Over the last 15 weeks of class, I have realized two things. First, producing animation is just not for me, and second, I have a new-found respect for those who can produce this kind of work and make a career out of it. The time, effort, and skill level required to make 2D animation is mind-boggling. My final animation- The Rescue- took me so many hours to complete (if I had to guess I would say 600+ hours) I thought it would be the end of me, and that animation is only 3:15 long. So, I have to wonder what it takes to produce something along the lines of “The Incredibles 2” or “Big Hero 6”. So, why would a studio produce something that takes teams of hundreds, putting in thousands and thousands of hours over several years to produce, into circulation for the public to enjoy, besides the expected monetary return of course? Simple… Animation IS FUN…!
Recently, I read an article online about the popularity of Animation as a movie form and the growing industry of animation. Specifically, the growing popularity of Japanese animation or Anime. Anime is based on what Americans might refer to as Graphic Novels, however, in Japan these novels are called Manga, which are more akin to continuous story comic books. But why the surge in popularity? While I have no concrete proof, I believe mass social media is a big part of it. With the advent of social media, the world has become much smaller. The younger generation is being introduced to different cultures at a much younger age. And like most kids, there is a nostalgia to relive those childhood memories as they get older. I still watch old black and white Godzilla movies when they come on TV, so I get it. But, unlike Godzilla, Anime stories are continuous. Take the popularity of “Dragon Ball”. That particular show spawned the continuing story of Goku in Dragon Ball Z, and is now several seasons into Dragon Ball Super. Also, there are several OVA and stand-alone movies derived from the series as a whole.
Here is the thing, pre-teens who watched Dragon Ball in 1986 are now in their 40’s, and like them, I have continued to watch. But, for a 10 year period there was no “Dragon Ball” series except re-runs. The story had ended, until “Z” came around. So, in the interim, I found myself venturing off the path, and exploring other Anime series, mostly in an attempt to find another series I could enjoy as much as Dragon Ball. But at the time, there was no Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu. Furthermore, Anime was expensive to buy on any sort of media… VHS for example… Yes I know that shows my age, but hey.. Point being, Anime was not widely available on the fledgling internet, or in any mass distribution form in the US until the last 10-12 or so years. But, even then, the popularity did not really take off until more recently. One of the major contributors is the introduction of the simul-dub. Previously, smaller Japanese Anime franchises (Limited to 1-2 seasons) were only broadcast in well… Japanese… So popularity was limited to those Anime fans who, A: had no problem understanding Japanese, or….., B: Didn’t mind reading sub-titles throughout the entire series. Sad to say, I am not either of these. I watch them now and think back to my childhood days of watching Godzilla for instance, or old Kung Fu Theater movies, and I can’t help but laugh at the dubbing. Watching the actors mouths move but having the dialog not synchronized in any semblance of order is what made those movies so campy, nostalgic and silly, but, oh so much fun to watch! But the younger generation, well… they would never stand for such travesty… The horror! But, in today’s society of instant gratification Anime is dubbed in English and broadcast within a day or two of the original Japanese airing. And, unlike the campy Kung Fu movies, synchronizing the audio to the video does not have the same feel or face the same challenges. I only say this from my own experience during the semester, trying to match audio and video in a cohesive manner. Thus, the advantage of animation. Since animation does not require precise synching of facial movement, actors only need a script to voice the audio before producers at companies such as Funimation or Aniplex even receive the actual video. This has led to a readily available supply of new animations that appeal to a more technologically based generation. Gamers love such fantasy franchises as “Sword Art Online” or “No Game, No Life”, while young teenage boys drool over the likes of “Sekirie” and “High School DxD”. After all, what teenage boy doesn’t want to see naked breasts? Childish…? Maybe… But, if you look at the numbers from an accounting standpoint… It sells… Maybe not nearly to the extent of a Hollywood Blockbuster, but considering it barely costs Funimation anything for the production, selling 20k copies of a DVD for a season, at 60-100$ a pop, or $2.99 an episode to stream on Amazon Prime is a pretty good return. And since the actors generally star in multiple dubbed animations at once, I am sure their compensation is worth the work. And with the popularity increasing, producers are starting to cater to a more mature audience. The adult viewer, myself included, can enjoy darker Netflix originals such as “Castlevania” and “Ajin”. And as more distribution methods become available, more exposure is creating newer, younger fans, who will no doubt be a driving force in the demand for more of the same. In the end, Anime is becoming mainstream. Creating demand is becoming easier and easier as people start looking for the next season of their favorites and demanding they be put out by the studios. And the studios are all too willing to oblige… As for me… I am waiting for season 5 of High School DxD… Because after all… I am still a teenage boy at heart….