Sunday, February 28, 2016

"Anomalisa" and Why "Adult" Stop Motion is Killing the Art Form

With the Oscars® so close (tonight if you are reading this on the day which it's coming out) and all the hype surrounding the award ceremony, I think there's no better time to consider one of this year's nominees in the Animated Feature Films category, which is also the second Stop Motion film nominated: Anomalisa.

Anomalisa is a film directed by Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), based off a 2005 play he wrote. Now in this post I want to take a different angle that's not coming from a story standpoint, or quality. I have yet to see the film for myself so I cannot argue for or against it on those standpoints. (Although it should be said that even from what we see from the trailers and the featurettes that the production value on Anomalisa is stunning and incredible.) But what I would like to consider in this thought experiment is what this film means to the Stop Motion industry and why this and other R-rated Stop Motion films might just be killing other Stop Motion projects in the future. And yes, if you are unfamiliar with the more recent history, there have been other R-rated Stop Motion films who have well achieved their rating. The 2009 film $9.99 directed by  Tatia Rosenthal and featuring the voice of Geoffrey Rush. Consider as well the upcoming Hell & Back, a raunchy R-rated Stop Motion film directed and made by the minds behind Adult Swim's Robot Chicken.

The reason R-rated Stop Motion films might be killing the industry is simple: if executive producers and the Hollywood boards who give films the 'green light' start to see Stop Motion associated with R-rated material, I don't think it's a far stretch to say they will jump to kill every Stop Motion production pitch or idea that comes to them.

Anomalisa and $9.99 are intended for adults and I get that they are artsy films, and that's wonderful. Hell & Back is not, but regardless, all of the films have the same effect: all of them make Stop Motion something that is roped off to younger audiences or at least not something you would watch like you might a Pixar film or other mainstream CGI features. And without that mass market appeal, Stop Motion becomes labeled as even more a door nail in the coffin of Box Office failures. If movies don't make money, execs have a habit of making sure they never make those kinds of movies again.

But what does this mean for us, as the Stop Motion community? I think it fair to say that only time will truly tell. Stop Motion films, R-rated or not, do historically poor at the Box Office. That might also be a factor in why we are getting R-rated Stop Motion. Perhaps it's the executive's way of trying something "new" in what may seem like this certain genre of films, since they have been unsuccessful in the recent years. I for one want to continue to see Stop Motion films coming out in the theaters and reaching a wide audience. With the hopes that they spark an image of the beauty of Stop Motion in the minds of those who will be the future generation of animators and directors. Films to leave an impact in the animation industry generally for the better, and not the worse.

What do you think? Is R-rated Stop Motion good or bad for the community and the industry? How will it shape films to come? Comment below or send me an email (address can be found in the "Contact" section of the blog).

I've posted a link below to some of the BTS of Anomalisa. Story and thematic elements besides, the attention to detail and crafting of this film is incredible.

Anomalisa- Sculpting Animated Characters with Carol Koch ­- Variety Artisans

Anomalisa trailer #1:

As a side note let's compare the previous trailer with the trailer for the 09 film, $9.99

...The similarities are uncanny. Both market almost exactly the same themes (love, the true meaning of life, happiness, and others), although the exact animation style used to execute the films is different ($9.99 employs Claymation while Kaufman's film takes the route of traditional puppet-animation and using a replacement-animaton technique to animation the mouths, similar to that of Laika for ParaNormanCoraline, and The Boxtrolls). Maybe it's just something about the vulnerability of the art form that would inspire such similar concepts, and the Anomalisa play came out in '05, which means it was before $9.99, but there's also the possibility that the idea for the medium in which to make the film was derived from the other film.