The Musings of an Animation Omnivore

I really like animation. The power and flexibility is far superior in my opinion than what is possible with live action. I watch a lot of animation. I am also building a large collection of animated DVD series and movies. I’ll turn on Cartoon Network before I check out Sci Fi, Discovery, or any of the regular networks when I just want to kill an hour or two.

Beginning with Duck Amuck and other Chunk Jones classics I learned to love the flexibility and power that an animator had to tell a story while not limited by physics and reality. I really feel sorry for people I’ve met that “don’t like cartoons”. It’s like saying that you don’t like movies or don’t like plays. Unfortunately, in the US animation is thought of as being for children while elsewhere in the world they realize that it is a medium that can be for anyone. Indeed many of my favourite animation titles include parts that are without question NOT for children.

Let me also make special note of two of the early pioneers of animation that had a huge influence on the genre. Chuck Jones is the giant. He had a sense of how to tell the story and bring the characters alive in a way that no one before him had. Tex Avery did a lot of surreal stretching and slapstick humour but his characters were not alive in the way that Bugs Bunny was. Mickey Mouse was a commercial success but the animation of it and the rest of the early Disney works is just not on the level of the top form Chuck Jones Warner Brothers cartoons. Bugs had a personality, a back story, some depth. Elmer Fudd had a reason he was trying to do things. Their motions were graceful without being surreal. This is a depth of story that other animators didn’t even attempt. Indeed it has only been approached in the last few decades with some of the high level material coming out of Asia. That’s how far ahead of his time Chuck Jones was.

I also want to make special mention of HannahBarbara Studios. In the 1950s HB discovered that they could sell really cheap cartoons with poor animation, little if any real story, and paper thin characters to television stations looking for something to fill Saturday morning and the after school hours during the week. A generation or two of Americans grew up thinking that Yogi Bear, Scooby Doo, and The Flintstones WAS animation and stopped watching it as they grew up. This has also had the strange effect of causing adults who don’t like cartoons to act like there is something wrong with those of us that like quality animation.

Perhaps because I’m a writer at heart I give more weight to good story and character development than to the animation. Quality animation is important but what constitutes quality is a grey area. Just because something is in 3D doesn’t mean that it is necessarily better than flat animation. Computer doesn’t mean better or worse than hand drawn. Just as there is fine art in classical realism, impressionist, and abstract styles, and good music can be found in pop, classical, country, and rap, similarly some of the best animation can be CGI, or flat pen, paint, and ink, even sand, or stop motion. The quality of the art is independent of the style. You do, however have to have a good deep story to tell or all the pretty pictures are for naught. If you don’t agree, and I’ve heard from some that don’t, check out the Chuck Jones short film The Dot & The Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics. Funny, moving, absolutely delightful, and done with just a dot and a couple of lines.

As you might have gotten I don’t specialize. I like Anime, and CGI, and Classic Pen and Ink and claymation. I like all animation however it’s done as long as it’s done well.

The THE Problem
One of the issues in any sort of database or library is what to do with titles that begin with ‘The’. If you dump them into T then you have a huge number of entries and still have the needle-in-the-haystack problem the index was intended to solve. Instead I will be ignoring any leading ‘The’. The Oblongs will be listed under Oblongs. The Simpsons will be listed under Simpsons. Arbitrary? Yes, but this seems to be common practice in libraries

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