Rango image Genre

Last month Scott Mendelson at Forbes posted an incendiary article where he postulated the view that the crop of animated films released over the summer constituted a glut of the artform.

Well, now he’s making amends; sort of. In another piece posted on Forbes, Mendelson qualifies his remarks and manages to do so in an honest way that really shouldn’t offend anyone because, he's right:

"But when it comes to discussing mainstream animated films in America, it is unfortunately a question of genre. Artistically and especially financially speaking, films like Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 and Turbo are indeed cut from similar cloth in that they are basically targeting the same audience. We might decry this fact, but American animated films are still considered child's play, a notion that heavily influences who they are aimed at and how they are made."

It's tough to take the view that all the animated films released so far this year have represented a wide range of genres and styles and been seen by a varied mix of audiences. That's because it’s simply not the case.

If animated features are all created for, and released to, the same audience, and feature the same style of storytelling for which we can blame Pixar (no, really, we can; wise-cracking characters on a journey of self-discovery and not a song in sight? Toy Story did it first), then for all intents and purposes, the technique appears to the average Joe Public as a genre.

To be clear, it isn’t a case that animation is a genre, it’s just that without the presence of animated films in specified genres, it may as well be one. And to go even further, it isn't even a feature film problem, it’s an American feature film one.

American studios are the ones who have latched onto the hit-making formula and are in the process of running as far as they can with it. Features from other countries are far less stymied by the same problems. Partly because of cultural reasons, but also partly because they are more willing to take risks with their storytelling.

Mendelson perhaps sums it up best:

"Until we have a wide variety of American animated films being produced for mass consumption, in different genres and aimed at different audiences, American animation is unfortunately a category unto itself. It arguably shouldn't be the case and certainly does not have to be the case, but for now, it most certainly is the case."

The question now is, how long will the situation remain like this, and what will it be like when the hypothetical music eventually stops?

Charles Kenny writes prolifically on his own blog, The Animation Anomaly.