Films show that animation is more than child’s play
More adults are seeing “kids’ movies” than ever, and this time, it isn’t only to placate a screaming seven-year-old. We wholeheartedly enjoy them.
One Friday night last July, I found myself sobbing uncontrollably in a movie theatre, five minutes into Pixar’s “Up”—a film that is, for all intents and purposes, meant for children. Not helping was the throng of stone-faced ten-year-old girls in the row in front of me, whispering: “Hey, I think that lady behind us is crying.” Uh-oh.
Who is the target audience of films such as “Up”? The viewership of children’s films has expanded to include adults—even cynical college students. Young adults enjoy movies that remind them of an idyllic past—a place of misleading simplicity but also surprising complexity. More adults are seeing “kids’ movies” than ever, and this time, it isn’t only to placate a screaming seven-year-old. We wholeheartedly enjoy them.
On Feb. 2, the Academy Awards nominated Pixar’s “Up” for Best Picture. It became the first animated film to be nominated since Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” and the first since the installment of the Best Animated Feature award. Recently, there has been a renaissance of “family friendly” films—in particular, animated films—which are finally able to compete with live-action features in viewership and overall quality. Consider the plethora of well-reviewed animated films of 2009: “Coraline,” “Ponyo,” “Up,” and “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” among others.
There are two reasons for this resurgence of interest in children’s movies: Contemporary PG-rated movies are simply better than the average R-rated ones, and “kids’ movies” have become increasingly relevant to young adults. Pixar in particular manages to perfectly fuse these two qualities.
Tony Jin, CC ’10, said, “I could write an essay on why I liked ‘Up!’. I think adults watch Pixar because we have come to expect a level of artistic maturity from all of their films.”
Twenty or thirty years ago, the average college student would never watch a children’s film when an action flick or a thriller was readily available. Now the tables have turned: the best-made films are often PG, and even directors such as Wes Anderson are beginning to branch out. Anderson’s films have been marketed to hipster young adults for so long that the inclusion of a children’s film—“The Fantastic Mr. Fox”—in his oeuvre has become a mark of the kids’ film revolution. Anderson has also managed to retain his signature aesthetic and produce a work of art as enjoyable as, if not better than, its R-rated predecessors.
Jenny Lam, CC ’09, who dreams of working with Pixar, said, “I don’t think family-friendly films are just now expanding viewership to include adults—I think we, as an audience, are beginning to realize that ‘family-friendly’ is not equivalent to ‘kids only’—it means there is something for everyone. As an audience, we are also finally beginning to accept the fact that something like animation—often associated with kids—isn’t a genre, but a medium.”
Of course, there are kids’ movies, and there are kids’ movies. Some college students may rush to the theatre to see “Coraline,” but most would never voluntarily set foot in “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.” The difference between these films lies in levels of artistry and plot complexity.
“Family friendly” no longer means “simple plot, no curse words”—the possibilities for these films are infinite, and college students have become a more than willing audience for their artistic feats.