There is more to cartoons than Dreamworks, Pixar or Disney. I love having moments that elucidate this to my kids who, like the rest of the world, are bombarded by Hollywood formulas. I don't deny Pixar can make wonderful movies. Toy Story. Cars. Up. Disney offered Tangled as a pleasant surprise last year. Dreamworks had the very cool How to Train Your Dragon, but unfortunately they also had Megamind. The point is, kids are bound to watch a bunch of crap out there, so I try to curate their movie experiences while I can still tell them what to watch. Call me their cultural despot, I don't really care. One day they may declare Shrek 3 is awesome. God forbid! Knock on wood. But at least they will get to watch Howl's Moving Castle and other Miyazaki animated classics before making that conclusion. They already enjoyed Miyazaki's Ponyo, loved Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox and Neil Gaiman's Coraline adapted as an animated feature, so things are looking up.
Which leads me to the heart of today's post.
Yesterday, the kids and I watched the oh so lovely and touching animated movie The Illusionist. Exactly the kind of cinema that should be leaving a lasting impression on little media consumers. It is a beautiful, handcrafted 2D cartoon that shows the real soul and magic of animation. Every frame is like a painting... artfully drawn, composed and colored. No over-the-top 3D. No screaming visuals. Story-wise, no hackneyed formula. Like The Red Balloon, this film hardly even uses any dialogue for it's entire 80-minute run. It doesn't need to. The movie is not about plot. It is about emotion, but it's not at all sappy. Like all good movies, it simply offers impressions of life as it is, no judgements or moral propaganda. It's also funny, in a Charlie Chaplin sort of way. And my kids, like many kids, loved the physical comedy.
Warning though, the movie touches on some adult themes, poverty and suicide included, so be prepared to answer questions. I'm the contextualizing, rather than censoring type of parent, so… if you're not, perhaps watch it first and see if you're ready to show your kids younger than 10?
The Illusionist was one of my recent favorite movie moments. It's a cartoon for big kids as well grown-ups who like thoughtful movies that aren't just about explosions, action sequences and contrived plot twists. Might be something you want to catch this weekend. Have a good one!