Jacob AbelaStephen RachmanENG 320C1/30/2018Vision Film is a media that, relatively speaking, has really not been able to be used for expression for very long. The first films began being made in the 1890. This initial bout of films were experimental and looked to figure out how the technology could even be used. “The second phase, telling a story, began to emerge around 1900. Filmmakers moved beyond the technical aspects of just showing motion and began to tell stories” (Baldasty). That transition into storytelling is what has ingrained film as a large part of the culture and tradition of societies across the globe and will hopefully continue to do so for years to come.
The aim of this paper will be to look at the culmination of all of what was just mentioned. The technical aspect of film alongside the important implications of film culturally will both be taken into account. The canon of films will be narrowed down to animated films of the early 2000s. This period is one full of influential films both technologically and culturally. The concept of vision in both the abstract and literal sense is consistent through these films and that along with a plethora of lessons to be learned are what make these a fantastic bundle of films. First of all, it is key to dive into what films are to be chosen for this canon.
The first film on the list is Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. This 2001 film has earned a massive amount of accolades, but, even given that, the amount of Western’s that know of the film is surprisingly lacking. The Japanese animated film is full of wonderful lessons accompanied by amazing artwork and a superb soundtrack which have made it Japan’s highest-grossing film of all time (at the time of writing this), one of the best reviewed movies of all time, and also the inspiration for making this canon anchored in this time period! The next film is Shrek by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson. This film was also made in 2001 and was popular enough to have spawned three sequels, two holiday specials, a spin-off series, some video games, shorts, and even a musical. The film firmly cemented DreamWorks as a powerhouse in the animation game, and certainly had a huge influence on the early 2000s.
The third film in this grouping is Treasure Planet by Ron Clements and John Musker. This movie is famously a massive flop for Disney in the box office, but doesn’t generally get the credit that it deserves given how much attention to detail and passion was put into it. The penultimate film in this canon is The Incredibles by Brad Bird.
This film won multiple awards and garnered such a following over the years since its release that a sequel is slated to release after well over a decade. Capping off this list is a movie that came out five days after The Incredibles, The Polar Express by Robert Zemeckis. The film is certainly different from the rest on the list as it is a more traditional Christmas movie based off of a children’s book made in the 1980s, but nevertheless, it is an influential movie of the era. This canon may seem a bit all over the place, but these films all have an important place in that time period and a lot can be taken in from the list. Miyazaki’s Spirited Away is a coming of age film that follows a young girl, Chihiro, through the spirit world. She is not dead by any means, but her parents and her curiosity lead them to a bath house in this realm. The film is valuable not only because of the lessons about friendship, hard work, and environmental awareness, but for bridging a gap between Japanese culture and that of the Western world.
Friendship is a theme followed throughout the whole film as Chihiro befriends a multitude of people of all different backgrounds. She shows that caring for your friends is important and that if you help someone out they will help you out in return and a great relationship can be established. Conversely, No-Face is followed throughout the film and is seen handing out gold, bath tokens, manipulating people to try and befriend them. These contrasting elements would be great for showing younger people (and older people alike) how just paying people to be your friends can backfire (given that No-Face is one of the main villains of the film) and how it is much better to nurture a friendship and care about those around you. The film also looks at perseverance and the importance of it. The entirely of the film involves Chihiro pushing through difficult times in her life in an attempt to save her parents from being pigs and ultimately return to her normal life.
Given that Chihiro is around the age of nine, it is inspiring to watch her power through all of the rude and evil people in the bathhouse trying to stop her with a bit of kindness, dedication, and hard work. This perseverance and hard work shown by Chihiro throughout the film is reminiscent of the capitalism in the US and the importance of hard work in the economic system and could be something to teach people amount when working with the film. Finally, the film is full of allusions to environmental problems with the main two involving rivers that have been destroyed thanks to a combination of carelessness and recklessness of man. The river spirit who enters the bathhouse is disgusting at first and full of garbage, but Chihiro inspires the whole bathhouse to come together to help clean him up and return him to his natural form. This scene in particular can clearly show people that all it takes is one person to get environmental change rolling and with enough help and dedication from people that things can change for the better. Given how the issues with global warming really are not slowing down, this message is beyond valuable to be sending to kids especially at a younger age. As for the aspect of vision that will tie the canon together, No-Face not having any eyes can be seen as a metaphor for how he is blinded by a desire to make friends and doesn’t see that what he is doing throughout a majority of the movie is wrong.
Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson’s Shrek is film loosely adapted from the children’s book of the same name. The film shows how beauty can be in the eye of the beholder and pulls from all sorts of traditional fairy tales to make an amazing movie. First of all, tying in well to the overarching idea of vision, Shrek at its foundation is all about how beauty is not about a person’s exterior or wealth or status, but about what is on the inside. The story of Shrek and Fiona is one that could inspire many kids and young adults alike to want to just be themselves and love who they are as well as others for who they are. Given how hate and racism are still being discussed all over the world, that part of the film would be the main pull and the best lesson to teach to better kids and strengthen their cultural capital. The film also pays homage to a massive amount of fairy tales that have their roots in multiple different cultures which is important given that is where a lot of the films elements have its origins based in. Next on the list is a film which is an adaptation through and through, but also an amazing film in its own right. Treasure Planet by Ron Clements and John Musker is based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
It draws a lot of inspiration from the book, but then just tosses it into space. While the concept may seem a little out there, this was a vision that Clements and Musker had in their head for a long time. The project is one that was pitched to Disney on multiple occasions and repeatedly rejected until it was finally greenlight (obviously). The story behind the amount of effort that went into the film is honestly almost as amazing as the film itself and when teaching about the movie it would be import to emphasize both the dedication of Musker and Clements to the film being made at all, the rules they laid out for its creation, as well as the fantastic, creative animation the film used. To fully capture the vision that they had, Musker and Clements utilized a 70/30 rule in which 70% of the film would follow the classical roots of the film and have a Victorian kind of feel, but 30% of the film would be in the more futuristic, sci-fi setting.
This film upholds this in both sound design, music choice, and visual effects and does an astounding job of it. That alongside how Musker and Clements follow the story of Treasure Island while making alterations to make it more modern make the movie a fantastic adaptation that I think would accompany a reading of Treasure Island very well. The film also has extremely unique animation which includes 2D-storyboarding, virtual 360 degree sets, as well as CGI all integrated together pretty seamlessly for the most part. The vision that Musker and Clements had while approaching this adaptation and how they followed it is inspirational and their dedication to it is something that everyone could get something out of on a personal level. The Incredibles by Brad Bird is a movie about a completely ordinary family that just so happens to have superpowers. The film, while chalk full of lessons, actually goes out to show a lot of valuable lessons through the main villain of the movie, Syndrome. As a child, Mr.
Incredible tells him to go home because he is of no help, and it hurts him, but inspires him to work hard to become powerful, as opposed to the Parr family who were born with superpowers. That alone can be used to draw parallels to people in real life as well as intelligence in general and how things are malleable. Some people may be born into greatness, but with enough hard work and dedication, anyone can get there (though preferably use it for good). The film can also be used as a transition or link to a lesson on philosophers and the idea of the Ubermensch as well as Syndrome’s constant claim that “if everyone is super, than no one is” can both be attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche and could tie into talking about him. From the discussion of philosophical ideas in the movie, to the lessons of hard work and rising out from mediocrity, the film provides a massive amount of cultural capital and would be spectacular to teach with. As for the overarching lesson about vision, the daughter Violet and her power of invisibility can be used to show how just because you may not feel like you are being seen does not mean you cannot have an impact on a much larger scale. Finally, the film The Polar Express by Robert Zemeckis pulls into the station to round out the canon. The film is a traditional Christmas story that can honestly fall into the sizable pile that get replayed every year for families all across the world.
It is an adaptation of a 1985 children’s book of the same name that takes its liberties, but does a good job of keeping true to the heart of the story. The creation of the film is one that can inspire good risk taking skills in kids as the film was not only the first ever completely all-digitally captured film, but it was the most expensive animated film to ever be released at the time it came out. These risks clearly paid off as the film did well and is something still watched to this day by many families around the holidays. The film also imparts the valuable message that “Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.” This clearly ties in well to the vision aspect of the canon, but it also is just important to get across in general. It can be brought up to kids to let them know that just because they can’t see something does not mean it isn’t worth believing in or taking seriously whether that is a religion, an interesting theory, or some issues happening on the other side of the world. Films are becoming more and more tied into culture and intertwining them into lessons with books may very well be a great step in the right direction.
So much can be learned and taken in from them if given the right lenses to look at them with. More and more these days an understanding of certain films can be essential to traversing other mediums and getting what is going on, and this canon would be a spectacular step towards enriching the cultural capital of many kids.Works Cited: Gerald J. “The history of motion pictures.” faculty.washington.edu/baldasty/JAN13.htm.