Can animation be used to discuss serious issues?

Arguably one of the most common assumptions made, when people hear the term “animation”, is that it is being used in reference to something that is aimed at a younger target audience, or something of which the content is fabricated for the purpose of entertainment. As to whether this is true, is something of a point of debate; I personally struggle to find reasons as to why animation can’t be used as a viable medium, in order to push a more serious point over to an audience.

One of the possible causes for this assumption is that companies such as Walt Disney Studios have had such a large hold over the industry, since the very beginning of its introduction into the mainstream media. In the case of Disney, which in some repsects is widely regarded almost as a kind of figure head for animation, the expectations that audiences have come to have for a Disney film appear to be applied to other animated films, almost as one applies genre connotations to a film. It would not be untrue to suggest that some people, in this way, regard animation as a seperate genre within itself, as opposed to a medium or tool, to be used by film makers to achieve their intended purpose for a film.

The general assumption is that animation is aimed at children, or a younger audience, and generally speaking, will contain content suitable for a younger audience. However in direct contrast to this is Disneys animated short, Education for Death

One of the most striking examples of animation being used as a medium for discussion of a serious medium, Education for Death was created by Walt Disney Studios in 1943, during the second world war, as anti-nazi propaganda. This message within the film is absolute, with no room left for the audience to second-guess what the film may be trying to discuss. Clearly, this topic under discussion within the film is of a most serious nature, and does not fufill the expectations that are all to often placed upon the medium!

More recent examples of this include Waltz With Bashir (2008, Ari Folman), and When the Wind Blows (1986, Raymond Briggs). Both of these discuss serious topics; both are centered around war. Waltz With Bashir acts as a personal account of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, from the point of view of Ari Folman. This is in no way intended as light entertainment, rather an extensive account of the conflict.

The fact that this film was achieved using animation, as opposed to live action, does not take away from the overall effect – if anything the use of animation allows for far greater expression than live action possibly could. Many of the scenes are verging on expressionism, as opposed to a literal narrative.

Raymond Briggs “When The Wind Blows” is a prime example of animation being used to discuss a serious topic. The film covers the events that pass, during a nuclear attack upon the UK, from the point of view of an elderly couple. While being an animated film, When The Wind Blows boasts a considerably dark storyline, straying away from the light note of the classical hollywood ending that audiences have become accustomed to; the end of the film can only be described as desolate – the elderly couple praying from within the relative safety of their fallout shelter, awaiting a slow yet inevitable death, resulting from the radiation poisoning to which they have fallen prey.


One thought on “Can animation be used to discuss serious issues?

  1. Paul S. says:

    Good research. Don’t concentrate too much on propaganda in the essay.

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