There needs to be a serious discussion about the Criterion Collection and animation. The Criterion Collection is an assortment of films varying in genre and country of origin selected because they are cinematically and artistically important. As of now, there are a total of 1o71 films in the collection. The 1982 politically charged Watership Down was welcomed in the Criterion Collection this February. However, it is only the second animated film present in the entire collection (the first being Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox).
Surely, there must be more animated films that are of a “continuing series of important classic and contemporary films” than these two. Watership Down is a shocking film, displaying moments of raw and unflinching violence performed by deceptively cute rabbits. What makes this film work so well is its masterful cinematography, poignant political themes and engaging characters. Fantastic Mr. Fox is a great movie, but it is mostly in Criterion because Wes Anderson directed it; prior to Criterion’s selected of the film, he already has a handful of live-action films in the collection.
It would be amazing for the animation community and the film community at large if more animated features were on Criterion. Why? Mainly because animated films can be and have proved to be as powerful and artistically important as live action films. Imagine if more individuals (specifically Criterion fans used to watching the likes of Ozu, Hitchcock and Godard) were able to see the artistry present in animated films such as Satoshi Kon’s Millennium Actress, Makoto Shinkai’s 5 Centimeters Per Second, Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir, among others.
Millennium Actress cleverly tells the cinematic history of Japan through the eyes of a retired actress as she discovers how her film roles affected those closest to her. Five Centimeters Per Second chronicles the life of two childhood friends and examines how much a single moment can forever linger with us, playing over and over again. Waltz with Bashir tells the story of a war veteran through the eyes of the filmmaker himself, playing the lead character.
Criterion: are those films sound important enough for you? I think they would fit perfectly with many of their live-action titles in the collection. In the animation community, we can only hope Criterion gives these films the type of cimematic credit they deserve. In the greater film community, we hope many will soon discover that animated films have the power to inspire, provoke and present stories at the most accomplished level.