Animated films, animes, cartoons (as “adults” looking to denigrate the form call them) are a core of modern filmmaking and storytelling. They have become popularized largely, but not solely, by the Walt Disney company. Following closely are companies such as Dreamworks, Pixar, to mention a few, who make quality, children-targeted animations. In the TV world are Seth MacFarlane, a serial comedy genius and creator of Family Guy; Loren Bouchard, creator of the American sitcom, Bob Burgers; and Mat Groening, The Simpsons‘ creator. Animated works are now made with age target flexibility which allows adults to sit through them without reaching for a pistol. Then the anime, too, have become more prevalent over the years, most of them after the heels of the hit anime, Naruto. Yet there is a snide outlook registered on adults who love animations—an untoward sense that ‘cartoons’ are for children. A conception which, thankfully, is now changing.
But in spite of a pendulum swing in public opinion about the adult audience’s relationships with animated films, the question of why adults are drawn to such films in the first place remains. The most compelling hypothesis would be that an aspect of childhood, the one immersed in curiosity and wonder, has, miraculously, remained alive, and followed one into adulthood where all the other senses have ‘matured’. One can only access the true potential of this essence from a childlike outlook. Sir James Mathew Barrie, creator of the beloved Peter Pan character, was ill-fitted for adulthood, and he created Peter Pan, a character fixed in time immortal, unable to grow a single day older. The characters from Peter Pan were inspired by The Llewelyn Davies, all children at the time of the character’s creation, all in the care of Sir James Mathew Barrie. Walt Disney himself was already selling his first sketches to neighbors at age seven, and while the quality of the sketches grew, their essence remained. These examples are proof that there is some aspect of childlike nature necessary to appreciating animations.
This doesn’t mean animations don’t express complex issues. The Netflix animated documentary, The Liberator, follows a beleaguered American platoon in WWII and the animated effect on the entire narration softened the garish horrors and realities of war. Castlevania, another animated series, goes beyond Dracula, its main villains, to discuss human brutality, philosophy, and the worth of a human life. The popular American nihilistic comedy series, Rick & Morty, asks the same questions about life with sci-fi. Bojack Horseman, too, debates the evil nature of fame amongst celebrities. Beyond being a softener of realities, beyond being an expression of childlike essence, animations can show an entirely new dimension to existence, even to a particular character — Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse showed an entirely different way of “seeing” Spider-Man.
While perceptions are being changed all around, the nagging sentiment that animations are childish expressions still linger. Animated films are a bridge between adult and childhood natures; a potent way of coalescing both worlds and showing each a pertinent aspect of the other—Inside Out, for example. The way the world reveals itself to a child in all its colours and unrestrained vigor isn’t the tainted way an adult’s dull world renders itself. Long-running shows like Family Guy, The Simpsons, and Bob’s Burgers, all getting new seasons released this weekend, are masterpieces in the animated world. More flexible animated narrations are constantly released, more renditions of hybrid human natures, accommodating not a stage of human life but other realities of existence—cultures, religions, philosophy, etc. (DreamWorks’ Shrek, Pixar’s Soul, Disney’s Mulan.) The question solely shifts from “Why do you watch cartoons?” to “Why not?”
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