Not a genre

The battle to change the perception of animation's place within cinema.

Guillermo del Toro’s stop motion animated Pinocchio has been unstoppable at the various awards ceremonies this year. It had already amassed a vast collection of accolades, including Best Animated Feature at the Golden Globes, Annies, and BAFTA’s, before completing the collection, the other night, with the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

The success of the film has led to a great number acceptance speeches, and there is a message which Guillermo del Toro has consistently reiterated through each one of those speeches.

“Animation is cinema. Animation is not a genre.”
Guillermo del Toro

For many years animation has sadly been regarded as something less than cinema. It had been reduced to being seen as something only suitable for keeping children entertained rather than as a medium through which it is possible to tell any type of story for any type of audience.

For decades it was almost impossible to make an animated film if it was not a musical featuring talking animal sidekicks. That had become a format which sold well and few were willing to take a risk on anything different.

With the release of Toy Story, Pixar finally broke that mould and their success gave them a licence to experiment. In fact, Brad Bird, Pixar’s director of The Incredibles and Ratatouille, has long been an advocate of the message that animation is a medium and not a genre.

Despite some new and original stories being told in animation, it is still rare to see animated films or series which take big risks and break new ground. There is no doubt a fear that audiences, long conditioned to believing that animation is for children, would be unwilling to watch something which differs from their expectation.

I should note, however, that this issue is heavily connected to Hollywood and the Western perception of animation. Japan, for example, has long had a tradition of telling a far wider range of stories through animation and the audience’s attitude to animation is therefore very different.

With respected filmmakers such as Guillermo del Toro helping to lead by example and spread the message that animation is not a genre but a medium with infinite potential, there is yet hope that we can see a shift in perception and a wider range of animated stories being told in the future.

Inbetweens by Into Animation

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