How many times have you heard an audience marvel over the amount of detail and scrutiny involved in making an animated masterpiece? How smooth the movements are, how realistic the rendering? The value of animation nowadays does seem to lie so often in its ability to capture as much reality as possible. Another contention argues that that its ability to escape reality holds more significance. However, like many things, animation is multi-faceted.
When we delve into the history and many separate elements of animation that make animation what it is, what makes it such a unique and appealing niche is its capability in having versatile balances in reality and escapism. Animation at its very root is an art form dealing with synthesis of motion through a series of images displayed one after another. This opens the doors wide for any animator’s imagination. The rules of reality can be broken and bent to any extent within animation.Order now
But just like any art form, where the line should be drawn (and hence the value of the art) is completely subjective. Richard Weihe, a contributing author to ‘Animated Worlds’, states that “The animation film is not an ‘interpretation of dreams’ from the perspective of Freudian reality, but rather an interpretation of reality from the perspective of the dream”. 1 This encompasses the essence of animation – it is created by viewing reality through a distorted lens, the ‘dream’, so to speak.
Like dreams, it is the element of reality that grounds animation, but dreams are different for everyone. The level of reality is contingent to the height of imagination the animator wishes to employ. In Windsor McCay’s 1914 animated film, ‘Gertie the Dinosaur’2 the eponymous dinosaur lumbered towards the audience from a distance, performing actions that McCay appeared to instigate in real time. The sense of perspective, weight and apparent intelligence of Gertie is what imbues reality in the animation.
The novelty of Gertie’s movements and the simplicity of McCay’s drawing style deviate it from reality. McCay’s utilization of his metafictional techniques were an integral part of his animations that blurred lines between reality and escapism. Nevertheless it instilled intrigue and wonder in an audience, having a key role in establishing McCay as a father of ‘true’ animation. 3 Compare this to the many animated films made by Walt Disney Company.
The beautiful aesthetics, narratives and expressiveness of the characters, from ‘Snow White’ to ‘Frozen’, are what the audience finds most appealing about the films. ‘Frozen’ is marveled at as well as condemned for being animated ‘smoothly and realistically’, with Oscar winning animation director claiming it is not ‘real’ animation but instead motion capture. 4 However, despite the realism involved in the characters’ movements, there is again intrigue and wonder instilled in the audience.
A majority of audiences today put their value of animation in its narrative and ability to imitate movement hyper-realistically, while incorporating stunning visual effects. That however, does not necessarily mean realism is the value of animation. There are certain outliers e. g. people who may prefer an abstract series of movements rather than precisely detailed scenes. Their values are not any less valid than the majority. Audience opinion evolves alongside animation, reiterating the point that subjection is the core impetus for appreciating its value.
1 Buchan, Suzanne. “Animated ‘Worlds’.” Animated ‘Worlds’. Farnham Castle: John Libbey, 2006. 9.
2 McCay, Winsor. Winsor McCay – The Master Edition. DVD. 1911.
3 Pardo, Greg Hilty and Alona. Watch me Move: The Animation Show. London: Merrell, 2011. 6.
4 Deitch, Gene. Animation World. http://www.awn.com/animationworld/gene-deitch-feels-left-out-cold-frozen. 2014.