Blog Post #5: 9

Before I start, I want to apologize for posting two Tim Burton-related things in a row, I didn’t realize 9 was produced by Burton until I found the trailer just now to stick in this post:

That being said… While there are any number of animated films that I could have used to make my point today, I chose 9 because I really enjoy the film and think it is a really good example of how animated films have matured as an art form and are finally being used to tell serious stories with dark overtones, and they are finally being taken seriously by the film-going public.

I actually watched this film a few weeks back, but it popped into my mind while I was doing this weeks reading when Lantz was quoted as saying “I didn’t want to do anything fancy, cartoons are for kids, I just wanted to make cartoons” (or something along those lines). Reading that section made me realize how far “cartoons” have come in the last hundred years or so.

9 explores a great number of “adult” themes such as loss, loneliness, faith, rebellion, and horror, all while set in a apocalyptic dystopian future. Director Shane Acker chose an animated world to tell his story for obvious reasons, as it would be pretty impossible to create believable burlap-beings even as puppets (though I suppose he might have been able to use stop-motion, but that’s beside the point and still animation, so…) and creating the gorgeous environments would have been impossible as well (take a look at the house in the trailer that is barely there yet still standing).

But what sets this film apart from others of its ilk is that the entire film is made seriously and performed as though the characters were real. There is humor, of course, but everything in this film’s world feels like it could exist in ours. The characters are voiced by actors that use their real voices (as opposed to doing “a voice” for the character). Hearing Elijah Wood’s soft-spoken voice come out of a burlap being with a zipper up his tummy is almost jarring at first, but the voices give the characters emotional realism.  The animations and creatures all behave according to believable real-world physics, and there is none of the exaggeration that most animators use to enhance their characters’ movement. The world is covered in believable rust and decay, from the buildings falling apart to the rust on the scissors and exact-o blades the heroes use as weapons.

Beyond all that, the story is moving and has a message about humanity, showing that animated films have moved past the “kiddie cartoons” Walter Lantz complained about in this week’s readings.

On a side note: please feel free to recommend other “serious” animated films you’ve enjoyed if you choose to ad a comment to my post. I’ve seen quite a few, but we can all enjoy more with everyone’s recommendations. =)

Edit: my comments for this week are here and here.

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13 Responses to “Blog Post #5: 9”

  1. K.Wade Says:

    Wow, I have never seen 9 but after reading your blog and watching the trailer I think I may have to check it out! The animated backgrounds are breathtaking, especially the clouds. It is very interesting to see how animation has evolved. It seems cartoons have always had undertones of messages or jokes aimed at adults but nowadays there are animated films that deal strictly with adult subject matter. Animation has become a true art form. Watching animated characters act out human situations with human emotion is quite interesting. Realism is created by using human voices that are not creating a false character voice. This allows you to get drawn into the plot and feel emotion for the characters as if they were truly human. Animation recommendation: Have you seen scanner darkly?

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  3. mtaylo7 Says:

    I remember wanting to see 9 but at the time I remember seeing Coraline (I don’t know if they were around the same time but I’m throughly reminded of this movie) in theaters. Meant for children on some sphere, I felt the movie was made for adults. And just like you described the beings of burlap being interesting, Coraline and her doll form were very well done and give me the intense image of living fabric.

    I believe animation as an adult art form has waned since the early days. I am always happy to see the use of animation as a way of telling more dark, seemingly adult story lines without the constrictions of humans.

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  5. cinnamellon Says:

    I saw previews for 9 and I very much wanted to see it, but I have been hearing many bad reviews, that it is plagued by too thin a plot for too long a film. I remember thinking the characters were great and the animation was good and the trailers made me want to see it, but apparently it is lacking in story–and as we all learned in class, story is vital to the success of a film. Perhaps I heard wrong, or are you just really interested in the genre of animation for adults?

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  7. balberry Says:

    I don’t know where cinnamellon has been hearing about a lack of story. Ignore them and go see the film. Also, anyone else who hasn’t seen 9 needs to do so. I really enjoyed it because it wasn’t about the typical boy meets girl kiddie animation storyline that we’re all used to. I liked it because it was so different from anything I had ever seen.

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  9. cfdemarco Says:

    You made an excellent point with this. The movie really shows how animated movies are moving a little towards the “dark side.” When an animated movie is more themed toward the older crowd, it brings more people to the theaters. That is probably the most prominent reason for why more and more movies are like that. It seems that people are starting to like more dark movies in general. Movie companies seem to be hiding the adult-theme behind a trailer aimed at children, and after the movie, the adults leave more satisfied than the children. It’s movies like the one mentioned in this post that show that cartoons aren’t only for children these days, they are meant for everyone now.

    Honestly, I never wanted to see this movie because I wasn’t really intrigued by the trailer and I hadn’t heard of anyone who had seen the movie either. But after reading this, I am more inclined to at least giving it a chance and finally watching it to see how good, or bad, it really was.

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  11. Jusuchin Says:

    I was originally interested at 9 mainly because it was a Tim Burton film. Not because it was a ‘dark’ and ‘serious’ film, which, upon reading the synopsis on wikipedia and watching trailers, knew it was one, it was more or less just one of the signs that Animation has gone from simple childrens thigns to something more. In terms of darkness or seriousness though, I’ve been seeing animation, namely, Japanese Anime, that has had darker stories, Or at least, stories that aren’t just plain children’s plots. Off the top of my head, was the standard time travel plot anime, Zipang. The premise is that a modern Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force goes back in time to around Battle of Midway-ish and its very presence alters history, leaving the history quite open.

    There is also Princess Mononoke, and its Industrialism vs. Nature theme being given a few twists here and there. It seems that animation has had the capability to delivering awesome stories like this, but, as you’ve said, only just recently has the public been fully aware of it.

  12. uberbaldy Says:

    I would have to disagree with the point that so-called serious stories have only developed in animation recently. While Animation has become a token of childhood entertainment in no ways does this mean that animated tales have lacked depth. Take for example “Sleeping Beauty” or “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. Could anyone really consider these light hearted tales? Both of these films deal with a person, who deals with dark magical forces, whose ultimate goal is the death of another. I can’t see how these stories could possibly be considered as having a story that isn’t ‘serious’. In fact just using “Snow White” as an example all of the “adult” themes you mention in this post are represented. Snow White “losses” her home, knows “loneliness” when the huntsman abandons her in the woods, finds “faith” in the friendship of the woodland creatures and Dwarfs who both “rebell” against the Queen, and then there is “horror” when it is believed that Snow White has died.

    However, while I disagree that only more recent films ave gained a “serious” attitude when it comes to storytelling in animated films. I will submit that while there have been “serious” animated films for just as long as animation has existed. It does seem that most films that begin to follow the “serious” tone overshadow it by making it kid-friendly, more specifically anything Disney.

    Yet there can be a middle ground where animated films can tackle “serious” themes without the dark foreground. For example many of Hayao Miyazaki’s films often deal with a single individual who has to find courage within themselves to fight against what seems an overpowering force. I’ve always seen Miyazaki’s films as having a serious theme but remaining “family-friendly” without the over use of lighthearted moments that negate the darker themes. Also the animated version of the classic sci-fi film “Metropolis” fits into this order of “serious”animated films. Going the opposite route with stories that are heavy on the dark elements you can’t really beat the classic animated film “Akira”.

  13. Cory Says:

    I think you’re giving way too much credit to this movie, what was essentially a poor excuse for an extension of a silent short film. If you’d said this about the original, I would agree with you and how silent film, with the advancement of techniques in displaying more subtle emotion, can still tell a good story. I do not think, however, that this film is mature or dark by any means, at least past the skim surface, than some other animated films out there. The dialogue was basic, and the voice acting was terrible, which could be the director’s fault, and the storytelling was not good by any means. It was very simplistic, and even its short 80 min time frame seemed to long in my opinion. It didn’t seem that great to me, just another film using a scrap of story to show off new animation prowess.

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