“Song of the Sea” wins at IFTA and the “genre” of animation

Song of the Sea became the first animated film to win top prize at the ITFA (Irish Film and Television Academy) on May 24. The IFTA  is an organization founded in 2003 that recognizes outstanding Irish film and television series.

Song of the Sea director Tomm Moore was delighted with the win and saw it as a victory for animation as a medium, not a genre. The Iron Giant and The Incredibles director Brad Bird has stated in the past his disdain for American audiences’ tendency to see animation as a genre, not a medium. He discussed at length how this viewpoint affects the quality of the films, saying:

“…if you have great quality animation, you usually have very safe, traditional kind of boring stories. If you have exciting stories, or clever writing, you usually have bargain basement animation.”

Similarly, in a  2013 Forbes article, writer Scott Mendelson discusses the “child’s play” of American animation. What can be done to get American audiences to realize the true potential of animation? At this point, seemingly nothing, unless a studio takes a risk and makes massive financial returns.

One studio trying to tamper with the “child’s play” idea of American animation is Laika, recent creators of last September’s The Boxtrolls. The film cost $60 million to produce, yet it only made about $50 million domestically. Interestingly, it made about $57 million in foreign markets. Is it that other countries understand the potential for animation, yet Americans do not?

That might very well be the case, as shown by Song of the Sea‘s victory at the ITFA. Although animated films have been nominated for Best Picture on three occasions at the Academy Awards, they rarely are a serious threat. If an animated film does ever win this award like it did in Ireland, perceptions might change. Might.

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