Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pixar and Miyazaki

"At the same time, though, Miyazaki's presence points up the limitations of Pixar, which are the limitations of American commercial entertainment generally. Pixar landed on this list, and in the penultimate slot, not strictly on its own merits (which are, as I've said, considerable), but because of its imaginative dominance of family entertainment, and its capacity to shape future moviegoers' sense of what animation (and entertainment) should be. Pixar represents the best of what American commercial filmmaking is. But Miyazaki shows what might be possible without Pixar's inhibitions (or constraints, take your pick).

"Factor out the few dark and disturbing moments in Pixar's films this decade (there haven't been many, really) and you're looking at a body of work that's fairly easy for even the youngest children to grasp and process, and ultimately not challenging compared to Miyazaki. In Pixar films, good characters sound (and usually look) conventionally lovable. Good and evil are clearly defined, and no "good" character's goal is left unmet. And no potentially confusing or disturbing apparition, incident or twist is left unexplained for long.

"Contrast this with Miyazaki's much freer and deeper approach to family entertainment, and you start to see the aesthetic gulf between his work and Pixar's (and, by extension, between the splendid array of animation that thrives internationally and the homogeneous, Pixar-inspired type that dominates U.S. screens). Miyazaki's films are just as visually imaginative as Pixar's and often more so — more painterly and less beholden to the rules of "realism." More importantly, they are never content to define characters as good or evil, or even mostly good or mostly evil, and be done with it. Through a canny combination of sharp draftsmanship, clean animation and simple dialogue, Miyazaki throws children (and often adults) off balance, leaving them unsure what to make of a certain character or situation and forced to grapple with what Miyazaki is doing and showing."

Read the whole article here.


Unknown said...

Simply disgusting how he puts animation on a lower lever than life action

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Anonymous said...

I'm no animation historian, but did the author just call Hanna Barbara trash?

Anyway, oranges are better than apples.

Ricardo Cantoral said...

I know I may be shouted down for this but I am just tired of these "high brow" animated films just like I am tired of the Simpsons imitators. No one is striking the balance in animated film these days.

Thad said...

They both have their vices and virtues, but both can be ridiculously overrated.

Ricardo Cantoral said...

Yes I have been content with some recent animated films and TV shows within the past 20 years. However these clandestine rules hollywood instills in animation has to be broken such as anything for kids has to have good animation and the opposite for adult content. That is the tip of the ice berg of course, these coporate repobates allow none of the freedom or experimentation in the main stream like live action; The only negative aspect that remains from the golden age of animation.

Megan Kearney said...

I think he has a valid point here. Miyazaki's films are just that -- Miyazaki's films (well, except when they are Yoshifumi Kondō's films...then they're much more abstract!). Ghibli's movies are made with a more-or-less individual vision behind them. When there is no vision, the films fail (see Gedo Senki, or My Neighbours The Yamadas).

Pixar, on the other hand, is more of a factory where ideas are processed and synthesized together to create an end product that will be universally appealing.

I won't say one process is better or worse. A lot of Ghibli films wander all over the place and never satisfactorily explain themselves (I think Kiki's Delivery Service and My Neighbour Totoro are the two strongest films, narratively. Howl's Moving Castle, Spirited Away and Nausicaa of the Valley Of Wind get a little lost, and never really bother to solve themselves).

I think the best way to look at the two studios is like this: Pixar will give you a solid, sturdy product that will stand up to a lot of wear-and-tear. Ghibli will give you a journey that you can keep dreaming on.