Friday, January 14, 2011

Day & Night



Pixar has earned itself a reputation as the best animation film studio of the past two decades for good reason. They consistently produce some of the best films of the year nearly every time they release a movie. Not just animated feature, but best film period. The shorts that they release with each feature usually tend to be a playful, entertaining experiment that pushes the medium further as they continue to perfect their craft. This year, with the release of Toy Story 3, they took their short in a slightly different direction.

For one thing, they used traditional animation for the first time. Most studios have realized in the past few years that traditional animation is indeed not dead, but it is still refreshing to see the studio that nearly killed hand-drawn animation using it. Of course, the problem all along was not that computer animation is in any way superior to hand-drawn. It is really more an issue of good storytelling being superior to lousy storytelling.

Not only that, but for the first time we have a Pixar short that feels like it is really trying to deliver a message. Some would perhaps say that “For the Birds” in 2000 was rather “preachy,” but that short is more of a comedy that happens to deliver a message. “Day & Night” is all sermon. On the one hand, it is a beautiful and good message. On the other… it is pretty naïve. And before you say, “Yeah, but it is just for kids,” consider the product of Pixar for the past 4 or 5 years. They have been sophisticated enough for adults for quite some time.

The cartoon’s basic message is that we are all the same deep down inside. The hatred that springs from misunderstanding our differences is silly. We need to overcome those differences and learn to get along. The problem is that not all the problems between people stem from misunderstandings. Yes, we are all the same—but part of that similarity includes our vast capacity for evil. Some people are going to hate and want to destroy. Are we supposed to simply hope that an appeal to our “better natures” will turn these people from their evil intent?

In the end, this message does need to be taught. However, we need to balance it with a healthy dose of caution and a carefully balanced intolerance for people who seek to harm others. It is possible to recognize evil for what it is without becoming what we condemn.

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