Present Meets Past - Children's Media by Cindy T Cabrera, Informal Writing #3
Cindy T. CabreraCOM 410: Children In MediaProfessor HobbsSeptember 25, 2012 Informal Writing #3: Children’s Media: Present Meets Past Although media technology seems to be progressing at an uncontrollable speed,resemblances between older media artifacts and newer media artifacts have a tendency tobe recurring. Similarities between the old and the new are not casual coincidences, in factresemblances can make media success more promising. However, creators always have to add aunique twist or upgrade to make their product more appealing to the masses. These concepts caneasily be applied to the unfolding of children’s media throughout the last decade. To specificallyexemplify the concept of new children’s media having similarities from the past while still beingmodern and innovative, this paper will examine the animation techniques of the 2012 PG ratedfilm ParaNorman and compare and contrast it to the 1996 PG rated film Space Jam. The plot of the 1996 film Space Jam involves superstar basketball player Michael Jordanas the protagonist who helps the animated characters of Looney Tunes in a basketball gameagainst alien invaders to determine their freedom. The alien invaders known as the Nerdlucksare sent by their boss Swackhammer to Earth with the order of kidnapping the Looney Tunescrew to become the newest attraction of his amusement park Moron Mountain. The LooneyTunes are confident that they will win their freedom back because the Nerdlucks are small punycreatures. However, on the day of the tournament, the Nerdlucks manage to become known
as the Monstars after having stolen the talents and skills of professional NBA athletes. BugsBunny of the Looney Tunes crew decides to recruit the assistance of Michael Jordan to win thegame. Jordan and the Tunes triumph which leads him to return to basketball and end his shortunsuccessful baseball career. Space Jam was a success with young audiences and adults as well. The movie was oneof the most popular animated movies of the 1990’s due to the film’s exotic hybrid of actors,artists, animation and computers. The combination of live human performers along with cartooncharacters created a buzz for children. The movie was produced through Warner Bros. FeatureAnimation and according to the Warner Bros. website, it was the first movie in history to usesuch a large amount of visual effects by using traditional cartoon animation, live action and threedimensional computer graphics. On the topic of cleverly animated children’s films, ParaNorman has strong similarities toSpace Jam. ParaNorman’s plot involves an 11-year-old boy named Norman who is an outcastbecause people think it is weird that he claims to have the ability to speak to spirits and thereforeconstantly gets bullied at school. Not only is he an outcast in school but his family also thinkshe is a “freak” because he always claims to be converse with his deceased grandmother. AfterNorman’s crazy estranged uncle tells him about an important annual ritual that Norman mustdo to protect the town from a 300-year-old curse, he finds himself using his abilities to speak tothe dead in a more beneficial way. Oddly enough, the main obstacles Norman faces to preventthe catastrophic curse from happening are the unsympathetic conformist townspeople of BlitheHollow. The animation in ParaNorman involves hand-crafted puppets of every character in themovie and the technical contributions of a three dimensional color printer which ultimately
resulted in a stop-motion film. Basically, the stop-motion animation technique involvesindividually photographed frames of a physically manipulated object and playing the series offrames continuously to make the object appear to be in motion. According to Laika’s website,the animation studio that was involved with the production, more than 300 people were involvedin bringing the characters of the film to life. Since every puppet was hand produced, Laika says aclose eye will notice that there are no straight lines in the entire film! Both films are similar in the sense that they use animation techniques to grab theattention of their young audience. Whether it was sixteen years ago or today, the film industryfor children acknowledges the positive investment with the overall risk of producing a film thatblends animated techniques with direct human manipulation. In both films, including the twoopposing creative techniques involved more time, more money and an increased level of effortand according to the Internet Movie Database, both films had an estimated budget of aroundeighty-million dollars. The similarity of the budgets was very astonishing to me because Iassumed an animated film produced in the 1990’s would be far more expensive than an animatedfilm produced today because the technology from before was not as advanced and much harderto manage/obtain in comparison to today. However, the over-sized budget for ParaNorman isprobably credited to hiring a distinguished animation studio such as Leika, who also producedthe children’s hit film Coraline. The way in which the films differ is in the quality of the animation. ParaNorman clearlytrumps the animation in Space Jam and it is noticeable in the life-like facial expressions seenon the zombies in ParaNorman. Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News raves that theanimation in ParaNorman has “evocative visual details that are indeed haunting...”. On theother hand, John J. Pucclo a critic of the online movie guide Rotten Tomatoes complains that the
animation in Space Jam was “...a mess: the attempts to blend 2- and 3-D animation with live-action and computer-generated images produce scenes that are fuzzier than the storyline.” Perhaps the time dedicated to both films is the most important difference. Critics on theInternet Movie Database argue that the rush to get Space Jam into theatres is what decreasedquality production for viewers. Although no reasoning behind the time constraints of theproduction of the film is listed, I believe the producers and directors were eager to release themovie while Michael Jordan was still relevant and while Looney Tunes was still a sensationin children’s media during the ‘90s. Although the plot was above mediocre, critics felt it wasa desperate attempt for Warner Bros. to try and succeed the Disney Corporation. On the otherhand, BoxOffice.com says creators of ParaNorman took sixteen years to develop the writing andtwo and half years for production. This time cushion allowed for the producers and the creativeteam to create a plot that would be successful in any time period (the revelation that true villainsare intolerance and anger rather than zombies and monsters) and to experiment with successfullydeveloped cutting-edge technology such as the three-dimensional color printers. My conclusion is that it was common for animated childrens movies of the past to maketechnology and trends the headlining feature in their films while children’s animated moviesof today have a more detailed agenda. Today’s animated children’s movies make a greater useof technological developments to help penetrate subject matter in society and not just arouselaughter and excitement. The success and advancement of today’s films could be due to thegreater amount of access and knowledge we now have to technology or it could simply be thatwe have more important issues to address in today’s society. Our success could be credited tothe increase of awareness and the better understanding we have of how media affects youngchildren.
Space Jam (1996) ParaNorman (2012) Work CitedOnline:"Behind the Jam." Behind the Jam. Warner Bro., n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2012. <http://www2.warnerbros.com/spacejam/movie/cmp/behind/techframes.html>.IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2012. <http://www.imdb.com/>.Kang, Inkoo. "Boxoffice.com - Tracking Movies Online." ParaNormans ChrisButler and Sam Fell on Creating Kiddie Horror That Shuns Tim Burton â InsideMovies Since 1920. BOXOFFICE.COM, 16 Aug. 2012. Web. 25 Sept. 2012. <http://www.boxoffice.com/articles/2012-08-paranormans-chris-butler-and-sam-fell-on-creating-kiddie-horror-that-shuns-tim-burton>."LAIKA Films." LAIKA Films. LAIKA FILMS PRODUCTION, n.d. Web. 24 Sept.2012. <http://www.laika.com/films.php>."Movies." Movies. Flixster, n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2012. <http://www.rottentomatoes.com/>.Neumaier, Joe. "Movie Review: ParaNorman" New York Daily News. N.p., 16 Aug.2012. Web. 29 Sept. 2012. <http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv-movies/movie-review-paranorman-stars-article-1.1137722>.
"ParaNorman Is a Perfect Date Movie for Former High School Outcasts." Io9. Io9 -Science, Science Fiction and the Future, n.d. Web. 29 Sept. 2012. <http://io9.com/5935541/paranorman-is-a-perfect-date-movie-for-former-high-school-outcasts>.