It seems we haven’t heard enough about what fans of Disney and Pixar films prefer in animated feature film characters. Is there a real divide between audiences who prefer human animated over anthropomorphic characters? When it comes to anthropomorphism in animation, it seems animators have a bottomless well they’ve only begun to tap when it comes to animating objects we see in everyday life. The “Cars” and “Planes” franchises have become some of the greatest examples of bringing things to life nobody ever thought to bring to life as leads on the big screen.
We’ve at least seen cars brought to life before on TV in commercials, kids programming, and brief scenes in animated movies. Most of us think about the surreal idea of our cars almost being human at one time or another, if even resembling us to some extent. Wisely, Disney and Pixar made the cars and planes in their animated franchises separate vehicles away from their human owners. It’s been some of the most inspired anthropomorphism ever done in animation by integrating human emotions with machinery.
But after the success of Disney’s “Frozen”, it seems Disney and Pixar both have a long animated slate ahead of mostly characters of the anthropomorphic variety rather than human. No doubt it’s creating a bit of dilemma for Disney in figuring out how to fit in more human characters again (as in a “Frozen 2”) since there’s a strong audience demand for it. However, with Olaf being one of the most popular integrated anthropomorphic characters in a while, do audiences ultimately love anthropomorphism in animation over human beings?
Abstract Anthropomorphism As the Next Level
With Pixar’s “Inside Out” out next year and having some character previews recently, we see a new example of anthropomorphism taken into the abstract. If most films in this genre usually have animals or creatures turning into humanlike beings that capture emotions in audiences, Disney suits must have had an initial heart attack hearing Pixar would make characters based on emotions. It only takes the greatest animators in the world to create such a thing and somehow make them relatable to the target demographic and beyond.
There’s every indication Pixar is going to do just that, hence showing how human qualities in other things is the new philosophy at Pixar. After “Brave” received mixed reviews, there might have been a realization that creating another feature with the emotion of “Up” was going to be a tall order. The latter film already broke a few rules using a very old human character as the lead, albeit teamed with a hyper boy scout for the ultimate extreme in demographics.
After the smashes prior to “Brave” of “Toy Story 3” and “Cars 2” (and “Monsters University” after “Brave”), it’s no surprise why films like “Inside Out” and “Finding Dory” would be next on the Pixar plate. As far as Disney Studios as full producer, there aren’t many animated products with human characters coming out very soon, other than “Big Hero 6” that places human characters nearly secondary to human-like robots.
It seems placing human qualities into everyday and even abstract objects help us gain a better understanding of character since many of those objects are nearly assimilated into human culture anyway. We’ll probably never look at cars and planes quite the same way again, including a teenage brain after “Inside Out.” The same might be said of other abstract objects down the road, no doubt tackling the quantum world eventually, or perhaps something much larger.
When it comes to anthropomorphism, we see the influence of it every day on places like Twitter where you’ll find hundreds of parody accounts utilizing ordinary objects. Everything from Obama’s Chair to Pharrell’s Hat are still going strong and prove how we find something more entertaining when humanizing ordinary objects. With “Inside Out” and other projects down the road, Pixar will probably help average viewers be able to understand complex concepts that are otherwise inexpressible.