With the award season behind us one thing has become quite clear: Soul is the big winner when it comes to the animated feature category. Especially for the general public, because Soul won the Academy Award, the Bafta and the Golden Globe award. When the award ceremonies are mentioned on the news in The Netherlands, the aforementioned three are usually the ceremonies covered. But the animated feature award is not the highest profile award that’s handed out. At least, not for the general public. So it is not very likely that the they will hear about the winner of the animated feature award. Because often animated features can be as fun to watch as any of the live action films nominated.
Why this is a problem
I’m not sure how the general film community looks at animated features, but I know that many people, at least in my immediate social circle, still think that animation is for children. And it is very true that most animated features are targeted towards younger people. But that doesn’t mean it’s not for adults.
Think about Shrek; that film was as funny for adults as it was for children because of the references only adults would understand. And despite the fact that many films speak to adults on a certain level, I think that like Shrek, Soul is a film that very easily transcends its expected target demographic. Which makes it a natural candidate to take away all the awards. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best film of the nominees and thus claim the award. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Soul and it deserves all the accolades it received. But wouldn’t it be great if another film won the award against all odds? I think that it would cause a buzz but the question is if that’s the best for animation as a medium.
Good film or an outlier
We are very blessed to live in the age of streaming. With excellent internet connections and streaming platforms like Disney+, Netflix and Crunchyroll the access to animation has never been as low as in recent times. While Disney is known for its outstanding animated library Netflix is competing with a growing library of diverse animated shows and films. And while platforms like Crunchyroll have been a staple for the anime loving community, it is great for a person new to the medium of animation to have multiple points of entry. But no matter the library, it takes a film that speaks to you as a viewer to grow interest in this medium and learn to appreciate its many facets. Soul is one of those outliers because contrary to the other nominees in this year’s award season I think it speaks more to adults with its thematic, setting and music. Not to say it cannot be enjoyed by children or that they won’t understand its message, but tonally it is constructed to speak to those of us with a bit more life experience. At least, in my humble opinion.
Attention and invitation
At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if Soul; The Croods: A new Age; Over the Moon; Onward; A Shaun the Sheep movie: Farmageddon or Wolfwalkers was your favorite film of the last year. To me, this list of films is a celebration of the medium. An invitation to the diversity of styles that animation has to offer. The downside to this list is that there aren’t more different films on it. There were a ton of fun releases last year and I would’ve liked something like Jiang Ziya or a “true anime” on it. But while this is not the case it is no excuse not to watch animation with your friends and relatives to celebrate this great medium and at the same time give it some needed attention. Because animation is a fantastical world of wonders which live action will never be able to put on display.