Why diverse creative voices are changing the art of animation

While discussing the upcoming sequel to the Oscar winner Spiderman: in the spider-verse, a friend explained her love for the first film: “I just didn’t know animation could look like this.”

She was referring to the comic book-influenced animation style employed by directors Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman and Bob Persichetti, an innovative approach that used a newly created digital language for which Sony filed patents). In the spider verse has withstood the ubiquitous animation style of the past two decades, established by Pixar and employed by other major Hollywood animation studios, including Dreamworks, Walt Disney Animation and Illumination. Established by Pixar technology, CGI creates a sense of photorealism with slight aesthetic changes to give each film a unique character and avoid the uncanny valley. Spiderman: in the spider-verse, and its future sequel, Spiderman through the spider verse, Who centered on the character Miles Morales, combined CGI with 2D animation, creating an innovative art style. Notably, Morales was the first Black Spiderman, the son of an African American father and a Puerto Rican mother, and as groundbreaking as the character was, the evolution of the animation style, partially directed by a Black American artist, Ramsey, reinforced the importance of the film. Other television and film adaptations have utilized the comic book aesthetic, but rarely taken full advantage of the comic book medium: the ability to invert the sky, infuse vivid color into motion paths, and to create multiverses through crystalline reflection and fast pace. action illuminated with neon colors.

Ramsey, who also directed the cult favorite animated film The rise of the guardians, discussed the art that we have lost in Western culture by foregrounding an art form. A piece of 2015 in The telegraph explored similarities, for example, in the faces of Pixar and Disney women, showing that they were consistently round, snub-nosed, and largely featured disproportionately giant eyes (the similarities aligning with Western beauty standards). An interview with coconut Director Lee Unkrich stressed that Pixar needed to take on the risk of the film, as “an all-new original story, rather than a sequel, steeped in Mexican lore that might not have appealed to a global audience, especially without a built-in audience or fan base. Across Hollywood, films that do not repeat previously successful strategies in both form and content continue to be seen as precarious investments, especially in an age where the only box office guarantee is a Marvel movie. Black Panther and Captain Marvel showed they could succeed were long viewed as liabilities by Marvel’s own longtime executive, Ike Perlmutter, due to his belief that they wouldn’t succeed financially. Former Disney CEO Bob Iger replaced Perlmutter with Kevin Feige, who considered both stories central to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and were among the highest-grossing films of all time, with Black Panther being particularly critically acclaimed and the first Marvel film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.

However, although ethnic diversity has increased in Disney and Pixar animation over the past decade – with Pixar coconut (2017) grossing over $800 million and Disney’s Moana (2016) grossing $645 million – most of the films continue to use the once-successful CGI cinematic aesthetic. In Discuss the movie, Spider Man‘s Ramsey noted: “It’s brilliant and it’s so obvious when you see it, you just say, ‘It just makes you see how absolutely silly it is that things are so limited and so ‘status quo’. “when all these stories are just reflecting the world as it is a little more. You see people like that every day when we walk in the door, just push the camera a bit to the left and you have a whole other world that you can see and relate to. According to US careers site Zippia, white animators make up more than 73% of the workforce, while black animators make up just under 4%. So it’s no surprise that there is a pervasive art style.

Pixar and Disney Animation are perhaps the best known and certainly the most financially successful studios in the English-speaking world. Both companies have faced backlash, most recently for the 2020 film Soul, for not including black animators and writers in the creation of stories about black characters, and for often turning characters of color into animals (including The princess and the Frog Tiana and The Emperor’s New Groove Kuzco). Notably, Rashida Jones left toy story 4 after claiming Pixar was “a culture where women and people of color don’t have an equal creative voice”. Pixar’s Sparkshorts program, however, has been a hotbed of diverse talent, giving lesser-known young animators the chance to make a short film on a subject of their choosing. Aphton Corbin’s 2021 work, “Twenty Something,” which tells the story of a twenty-one-year-old young woman trying to come to terms with growing up and dealing with impostor syndrome. Corbin was a screenwriter for the film Soul where she invented the minimalist influence style for counselors working in the afterlife. “Twenty-Something”, however, was entirely his story.

Unrestricted by the content or artistic regulations that regularly determine the look and story of a group project at Pixar, Corbin’s animation style uses a collage of pattern and color against a nightclub backdrop. The volume of the figures is underlined with shadow and light rather than mass. It depicts a story often not shown on screen, that of a young black woman succeeding and confronting the daily neuroses of young people, and her new aesthetic style proclaiming an evolution of representation. In all of Pixar’s history, only two feature films have been directed by women: 2012’s Courageous, directed by Brenda Chapman and 2022 turn red by director “Bao” Domee Shi (the only woman of color to direct a Pixar feature film). Given the gender and racial homogeneity of Pixar directors, it’s no surprise that there’s been a particular studio style. Corbin’s style is therefore both a revolutionary stylistic shift and an inflection point for representation at one of the most powerful animation studios in the Western world.

The two films then function both as vehicles of reflection for underrepresented groups of viewers and as an indication of yet unseen masterpieces of art. nerdist writer Javier Reyes, describing his own moment when he felt “seen” by Spider Man, contrasted him with the power of the film as a work of art: “Spider-Man is my favorite character of all time, but I did not expect the film to be a real masterpiece and universally loved. (I’m pretty sure it would be more difficult to find a dissenting opinion of spider worms than the literal Holy Grail.) Among a myriad of other reasons, what made the movie so powerful was how well it embraced diversity.

Both Spider Man and “Twenty-Something” are artistic masterpieces; they both show the power of representation, as Reyes demonstrates, and the weaknesses of our current system, which allows an aesthetic style to dominate. Animation lovers – children, the young at heart and admirers of great art – are blessed to live alongside two great artists and we can only hope that the future will see greater diversity in Hollywood.

Image Credit: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse/Facebook


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