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. =)