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Scott Mendelson Makes Amends; Clarifies View That Feature Animation Technically Is a Genre

by Charles Kenny
October 2, 2013 2:04 PM
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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.

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  • James Cameron | October 3, 2013 6:26 PMReply


  • John Remus | October 2, 2013 7:50 PMReply

    By the way the people in this article are talking. Its like they've never seen a Studio Ghibli film before. A they are still making movies last time I checked. How about you give them some of the spotlight. Since they are the only ones making the kind of animated movies you claim don't exist.

  • John Remus | October 3, 2013 5:44 PM

    A lot considering the Studio Ghibli films has grossed fairly good numbers in America . Not big time blockbusters, but considering the horrible marketing they always receive from American Distributors. They still perform pretty well.

    Thats the media and the industries fault. What I'm trying to say is the Media needs to stop kissing the Industries ass and actually shine some light on films from studios like Studio Ghibli. Its hypocritical that the media like Forbes will write condemning articles such as the one above but also have no problem shilling the same movies on their website. They are part of the problem.

  • Jody Morgan | October 3, 2013 1:58 PM

    How many people in the USA have seen a Studio Ghibli film before? The Forbes article was focusing on the American market, and the sad fact is that theatrical animation is almost exclusively seen as a kiddie/"family film" market by the vast majority of Americans. The few prominent success stories of recent years that don't fit that description were based on TV series (South Park, Simpsons).

  • Alex Dudley | October 2, 2013 4:42 PMReply

    The situation will remain when someone has the clout (namely, a famous live-action film director), or some studio hire-up is "crazy enough" to try to do something different.
    Also, studios would be willing to try something different if an animated movie would be cheap to produce, and one of the main ways to do that is have the animation handled by some foreign studio.

  • Chidi Ozieh | October 2, 2013 3:38 PMReply

    American animation is limited to "child themes" because that is what makes more money (selling 4 tickets and popcorn etc). As long as the money keeps flowing big studios will not take the chance exploring genres in animation like other world markets...although I do think brave indie film makers can find a niche American market for more adult broad genre using the medium of animation. Animation is definitely not a genre. It is a medium within the tapestry of cinematic storytelling.

  • Nic Kramer | October 2, 2013 3:08 PMReply

    My question is when is Kenny going to do real animation news and when is going to introduce the "Wayne and Wanda" of animation?

  • Charles Kenny | October 2, 2013 5:29 PM

    I know what you mean mate. I do try to keep things upbeat but sometimes you have to play devil's advocate to discuss a particular topic. Talking about the problem of animation being percevied as a genre from the standpoint that everything is currently honky dory doesn't convey much need for a debate. I'm also not one to, ah, tow the company line if you know what I mean.

    As for real animation news? I'll get around to more of that once my schedule eases up considerably at the end of the month. And I'll be much more positive :)

  • Nic Krmaer | October 2, 2013 3:26 PM

    I'm sorry for the harsh post, but I'm getting alittle tired of these editorial downers and wish Kenny would do a possitive article for once.

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