How filmmakers are changing the perception of animation

How filmmakers are changing the perception of animation

Animation has evolved. In fact, it’s been evolving for years now. No longer is this bright, artistic medium reserved for Saturday morning cartoons and child friendly cinema screenings. It’s been an art form in its own right for quite some time now, enjoyed equally by discerning adults as it is kids.

 “What is the future of animation?”

Which begs the questions – with masterful studios like Studio Ghibli, Disney and Pixar always looking for new ways to connect with this diverse audience and the runaway success of adult-friendly series like Bojack Horseman and Rick and Morty, what does the future of animation hold? And, as more and more animations start to replicate complex, adult emotions through the medium, is animation actually getting more human? We dove a little into the future, to suss out where the trends are going and caught up with motion designer and animator ARM Sattavorn to see what’s in store for animation.

So, what’s the current trend?-The-future-of-adult-animation-Rick-and-Morty

To see where it’s heading, a good place to start is with the here and now. Animators are masters of their craft. You need only watch an episode of Adventure Time or scroll through some skilfully crafted Instagram shorts to see that there’s a trend towards using animation as a medium for adults.

More than ever, we’re starting to see shorts and animations which mirror our modern, real-world relationships and emotions in ways which sway against the tradition. It’s more relatable, more visceral, more tangibly what we feel in the everyday, represented on screen in abstract, animated ways.

 “It’s more relatable, more visceral, more tangibly what we feel in the everyday”

One reason we might be leaning towards this animated artform as a way to express more complex emotions or adult sensations is that it’s not a direct replica of ourselves. Rather than casting actors to play out the parts, which can still be equally as expressive, animation lends itself to communicating sensations which physically can’t be captured in film form. It’s more forgiving and offers the flexibility to play with well trodden themes in new ways; be it through humour, abstract art, character pieces not out of place in a Pixar film or simply 2D shapes.

And, if as discussed in more detail in our “How to convey emotion with animation” blog, we’re using animation as a vessel for emotion, this leaves us with the question – is it actually becoming more human?

Going Viral

If you were among the 28 million people who have watched this beautiful short that’s been circulating around the internet recently, then you’ll know how an animated little heart can bring even the most unemotional among us to tears. If not, get ready for some serious feels.

Created by student filmmakers at Ringling College of Art & Design, Beth David and Esteban Bravo, ‘In a Heartbeat’ is a charming, emotionally charged tale about teenage love that challenges our perceptions of what animation is – both as a narrative and an art form.

“‘In A Heartbeat’ offers a more modern take on traditional tales”

With a hunger for animation that bends the status quo, ‘In A Heartbeat’ offers a more modern take on traditional tales, often told through the medium of character animation. With echoes of a Disney Animation Studios short and a distinctly unique style, it tells the story of two boys in love and sings a more inclusive note in the industry. It’s a touchstone that reads on a bright, brass plaque “We’re not afraid to use animation in a more human way. To be real and experience every emotion on the spectrum.” More importantly, it’s something everyone can relate to.

So, is it easier for us to relate to animation, rather than seeing two real people? And are we looking to make animation closer to us – that doesn’t necessarily have to be crude or comic to be relatable for adults?

Asking the experts

To get a real sense for just how much scope the future holds and work out if we’re really going down the more human path, or if, in fact, we’re drawn more to the abstract side of animation, we talked to talented animator and motion designer, ARM Sattavorn , about how the style can differ depending on your audience.

Q: How does animating for adults, differ to animating for kids?

“In my opinion, the content, concept, or the way it’s presented, differs depending on the audience or target group. Imagine if you are a teacher in an Elementary School or University. Of course, you will teach your students in a different style and with different content. Same thing with animation. If the audience is adults, you can have a complex message, deep concept, and a complex storyline. If your audience are kids, you need to make sure they will be entertained by it and enjoy it and understand the concept.”

Q: Is animation today, more of a reflection on our everyday lives?

“The best story you can tell is the story that you know very well. If it’s based on your experiences, you can present what you really feel. What you understand is not right or wrong, but people who have the same experience might understand it differently. So the way you tell and present what you feel and think to the audience is the tough part.”

 “The best story you can tell is the story that you know very well”

Q: Is it easier to communicate complex emotions with human characters in animation?

“First, we have to understand that Animation is just another way of communicating. Everyone loves stories and when people think about stories, they make up something in their head. It creates an experience based on what they have seen or done in the past.

“Animation is just another way of communicating”

“The character doesn’t have to be human for us to relate to it, but it should have human feelings. I bet 99% of people will tell a story about a boy, a girl, a bear, a cat, a toaster, peanut butter, or whatever, doing something related to what we feel or do every day.  But I can’t say that human characters are the easiest way to communicate complex emotions because, in terms of telling a story, we always make easy things more complicated.”

Q: And what about the future of adult animation?

“These days, everyone can make an animation because a personal computer is cheaper, smaller and more powerful. Also, we have so many ways to get the assets to make animation, including the knowledge. A lot of art schools have animation classes or online classes, not to mention the free tutorials online that a lot of talented artists share. So everyone can get the tools, assets, and knowledge to communicate their idea.

“I think it’s hard to predict which direction animation will move to in the future. My honest answer is I don’t know what the future of animation will look like but I want us to make sure we are open for anything that comes up.”

You can see more of ARM’s work here and if you’re interested in talking more about the world of animation and how it can be used to communicate, drop us a line.

Pebble Studios
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