Has 2D animation seen its ‘Golden Age’?

When you say the word ‘animation’ to someone what are the first two things that come to mind?  Disney & poorly done silly cartoons.  Never once does it cross their mind that animation can be something having an impact on the society, that a narrative could be as dramatic as ‘Mad Men’ or ‘House of Cards’.  No one could conceptualise the notion that there are some animated films that are just as thrilling as an Alfred Hitchcock or Stanley Kubrick film or something as stimulating as a Martin Scorsese piece. Some would argue that it’s all about the writing and while in some instance that could be true, but it’s really about the story.  Story doesn’t have to be external, e.g., dialogue, it’s also internal, the parts you don’t write such as a character thinking, experiencing, feeling.  If it’s dialogue you want, listen to the radio or a podcast or watch live action.  Animation is able to do more, and should do more, than just act as shells for verbal dysentery. We have such a great medium that can cross international borders with ease that can dive deep into the ocean of emotion and provoke thoughts and ideas that we wouldn’t have otherwise considered; a medium so layered with artistic disciplines and what do we do with it? Yes, I am talking about 2D animation as a potent medium of communication. At this very moment in animation ‘history’, there is quite a ‘boom’ in the animation industry but it’s nowhere close to what everyone is calling a second ‘Golden Age’. We’re about as close to the golden age as we are to the Milky Ways to say the least and to not acknowledge this fact is not innocent ignorance but absolute arrogance to not accept the facts. Comedy is by far one of the most sought after genres by studios large and small, from across the globe. The reasoning is simple: People like feeling good.  And while great comedies can be like a fine dining experience; in the world of broadcast and the internet it’s more like fast food and there are plenty of places to order from. Companies look at views and likes rather than quality of the work on the digital space. The common problem is that all broadcasters look for content which are having (if not) identical then at least similar storylines to ‘X’ or ‘Y’ shows. And all this is because it’s that much easier to market and sell such shows or scripts, almost as easy as like shooting a squirrel with a shotgun: a guaranteed hit. But looking more closely at digital media; very few Indian companies are really churning out content for the internet and if we look at the animation aspect of things then there is next to none who are doing so. But one such animation studio that is really attempting to do something radical in the digital field is Hopmotion Animation with its web series ‘Modern Activity’. They are every teacher’s worst nightmare: black-listers, backbenchers, the defamed four, potty mouthed ruffians who are interested in all things adult and foul. They are here to take their South Bombay school Modern Activity by storm. The business minded Gujju Kartik Mehta, the motor mouth Maka Pav Savio Miranda, the malai maska loving apro scraedy cat Bawaji Burges Gyara and the numb as a knuckle Naim Kajalwalla makeup the terror brigade of standard five. For this irreverent bunch school is no place for rules. Chaos and anarchy form the norm and they are here to take us on not-so-childish roller-coaster misadventures. What made the ‘Golden Age’ golden was that animation was breaking new grounds such as adding emotion to characters and creating a sense of believability that these characters are real. To make someone forget that they’re watching a drawing, even just for a second, was and is an incredible feat of skill and craft. Thus with 2D animation, moments when you could see Snow White go through the thought process of what she’s experiencing, or laughing in wonder of whether the Coyote would ever get a chance to eat that fast Roadrunner (Beep! Beep!), being able to make these images come to life – not just moving pixels, but really injecting a sense of awareness – isn’t something many people are capable of doing today. Today, the majority of content from web shows to feature films coming from the Indian studios aren’t still upto the mark, though we are helping a lot of international companies with their projects, we forget to bring the passion and love into the animation that we create within the country. You know we’re in decline when the industry, and the studios therein, need to rely on remakes or reboots of classic properties in order to achieve some sense of profitable margin. Because they can’t create ideas that they believe in themselves. When craftsmanship disappeared from production values so did the ‘Golden Age’ and the respect that came from being in this industry. The animation industry is self defeating; and soon, if we continue this trend, self destructive. The more (pardon my French!) bullshit we as an industry continue to support and create, the less credibility we give the medium which in turn causes people to NOT want to watch or participate in the experience of an animated show or film. The industry is self-asphyxiating on its own delusional idea of ‘right content’. I wonder why…hmm…