Fri. Jun 14th, 2024

Why we should stop thinking animation means Shaun the Sheep

By Tyler Law Mar 28, 2024
Photo by Amazon/Everett/Shutterstock

The mainstream popularity of the hit series Invincible has given animated television a breath of fresh air. While the show was originally brushed off as just another saga of a super powered vigilante, the mature and complex storytelling and themes of violence, redemption and ethical decision making quickly altered my perspective. While both animation and superhero have generally been associated with children, Invincible joins its Amazon Prime Video brethren The Boys as popular, well reviewed disruptors to that market. The popularity of Invincible in mainstream media has forced us to reevaluate whether or not the market for adult animation has grown. By adult animation, I do mean animated entertainment geared towards an adult audience. Has the market grown to the point where we might be forced to ask ourselves, has animation, as a medium for storytelling been underutlised this whole time? 

I believe a significant problem exists where, particularly in a Western context, animation is usually seen as a genre in itself rather than being acknowledged for what it truly is: a medium that can tell any story. One that is just as effective, if not arguably more, for storytelling than live action. One that allows for even greater suspension of disbelief within the audience, allowing and accepting far more than its live-action counterpart. As said from one of the forefathers of animation himself, Walt Disney: “Animation can explain whatever the mind of man can conceive. This facility makes it the most versatile and explicit means of communication yet devised for quick mass appreciation”.

The differences are clear in diverging perceptions of the medium as seen in Japan where anime is incredibly popular and caters to diverse age groups and genres. This is clearly contrasted with a Western context where all animated films each year compete for a single award at the Oscars. Does Charlie Kaufmans dark comedy about depression and the monotony of life as we grow older really deserve to be considered the same genre and category as the Shuan the Sheep Movie? Both films are undeniably incredible, hence their deserved Oscar nominations. However, the notion of them being announced side by side for one of the most prestigious awards in the art world just feels disingenuous. 

The landscape of animated entertainment is evolving. Whether you believe it spurred by the mainstream success of series like Invincible or the global popularisation of anime, it has forced us to reassess the potential that animation holds. A potential that will hopefully, also force us to recognise animation as not a genre, but as a versatile medium for storytelling.

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