Saying Goodbye to Dark Animation

To all reading this, it has been a pleasure and a delight to write this column and talk about my favorite animated films. As I approach graduation in just a few weeks, it has been hard knowing that these are my final days on this campus. I am graduating in the spring with a degree in Writing Communication, and I will be pursuing the best career that I can find. I would not be surprised if I ended up in journalism somehow.

Before I leave the campus forever, I wanted to compile a list of my favorite animations that I didn’t get to mention in my time as the columnist, and maybe mention some of my favorite parts of those that I did. Each one of the films I reviewed had a bit of a personal place in my heart because animation was something I grew up with that helped shape my childhood, teaching me the values that helped make me the person I am today.

Even though I am not an expert on animation in any sense of the word, animated films have always meant more to me than your average movie. One of the reasons is that I was born with Asperger’s Syndrome which is a developmental disorder on the autism spectrum. As a child, empathy and understanding the emotions of others was always difficult and reading them was even more so.

However, with animation, expressions are exaggerated more than what you would see on a normal human face, and I could understand the emotions of the characters and follow the movie better than non-animated films.

Of the movies I have reviewed, I think it is fair to say that DreamWorks Studios and their movies have been among my favorites. Dreamworks movies I have reviewed include the How To Train Your Dragon series and Prince of Egypt. You can see a lot of different nuances in their animation, and though many of the movements of the characters are a little rougher than what you might see in Disney, this was the thing that stood out most to me. The movements of their characters seemed more alive in this sense.

Because of this I had a bit of a bias towards them and tried to keep away from Disney movies for a long time. However, it was hard not to acknowledge the masterful storytelling in movies like Ratatouille and Zootopia.

One of the reasons I made sure to include Ratatouille was because there was one moment where the cinematography comes into play with the food critic. His first bite of ratatouille suddenly cuts to a scene of him as a child, coming home from a supposed bike injury and his mother made him ratatouille to cheer him up.

In that short moment, you suddenly understand everything that brought the critic to where he was today and why he was the person he was. Instead of seeing him as the villain, you suddenly find yourself rooting for him. There is also a monologue done by his character towards the end of the movie that has a great poignant significance, and the end is so incredibly satisfying that it is impossible to be unhappy with the movie.

However, of the list of animated movies that I didn’t include and love dearly mostly come from one place: Studio Ghibli. This studio worked directly with Hayao Miyazaki to make some of the most beautifully fluid animation I have ever seen.

The stories are fantastic, of course, like with Princess Mononoke, Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, Castle in the Sky, Spirited Away, The Wind Rises, The Secret World of Arrietty and even Ponyo. The reason I never reviewed these movies or brought them up was because I wanted to focus on the movies most people would be familiar with, and while I am sure there are plenty of people on campus that are just as big of an anime nerd as I am, not everyone agrees on anime being good. I can not entirely say that they are wrong for it, as anime has changed with each generation so not everything is good.

Animation helped me more than I would have ever thought in helping to become empathetic to others, and for that I will always be grateful. Another thing is that you have to appreciate the incredible amount of work that goes into creating animation, drawing each frame out and making sure everything fits and looks perfect for the viewers.

For those in our school that pursue animation or plan to pursue any kind of art, you have my greatest respect because that work takes days, weeks, even months to get done. And with it, you can tell such incredible stories, sometimes entirely without dialogue and just through those images. And if someone tries to tell you that cartoons are bad for you, just tell them that the exaggerated expressions of cartoons help to educate kids on the spectrum to be more empathetic.

As I approach graduation and look back on everything I have done in the last four years, I can not help but feel a little proud to know that I will be leaving this school with fond memories of all of the good people I have met, the good work I have done, and all the fantastic moments that made this school the best place for me. Thank you all for enjoying what I had to say on animated movies and supporting my interests.

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