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Animated pictures warm the heart and soul

Chris McGrady | Sunday, April 1, 2007

I’m not afraid to admit it – I like Disney movies. I mean, really like Disney movies. In fact, not just Disney, but animated movies in general appeal to me more than any live-action movies I have seen in years. Pixar, Dreamworks and even Warner Bros. ventures such as “Happy Feet” tickle me in a way that has me saying, “Oh yeah, that’s nice.”

It’s not really that I dislike seeing real people acting on camera. I liked “The Departed” as much as the next guy. That one scene where Leo totally works that guy over in the convenience store is just awesome, but I digress. The truth of the matter is that animated films are becoming increasingly realistic, to the point where it’s nearly picture-real.

If the animation studios can convince me that animals and actors on the screen are at least nearly real, then why not? It seems often times the plots of these animated movies are better than half the stuff the mega-movie factories churn out. Plus, the hidden “adult” jokes in these primarily children’s flicks strikes me as particularly funny.

However, it isn’t really a recent development that has drawn me into being an animation aficionado. I was raised on a steady diet of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” 7 a.m. cartoon network viewings and Disney’s “Peter Pan.” Perhaps my affection for these cartoonish creations extends further than just a personal preference, but maybe it is something that has been ingrained in me during my childhood. In the debate over nature versus nurture, I have a sneaking suspicion my propensity toward animated flicks is from being a product of my environment.

Steeped in these childhood cartoon memories is a lot of emotion. I remember laughing during “101 Dalmatians,” imitating the antics of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in my pajamas, and crying during “Peter Pan” when the Darlings left behind Nana, the benevolent nanny-dog. (Don’t hate, my dog had just died and it was a hard time for an 8-year-old).

But really, I think my preference for animated films comes down to quality. So often movies today are just not good. For every “Departed” there are 10 “Norbits.” But every single animated movie I’ve seen in probably the past 10 years has been really good – “Shrek” (both I and II), “The Emperor’s New Groove,” “Happy Feet,” “Toy Story” (I and II), just to name a few. This consistency of good movies has me more amped for animated movies that come out than half of the “normal” flicks.

It seems to me that maybe the live action folks should take a clue from the animated studios. Develop a plot. Be fresh and original. Make jokes that are actually funny and not just based off crude and/or stupid humor. (Yes, “Dumb and Dumber” is exempt from this rule – that movie is awesome.) Really, it’s not that I don’t like the normal films, and my favorite movie (“Good Will Hunting”) is one of them, but I really just wish the studios would step up their game. In the mean time, I’m perfectly content with my animated films.

Contact Chris McGrady at cmcgrad1@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.