When I entered the cinema to watch Shaun The Sheep, the same thoroughly depressing sight was awaiting me: the only adults present in the theatre were accompanying their toddlers. My friend and I looked like the only ones in the fully-packed auditorium who were there out of their own volition. It's a perfectly charming stop-motion animation feature about a bunch of sheep who discover the Big City in search of their master who wanders off.
Apart from comedically effective mumblings that wouldn't look out of place in Mr Bean, this movie had no dialogues and the need wasn't felt either. I stepped out of the auditorium at the end and almost had an ovine grin like the sheep in the movie. A Guardian review said that this is one of those rare movies that a child will go bonkers upon and that an adult too would feel invested in. If that's not patronising I don't know what is. These are the sort of reviews that I constantly keep seeing for animation cinema, which is not the easiest of the gigs in the town.
Earlier this year, I watched Inside Out and the first 55 minutes of the movie gave me a frisson of excitement that only Mad Max delivered in these nine months of 2015. A friend said that he didn't want to watch it because it's just too emotional for him. I tried to tell him that he couldn't be farther from the truth. Here's a movie that tells you in no unclear terms that life is a great leveller, that no one can have eternal happiness forever and if anyone who espouses such a concept is absolutely deluded and needs immediate medical help. Of course the movie falters in its final one-fourth, just like every other Pixar fare, but that shouldn't put you off this powerfully moving parable about human existence.
Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes once wrote that cinema is the only art form that advanced the most within the span of a hundred years. No other art form, including architecture, saw such an escalation in its technological advancement. Hundred years is a mere blip for all other art forms that have been existing since time immemorial. So keeping that argument ahead I would say that animation genre pushes the form of cinema in the most innovative ways. Disney and Pixar are obviously the most popular purveyors of the genre but there's an independent scene emerging that I'm most excited about.
Japanese auteur Hayao Miyazaki did the most for animation cinema even before it was cool. Each movie of his is a master class in the genre and a gorgeous eyefeast. He uses more of water colours and that lends a fey attitude to both proceedings and the characters. Last year I watched Ernest & Celestine and Song of the Sea, two movies that I will forever be glad that I managed to catch hold of. Neither of them have any overarching themes nor character arcs that Pixar and Disney revel in. Just beautiful visuals that are straight out of a Edward Hopper painting or a J M W Turner canvas. My problem with the Pixars and the Disneys of the world is that they anthropomorphise everything. Nothing is left to the imagination and each visual crackles with the energy of a Jason Statham movie. That doesn't mean that when a heartfelt feature comes from those stables, you ignore it. I don't know if it's an Indian thing but it definitely looks like one: The adults are laughing not at the movie but at how ebullient their kids are being during the movie. They shouldn't be oblivious to the intelligent ones that keep coming out once in a while.
Last year's Lego Movie is a scathing indictment of capitalism and how human existence in a post-capitalist society is the ultimate bane of the very existence. Obviously there are the pratfallish and loudly dumb movies like Minions or Madagascar for every Inside Out that comes out. These movies are a full-frontal assault on the human faculties and something tailor made for kids in the age bracket of zero to four. Indulge your kids during those trying times, otherwise be on the lookout for the perfectly enjoyable animation curveball that will be thrown at you once in a while.