Fellow Imagination Connoisseur, Amir B., writes in to ask if animation is getting “too realistic” – and which matters most: “realism in emotion” or “realistic emotion”?

Welcome to the Post-Geek Singularity, people. 😀

Dear Rob, 

Your yesterday’s video on verisimilitude and Lion King’s negative reaction by half the critics caused me to think: Are we going too far for realistic portrayal in animation? Which one matter most: realism in emotion or realistic emotion?

To me, there has always been a whimsy to animation. That’s why some of my all time favorite movies and tv shows have been animations. It might be crazy to say, but some things are far more powerful, emotional, and compelling if created via animation rather real-life actors.

One of the things that have always drawn me back to animation, even in my late twenties is how honest the facial expressions are. They are not necessarily realistic (i.e. I don’t expect to see them happen in reality), but they are real(i.e. I believe they are an indication of true feelings in a situation in that character) and when I’m watching animation, I’m looking for real emotion, not realistic portrayal of my characters.

Take Toy Story 4 for example; the animators of that movie designed the aesthetic of the movie as close to reality as possible. There’s a scene in the beginning in rain, which I thought it was actual rain. However, they kept the whimsy of animation perfectly intact. In the same scene, under the rain, Woody is silent and upset and laid down on the Parkway (not going to details for spoilers), but his face says a thousand words: his eyebrows, his eyes, heck even his mouth is telling me as the audience how he was feeling and ultimately that’s why I (and I can only speak for myself) am drawn to animation.

That’s why I loved Lion King when I was a kid, and that’s why I can understand why some critics are slamming the movie and calling it “emotionless”.

I think “realistic emotions” and “real emotions” are two different things, and part of the magic of animation, all the way back to evil mustache-twirling Dick Dastardly from Wacky Races back in the 60s is the portrayal of real and not realistic emotion.

What are your thoughts?

Amir B.