Opinion: Animation is not just for children

TMN Columnist Holly Fisher

Most of us have become familiar with The CW’s popular shows, “Arrow” and “The Flash,” but not many people have even heard of the third show to enter this television universe. “Vixen,” an animated web series, premiered just last week on CW Seed and is designed to become part of the continuity of the live-action shows according to a CBR interview with Marc Guggenheim, an executive producer for “Vixen” and “Arrow.” Lead actors from “Arrow” and “The Flash” such as Grant Gustin and Stephen Amell have even been cast to make appearances throughout the show. However, despite the legitimacy of “Vixen,” the show still is being knocked slightly — wrongly in my opinion — because The CW chose animation over live action.

In almost every interview concerning “Vixen,” the need-to-know question is, “When will Vixen get her own live action show?” In response to this question, Guggenheim’s reply was almost enlightening.

“We’ll have to sort of see how things play out,” said Guggenheim, according to the CBR interview. “But our goal really is to produce the highest-quality animated series.”

People often brush off animated stories as stories designed for children or stories that just weren’t big enough to make it into live action production, but the reality of the situation revolves around the fact that animation is an artistic choice. The target audience of “Vixen” is more or less the same audience targeted by “Arrow” and “The Flash” — not children. The “Vixen” storyline also seems to be on par with those in the live-action shows, making it no less worthy of attention. These principles hold true not only for “Vixen,” but for all forms of animation.

The CW series, “Vixen”, is unlike other TV shows on the network because it is animated. Photo from CWSeed.com.

It is true that animation is more common in the children’s film genre, but as I’ve mentioned before, the choice to make a particular project animated still is a choice, not a requirement. Animating a film or TV series provides writers with options and opportunities not even the magic of special effects can provide. In fact, animated children’s films such as Pixar’s “Up” and “Toy Story” commonly still make lists of great movies in part because they were animated. Any attempt to work “Toy Story” into a live-action setting would have been cheesy at best, no matter how great the story remained and “Up,” which very easily could have been produced as a live action film, would have lost such a bright and whimsical setting that absolutely was essential to the overall message of the film. The animation is a huge part of what makes these films as great as they are, and though they were designed for children, it is nearly impossible for any adult to turn around and say, “Well, it was just a kid’s movie, so it wasn’t that good.”

The choice to use animation holds true for any non-children’s film as well. However, because of a more cultural mindset that animation is for children, we sadly don’t see this much in America. Many foreign animated films have made this choice and have made it very clear what they have produced is not for the consumption of children — the most notable of these films coming out of Japan’s anime genre.

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Anime can be incredibly violent and incredibly sensual depending on what you happen to pick up, but films like “Grave of the Fireflies,” a very emotional anime centered around World War Two, prove anime can provide just as much intensity and depth as the average blockbuster drama. Then, other films like “Watership Down,” as some of us remember much too vividly, are blatantly too disturbing for children. Although, after looking under the surface, there is a high level of symbolism and allegory woven very skillfully into the plot, clearly representing a film that was meant to be taken much more seriously.

So now, when an animated film comes out, it definitely should not be brushed off as “just another kid’s movie” in the way that so commonly happens. Chances are, that film, TV show or whatever it happens to be was very beautifully and artistically created in the same way that any live-action production would be.