Renowned Russian film maker and pioneer of the practice of montage in films, Sergie Eisentein perfectly captured the magic of animation when he said:
We know that they are…drawings, and not living beings
We know that they are projections of drawings on a screen.
We know that they are…. ‘miracles’ and tricks of technology…that such beings don’t really exist.
But at the same time, he admitted:
We sense them as alive.
We sense them as moving.
We sense them as existing and even thinking.
(Sergei Eisenstein, quotes in ‘Leyda’, 1988: 55)
For most of us, growing up, animation is our first brush with those eternal human emotions – romance, tragedy, grief, love, hate, happiness and loss. We continue to hold animated films close to our hearts, and grab a second chance to watch them with our kids. However, regardless of its power to hold most audiences spellbound, there are those die-hard movie aficionados that believe animation fails to communicate realistic messages and create relatable characters.
Love them or hate them, research clearly indicates that animation connects with a variety of viewers and can have a significant impact on our lives.
Non-animated videos are inherently limited by reality and can easily alienate audiences that cannot relate to the focal characters or the rigid storyline. Animators, on the other hand, have the freedom to develop characters, messages, and environments that appeal to a whole host of viewers that want to be a part of the experience.
Animations also offer a range of intentions and narratives that in turn provoke a variety of responses from audiences. As animator Bill Plympton wisely said, anyone can enjoy animation as an “art form that has no limits, no borders, and no rules.”
One of the 12 principles of animation is to ‘appeal’. All characters in animation must appeal, whether it is the hero, villain, or comic. Now that technology has allowed animation to mature, animated characters can better mimic the emotions and body language of real people to attract an even larger audience. Animators are in complete control of characters and have the ability to make their stories truly believable. Animators use non-verbal expressions and body language to animate their characters and reflect true emotion. This, in turn, gives audiences a chance to focus on the story instead of getting distracted by unrealistic character behavior.
Animation not only evokes a variety of emotions, but also has a lasting impact on lives. In 1937, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ was the first full-length animated feature film to reach audiences. Viewers immediately fell in love with the characters as they could recognize and identify with them. Viewers were so moved by the characters that they forgot they were watching a hand-drawn storybook. People were drawn to the animation’s storyline, believable actions, and facial expressions. Animation allows viewers to see aspects of themselves in the characters and recognize elements of their family and surroundings.
Animation is so influential that it often arouses feelings of nostalgia. Research shows that Disney feature films tend to have an enduring potential influence on a person’s life. Who could ever forget how heartbroken they felt when Scar murdered Mufasa in The Lion King? Or, how scared they were of the evil Queen in Snow White? The enthralling storyline and the identifiable characters not only evoked strong emotions, but also informed our subsequent views on loss, relationships, and life. These drawings and imagined narratives have a cathartic and powerful effect on viewers. They teach us how to deal with complex situations and emotions and therefore influence our perception.
Research and personal experiences show that animation can have a long-lasting impact on someone’s view of the world. Animators create compelling narratives that move their audiences regardless of age. The drawings and imagined narratives have a cathartic and powerful effect on viewers. Through teaching us – although subtly – to deal with complex situations and emotions, animations exert a dominant influence on our perceptions of everyday reality. Simply said, animation films justifiably transcend boundaries of every kind in their bid to ‘appeal’.