Two years ago, a friend of mine who is a year younger than me, asked me if I would be interested in seeing Despicable Me 2 at the cinema. I was reluctant at first for one second, but because we’re mates, I did not refuse. When I saw the film, it looked rather cutesy and obnoxious. I liked Gru’s character portrayal, but I found the minions irritating. My mate liked the film better than the first film. I did not see Despicable Me 1 until a year later when it was broadcast on ITV1 and I could sense why he didn’t like that one. To be honest, since Shrek The Third, cartoons, mainly CGI, seem to be going downhill, which is why I avoided the film. So could animation possibly be dead?
As a kid, I was a bit of an animation bluff. Like many people, I definitely familiarised myself with and enjoyed Tom and Jerry and other cartoons by Hanna/Barbera, Looney Tunes, Deputy Dawg, some Disney cartoons, etc. But if you’re wondering about cartoons that were produced from my time (1990-onwards), the ones I watched include The Simpsons, The Animals Of Farthing Wood, Sonic The Hedgehog, Secret Squirrel, Garfield & Friends, so many TV animations to name, and they were awesome! Film-wise, I watched some films from the Disney Renaissance, especially The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, Tom & Jerry: The Movie, Antz, some Pixar. Plus when I was thirteen, I watched the South Park movie (yeah I know, I was naughty considering the BBFC rated it 15). Many of these media products from my birth-onwards were enjoyable experiences.
So how is it that I’m feeling put off by 21st Century animation? Well, I don’t feel that way for all the cartoons from that era. I love Atlantis: The Lost Empire, mainly because of its stunning visuals, strong liberal values and well-developed characters. I enjoy Family Guy for similar reasons, even if there’s occasional obnoxiousness and Brian’s over-clichéd needs for a human woman. When Pixar made Toy Story, a lot of us seemed thrilled, because it was the first feature to entirely use CGI. Then Antz came out and I kind of like that film better, because it’s more detailed. This is also why I most certainly prefer it to A Bug’s Life. Yes, I like the liberal message and Hopper’s cool for a villain, but the animation style of the ant characters is wrong. First of all, ants have six legs, not four. And why were they coloured blue? Antz was much less cutesy compared to A Bug’s Life.
Relating to CGI animation in the 21st Century, the best one in my opinion is Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf. The reason is because this was exactly what I was expecting from Pixar. Beowulf looked like a live action movie, hence how deeply detailed each human face was. But it was in fact animated, due to the lack of certain shadows. The human designs were still convincing enough for a cool CG animated movie. Beowulf demonstrated what CGI is all about; detail. Pixar could have made the effort for the human characters’ designs when they made Monsters INC, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles and a little less cartoony. It’s like seeing those awful CG characters that were constructed for the movie versions of Scooby-Doo, Garfield and Alvin & The Chipmunks. When I view CGI, I think something in the style of, say, Jurassic Park or Jumanji or Lord Of The Rings. I don’t picture myself seeing rubbery skinned men with plum-shaped noses. I have no problem with that on traditional animated movies, but if this is a CGI cartoon, it looks effortless in my opinion.
Another thing that bugs me about this millennium’s cartoons is certain content included. Seriously, what is it with family movies and fart jokes? This sort of humour was only funny on stuff such as South Park, to name a few. They were given high certification, because of that. So why are censors not censoring Despicable Me and other cartoons? They’re rated U in the UK and G in the USA and yet they’re going overboard on the toilet humour. Just because a character’s farted, doesn’t make it funny. If you want to include farting in a movie, there has to be a certain point. In fact, this goes for all family movies, no matter what format they are in. This will be covered in a later blog. But the point is, many cartoon characters from the 21st century are so obnoxious or just plain annoying.
Mumble (Happy Feet)
Prince Charming, Artie and the babies (Shrek The 3rd)
The Minions and the kids (Despicable Me franchise)
Mike Wozowski, Boo, Celia, Smitty and Needleman (Monsters Inc)
(sighs) SpongeBob SquarePants!
Speaking of toilet humour, I dread to think what started this dreadful cliche for a family movie.