Friday, January 23, 2009

The Animated Line

Mr. Stanton weighs in about what's animated ... and what's not:

...[F]rom the live action side, animation-and computers in general-are being used as a tool in so many movies now. The line is just getting so blurry that I think with each proceeding year, it's going to be tougher and tougher to say what's an animated movie and what's not an animated movie. And what I'd love is to get to the point where someone just goes, 'I don't care.' Because I've been at the 'I don't care' point a long time now.

Recently I got a call from a corporate lawyer: "So, what does TAG consider an animated movie that it represents?" I said:

If it's animated characters -- even in front of live-action plates -- we cover it. If it's mostly live action characters, we don't.

This, of course, is the legalistic argument. And companies are interested because they want to know which guild's jurisdiction their movie falls under. Because there are higher and lower cash outlays, depending on where the jurisdiction ends up.

But beyond the legal, there is the aesthetic. Andrew Stanton is right. The line between animation and live-action diminishes year by year, month by month. The first trilogy of Star Wars films was clearly live action ... and models ... and Harrison Ellenshaw mattes. The second trio of SW films was so thick with animated backgrounds and animated characters as to make audiences wonder.

It's only grown more snarled and confusing since. Every big comic book tentpole has large chunks of animation in it. Years ago, I threw out the idea that at some future date, all the old movie stars would come back to act in new films. They would be animated, but they would be up on screen thesping with Robert Downey Jr., Will Smith and the newer crop of big-budget super heroes.

There's probably too many issues with dead movie stars' estates (not to mention the "creep" factor) for that to happen in a major way, but it raises the issue: where does "animated" end and "live action" begin?

Maybe when the tangle is unknotted, animated features will no longer be relegated to the second-tier position they have held in Hollywood for decades. Maybe, this year, that process has already begun.


Floyd Norman said...

Movies are beginning to look more and more synthetic every day. And, I’m talking about the live-action ones.

Anonymous said...

...and get off my lawn!

Anonymous said...

The differences that do matter between live-action and animation -

If you are a writer or director, you don't want the word 'animation' before your credit - it halves your pay and doubles your workload.

If you are an actor and you hear the word 'animation', you feel you deserve merchandise percentages.

If you are a producer and you hear the word 'animation', you find that you can suddenly give creative notes in a way you were never able to do in live action.

And if you are an artist or cartoonist and you hear the word 'animation', you sob uncontrollably in the dark with your cubicle-mate, a guy who doesn't talk, named Cintiq.

'Animation' is a very bad word in this town. This guild should never have added smut like that to its name.

Anonymous said...

Does anybody even listen to anything Andrew Stanton has to say-or care? I mean, he's just an animator.

Steve Hulett said...

As was/is Frank Tashlin, David Swift, Tim Burton, Kevin Lima, Brad Bird, etc. etc.

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