not as important anymore and animation focuses on entertainment more than trying to create meaning. Even adult animation isn’t conceptual and is more about entertainment.
I think this represents a change in our culture and the popularity of animation more than our technology. I think that in the past animators had a lot more freedom to explore animation and older animations focused more on art than entertainment. Today films are high budget and are made by much larger teams of people with lots more input. There is nothing that doesn’t permit 3D animation to portray such themes as evil as well or even better than 2D animation, but I think that the style of narrative has changed especially in large budget films. There are a lot of independent animators who can be found on the internet who still do this. Good examples are Anthony F Schepperd (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4MdEIQcZxs) and David Firth (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuCw5k-Lph0). Also. This means that cartoons no longer cater for a large age range and tend to be either family orientated or adult orientated, which animation for the Wall was before adult animation became popular with TV shows such as The Simpsons which debuted in 1989. Furthermore avant garde styles of animation now have a place on the internet and animation which isn’t mainstream tends not to be noticed by large production companies, this is good because it means that there is a mix of large productions in animation but smaller artists still have a stage where they can showcase their work for free.
The Wall , 1982 [film] Directed by Alan Parker. United Kingdom: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, 1937 [film] Directed by David Hand. Burbank, California: Walt Disney Pictures
Pinocchio, 1940 [film] Directed by Ben Sharpsteen. Burbank, California: Walt Disney Pictures
Hercules, 1997 [film] Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker. Burbank, California: Walt Disney Pictures
IMDB, N.D. “Pink Floyd The Wall” [online] Available at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084503/ [Accessed 28/2/14]
CBS, 23/2/2014 “Almanac: ‘Pinocchio’” [online] Available at http://www.cbsnews.com/news/almanac-pinocchio/ [Accessed 28/2/14]
Techcomix.com 17/9/2013 “2d vs 3d Animation: A Brief History of the Animated Feature Films Industry” Available at http://www.techcomix.com/2d-vs-3d-animation-a-brief-history-of-the-animated-feature-films-industry/ [accessed 28/2/14]
http://www.Brain-Damage.co.uk 1/7/2010 “Gerald Scarfe on Pink Floyd” [online] Available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qwnWClFVX8 [Accessed 28/2/14]