Never do anything that somebody else can do better. That’s why we ordinarily sidestep stories that could be done successfully in live action instead of animated action.
Yesterday, the new Spider-Verse trailer dropped, and it looks fantastic. This is not a surprise. Of course it does. The first one looked fantastic, and this one is in the same style by the same people. It’s hard for it to look anything but fantastic. (This is one of the places where it’s hardest to think of Roger Ebert, who died ten years ago yesterday, as not having the experience, because I am certain he would love that movie.) It is doing things with animation that have always been possible but are only now really beginning to be played with.
When Guillermo del Toro accepted his Oscar for Pinocchio, his declaration was that animation is not a genre. And it’s not. It’s a medium. What’s more, it’s a medium rife with possibilities that somehow is thought of as merely being “just for kids.” Not, you understand, that there’s anything wrong with stuff for kids; there’s a lot of stuff for kids that I still love—and after taking yesterday’s article image of the kids watching Pocoyo, we kept watching Pocoyo. But it’s true that animation is thought of as limited in a way there’s no reason for it to be.
There are books I read and think, “The only way to adapt this is in animation.” And then there are live-action adaptations that disappoint me, because there’s so much they can’t do. The worst offenders are the live-action, or often “live-action,” Disney ones, because ye Gods Walt would be annoyed that they had to cut out what made the stories actually interesting that way. But honestly, there are so many other movies where you think, “Why wasn’t this an animated series instead?”
Now, part of it I’m sure is that animation isn’t cheap. It’s getting cheaper with computer technology, and Pocoyo proves it’s possible to do interesting stories without spending a whole lot of time on things like backgrounds. But still. And I’m sure that a lot of the more experimental animation takes a whole lot more development than just sticking some actors in a room and filming them. (I have just oversimplified the heck out of filming, and I get that.) On the other hand, there’s no reason not to do that if you have the opportunity.
Oh, it’s also true that things like Into the Spider-Verse have the similar problem of being in the superhero genre, which is also often thought of as being just for kids. But it seems sometimes as though people have a hard time grasping the idea that there’s anything between “for kids” and “hardcore import pornography.” And there is. It’s an easy way to tell stories that are harder to film. We should really just get into the habit of watching all the animation that’s out there without worrying about the idea that it’s for kids.