The press happily greeted the major Toy Story 3 weekend success that led to cashing in a whooping $109 million. This once again labels Pixar as producer of movies for children and adults that you will never regret spending your money on. Capitalizing the glory of previous Toy Story movies, the new release has taken the story further, dealing with the eternal issue of how to let go of children when they go to college, spiced with a few hints of aging and death of the adult world. No wonder there were reports of more adults than children coming to see it!
Other than the storyline, the current trend of turning animations into movies that are suitable for adults as well is not entirely new and Pixar is definitely not the only supporter of this phenomenon. The Shrek series, Ice Age, Cars, Wall-E, a lot of recent movies have had a considerable adult audience. Add the fact Disneyland is becoming one of their favorite getaways and you have a cultural shift where animation and cartoon characters are part of adult lives, along with cartoon-like games, comic strips and graphic novels.
Movie makers are not on the market for the love of art alone, they are good at making money (at least in most cases, the latest Shrek does show the franchise was not that successful in washing away the Shrek the Third disappointment), and they will pursue those productions that are bound to make people spend money, for their children and themselves alike.
But is it really a surprise today’s 20 and 30-somethings love animations? We’ve all grown up with hordes of cartoon series being broadcast everyday. Cartoon Network, Animax, Fox Kids are just a few of the many we had access to.
From Disney classics to Asian anime, from Tom and Jerry to Final Fantasy and Two Stupid Dogs, we’ve seen it all and grew up with them. Remember Johnny Bravo? Who would you say appreciated it more, a small kid who had no idea what chasing girls meant, or teens who had to face guys wearing too much hair gel everyday?
While big production animations are only now taking the stage and proving their worth, cartoon characters that appeal to several group ages are not that new. The smart and sometimes twisted humor is not a recent addition and adults haven’t just started to watch such films, they’ve actually been doing it for a while.
The background is there, with a clear message that animation movies can have a huge success among adults, all there needs to be done is to come up with a good film. And while other still struggle to make up for past failures, Pixar only has to worry about not screwing up. As of now, a movie with the Pixar label has all it needs for people to come see it. Saying their animations will rock is like saying Volvos are safe.
What is the effect on children? This is the most important question. How does the changing focus of movies previously dedicated to them to adults affect them? Do they grow up faster or miss out on the lessons they were supposed to learn?
I’d say the lessons and the morals of the stories are still there. They might be darker and harsher, but they are also a little more honest. While Roadrunner was always fun to watch, predators don’t always fail in their mission, falling from a ten-story building does not mean you walk away unscratched and being honest to children will get their attention.
But there’s a fine line between adapting your teaching technique to today’s fast going, super-tech world and changing animation too much to get the adults’ money while needing to banish under aged kids from the movie theater to keep their minds healthy. Not stepping over the line is the money-making trick here.Why? Because children need to grow up with cartoons to later appreciate them as grownups. Take them out of their lives because you focus too much on this generation of adults and you’ll see your customer base shrinking drastically in a few decades.