Unsolicited Comment: Why Do People Think Animation is for Kids?

In another video from AniMat, he poses a theory about why people have misconceptions that animation is just for kids. He claims that everyone has a desire to be independent. Because the majority of animated films target children and families to maximize their profits, adults want to distance themselves from them to reinforce the image of their independence. It’s like virtue signaling except you’re showing people you’re an adult.

He claims that CGI films target kids and families to make up for the cost of making these expensive films. I’d actually never thought of this explanation for why we don’t see more adult-oriented CGI movies. It seems obvious, but thinking about it more, I’m not sure how true this claim is, at least for CGI-animated films. Just looking up some random movies (e.g. Madagascar, Star Wars: Rogue One, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Matrix, Frozen, Inside Out, Despicable Me, The Polar Express, Gravity), the cost of making 3D-animated films seems about the same as it is for making films that are mostly live action. Smaller studio animated films are in the $30-$75,000,000 range. Pixar, Disney, Robert Zemeckis, and Square Enix films are in the $100-$200,000,000 range. The Matrix is in the high eight-digit range. Marvel movies are in the $100-$200,000,000 range…

I suppose you could argue that you can buy a camera, get volunteers together, and make a decent live-action film for next to nothing, but it’d be much more difficult to create a high-quality CGI-animated film in the same way. Live-action films that don’t use CGI can also be much less expensive (e.g. The Fault in Our Stars – $12,000,000, Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind – $20,000,000). This doesn’t explain how today’s most popular, nine-figure-budget, live-action films are comedies, dramas, or action films and target everyone from children to specifically adults when mid-eight-figure-budget animated films have been almost exclusively children’s/family comedies from the start.

The common story, as depicted in documentaries like Life After Pi and horror stories from former Sausage Party animators, is that animators are grossly underpaid, so these numbers probably don’t reflect the actual time and effort people spend to make these films. The point is, however, that I don’t think the case can be made so easily that animated movies aren’t as diverse in content as live-action movies because they’re expensive to make. They probably should be expensive, but they’re not.

I’m not sold on the idea that adult signaling is the reason animated films are perceived as children’s entertainment either. With the popularity of cartoons like modern My Little Pony, Steven Universe, and Gravity Falls; adult-oriented comedies like Family Guy, The Simpsons, and almost everything on Adult Swim; and movies like Despicable Me, the idea that cartoons are only for children seems like an outdated one. People in their 20s-30s and older willingly discuss their love of these films. I’ve certainly heard people express outrage at discovering, say, the R-rated Starship Troopers: Invasion movie is a CGI animated “children’s” cartoon, but acceptance of adults watching animated films seems more common.

I think there is a stigma around children’s/family CGI animation though. As much as I love CGI, I have no interest in watching most of them specifically because they look like generic children’s/family films. Though I enjoy them for their rarity, experimentation, and occasional ridiculousness, most adult-oriented CGI films have badly told or outright terrible stories. CGI is such a young medium that filmmakers still don’t seem to know what it’s for and how to use it. You’d think taking filmmaking techniques from 2D animation and live-action films and applying them to CGI would translate easily, but they don’t. The result has been many terrible and generic films and failed experiments and perhaps even this false perception that, in general, CGI movies are mindless films that only a child or an idiot could enjoy.

Then again, when I was little, I preferred A Bug’s Life to Antz. Now, as an adult, I prefer Antz (a film I suspect would be rated PG-13 if it were released today) to A Bug’s Life. So maybe something about the content of these films just tends to appeal to children more than adults.

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Weekly Update

The Twelfth Hour – I’ve got one section left in Chapter 4, and then, I’m on to revising Chapter 5 of 12. I’m thinking I’ll also take the time to format Chapter 1 for Critters this week. Then, I’ll get a sense of what the response will be/how crazy I am. Maybe there will even be things I can fix.

Improvised Incoherence/Speech Therapy – I mostly spent a crazy amount of time revising The Twelfth Hour this week, but I did manage to write a little on the Elysium vs. Foodfight! script and dig up things to comment on (you’ll see) for the next episode of Improvised Incoherence. The next couple episodes of Incoherence especially will be entertaining ones I think. Also, I’m not sure if it’ll be in Improvised Incoherence, Speech Therapy, or an Extra Life article, but I really need to talk about Final Fantasy XV (provided no one has said what I want to say multiple times already). The way it tells its “story” baffles me more and more the farther I get in it.

PDF Splitter – Just as I finished commenting and cleaning up my code, I got feedback on the PDF splitter application I was hired to make. That means I’ll be focusing mostly on implementing the latest requests and revising The Twelfth Hour this week. Maybe I’ll at least record Improvised Incoherence, but we’ll see.

Weekly Update

PDF Splitter – I managed to pretty much finish the PDF splitting project I started last week. Now I’m down to commenting, code cleanup, bug fixing, and testing while I wait for feedback. Hopefully, I’ll be able to work on other things now, but these projects have a tendency to consume all my time and brain power. DX

The Twelfth Hour – I’m still hoping to finish it by the end of this week, but Chapter 4 is being a bigger pain to revise than expected. Have I ever mentioned that writing in third-person present tense is ridiculously difficult? Maybe it’s just my self-imposed rule that exposition in present tense sections of the book can never explain anything that happened in the past unless it’s of the form “_____ remembers…” I think it makes sense. When you’re writing in the much more common past tense, writing random sentences in the present tense is frowned upon. Writing in the present tense should be held to the same standards. Movie scripts certainly can’t mix past tense events into their third person present tense exposition. Other novelists, however, don’t seem to care. I’ve been reading a book Red Rising by Pierce Brown and several pieces on Critters that are written in third-person present tense. The authors switch to past tense to describe past events all the time, which seems strange to me. Why write in the present tense at all in that case? Anyway, I think it’s hard to write in under this rule mostly because I have to determine how much I can get away with not revealing about the character’s thoughts (which like to wander into the past) in the exposition to the reader. If I had my way, I’d share nothing (like a movie script) or very little, but people tend to like knowing that stuff, and I can see the benefit at times.

Pointless Ranting – Besides that, I voiced disagreements about Fable, Final Fantasy XV, Charlottesville, James Damore, Trump, and the eclipse at various places and, most of the time, with various people around the Internet. Someone take my social media accounts away from me when I decide my unpopular opinions about stupid crap are important enough to start arguments over. >_<

Unsolicited Comment: What does Advent Children mean to you?

I recently started an argument with Final Fantasy VII fans about Advent Children on a Final Fantasy forum. We discussed the sense and nonsense behind Sephiroth’s reincarnation, why Cloud should or should not be emo, the companion novella On the Way to a Smile’s effect on the film’s story, and how Square Enix may or may not be made up of malicious capitalists. Is Advent Children magical art or awful trout? You can find it here. Prepare for wall-of-text arguments and Final Fantasy VII jargon.

Weekly Update

Writing – Despite traveling this weekend, I managed to finish revising chapter 3 of my novel as I planned. Huzzah! Chapter 4 I hope to finish in a week or so. It’s shorter and doesn’t have as many problems. After that, I’ll be in the messy center. >_< I also worked a little on the Speech Therapy script for Foodfight! vs Elysium and finished editing a novel for someone through Critters, ending about a six-week-long project.

RPS Wars – I have RPS Wars’ basic playing field, characters, and game mechanics setup in Unity. Rock, paper, and scissor army members are randomly placed on the playing field at the start of the game, the soldiers move randomly, and on collision, they disappear/die based on the rules of Rock Paper Scissors. The user can also select soldiers and order them to attack other soldiers. I still need to come up with camera controls, a HUD, and Pause and Start menus before I delve into its more advanced artificial intelligence aspects, but it’s coming along fast for spending less than eight hours on it.

Programming Project – I got hired by the co-founder of the company I used to work for to develop a small PDF splitting application for the company he works for. I’ll be focusing on that for a couple weeks, which means Speech Therapy and RPS Wars at least will be placed on hold temporarily. Work on The Twelfth Hour will continue as planned. I’m finishing it no matter what!

Unsolicited Comment: Why Are Animated Films Cartoony Nowadays?

In this video, AniMat explains how he believes family movies also suffer from experimentation in the young art form of full-CGI, feature-length films. The latest trend in family movies has been to create what he calls “cartoony movies” instead of “animated films.” He claims that cartoony movies try to mimic seven-minute-long skit cartoons from the 1930s and 40s. Cartoony movies focus on animation, visuals, humor, and pop culture references over the script while animated films focus on the script.

I’m not sure about his cartoony movie category. For one, what could be placed in this category is as open to interpretation as what makes a movie bad. AniMat classifies Angry Birds as cartoony, but considering that Stefan Molyneux defended Angry Birds as a metaphor for today’s political climate, it could just as easily be an animated film. While it has pop culture references, its script apparently has a meaningful message. AniMat classifies Sausage Party as an animated film, but his own viewers place it in the cartoony category. And while AniMat praises Zootopia as an animated film, it’s also a formulaic Disney film in part powered by Frozen references and clich├ęs.

Second, most of the films AniMat cites as cartoony are sequels, based on pre-existing franchises, or rip-offs. Even the films not easily classified as one of these are in an oversaturated market where everything looks like everything else. I’d say these films are bad, not because they’re experimenting, but because they rely too heavily on their audience’s knowledge of the world and characters, rely too heavily on current trends and pop culture, or don’t understand what made the base material they’re copying popular. The sequel trend isn’t unique to CGI movies. It’s a trend in many movies, franchises, and video games these days because of the economic climate. It’s easier to get an audience from a pre-existing fan base than to attract a new audience to an original concept. If these films really wanted to take risks and experiment, then they would get out of the family movie market.

Overall, I’m just not sure why these animated films need different labels for movies with “good” scripts and movies with “bad” scripts.