The Creation of the Animation "Genre" - Part Two


In this three-part blog series, GFT Youth Board member Kasey travels through the history of animation on screen. Each part will be released weekly on the Youth Board blog. This second part looks at the boom of animation on television and the pioneering work of animation at studios other than Disney.

If you haven't read part one, you can find it here.

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Animation was not new to television when Hanna-Barbera came along. Reruns of old cartoons and hand drawn adverts regularly featured on the small screen but there had been few attempts to create a fully animated show. Hanna-Barbera made a handful of somewhat successful series at first with but it wasn't until 1960 when The Flintstones released that they hit their stride.

The Flintstones was the first ever animated series to be shown during prime-time in the USA and was also one of the first to cater towards an adult audience. The show quickly became a favourite with the public due to its tone which was similar of other well-known sitcoms of the time in addition to its unique pre-historic setting. The popularity of this show set a precedent for adult animation in the States and allowed Hanna-Barbera to create more shows like Top Cat, The Jetsons and Yogi Bear.

Globally animation was going through a big shake up too. The UK for example took the psychedelic world of The Beatles and produced Yellow Submarine which was a hit worldwide. Across the channel France was bringing their comic book hero Astérix to life on the big screen whilst in Japan Toei animation and (Osamu Tezuka's) Mushi Productions began to create films inspired by Disney’s fairy tales.

The 1970's marked a unique period in animation. The studio that pioneered features was mourning the loss of their creator Walt Disney and without his lead the company entered a period of uncertainty. Meanwhile the studios that popularised animation were no longer looking to create the short cartoons which were previously the foundations of their work.

Instead the growing demand for television content became a priority. The stagnation of big studios gave an opportunity for independent creators to propel their own work. Independent animation began to flourish and unlike its predecessors it had no desire to please large crowds, opting to create films for adults only which could be seen in works by Ralph Bakshi, Bob Godfrey and René Laloux.

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On the opposite end of the spectrum children’s television was rapidly expanding due to the popularity of Saturday morning cartoons such as Hanna-Barbera’s Scooby-Doo. Throughout the decade the production of Saturday morning cartoons rapidly expanded with every studio now wanting a show that could grab the attention of millions of children worldwide. This trend continued into the 1980’s and saw Saturday mornings become prime time television for children.

With shows reaching thousands of children broadcasters soon realised that Saturday mornings were a golden opportunity to advertise. Popular children’s toys such as He-Man and the Care Bears were given their own shows which doubled as both children’s entertainment and advertisements. Many other characters from this period also became just as well-known toys as they were television stars, cementing the link between animation and merchandising.

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Not all productions had toys in mind, former Disney animator Don Bluth wanted to return animation to its softer fantasy image sharing his films The Secret of Nimh and An American Tale. This style of sentimental storytelling could also be seen in The Snowman, the British Christmas classic about a snowman coming to life.

Overseas the 1980's also saw a huge boom in Japanese animation for both television and film. Unlike the States though the market for animation in Japan was much larger covering all ages from children, teenagers to adults. The broad audience interest caused a wide variety in the content that was made, varying from the dystopian Tokyo filled with violence and gore in Akira to the magical creatures of the countryside in Studio Ghibli's My Neighbour Totoro. Studio's themselves didn't have a fixed audience either with (Hayao Miyazaki’s and Isao Takahata’s) Studio Ghibli releasing Grave of the Fireflies, a film which depicts war from the perspective of two children, and My Neighbour Totoro in the same year.

As long form content became the norm, short films became a rare sight. Yet there was a small studio defying this idea. They used short films to experiment with animation just like the first who did over 60 years ago; except this time they weren't working on paper.

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Join us next week for the final part as Kasey looks at the dawn of CGI and how animation has developed for contemporary audiences.


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