Published on November 14th, 2010 | by Colin Ballsmonkey Hill7
Extreme Inbetweens – Why I Hate Dreamworks Animated Movies
The true source of the vile hatred churning in my animation gonads finally brought to light. Or, “why I hate Dreamworks animated movies”.
By Colin “Ballsmonkey” Hill”
I really hate Dreamworks Animation! I’m sorry, I just couldn’t come up with a more eloquent way of starting this piece off. I just really hate them. They represent everything that’s wrong with modern animation, hell, they proudly flaunt it. They have no solid structure, no artistic vision, and no appeal. They’ve made millions of dollars on mediocrity and star power alone. Shrek, Madagascar, Kung-Fu Panda, Bee Movie, movie after movie and every one of them fails to impress. With everyone hyped over “Megamind”, I feel now is as good a time as any to vent. Oh boy howdy am I gonna vent.
Where to start? Well, let’s start at the most important place, the animation. To put it simply, they suck at it. It becomes painfully clear while watching their movies that none of their “animators” are coming from a real animation background. Everything feels very artificial. The characters and the backgrounds feel like they occupy two different planes of existence, never truly blending together in harmony. The final fight scene in “Kung-Fu Panda” really hammers this point home.
As you can see, Po and Tai Lung are supposed to be in this powerful final confrontation, but the two look so floaty and cheap that it comes off more laughable, and not in the way they intended. The posing and staging are way off. There’s no time during this scene where the two characters appear to be in the same place at once, instead feeling like they were awkwardly thrown together in Photoshop. Yes, I know that Disney uses different animators for different characters then adds them together, but the difference there is that Disney had TALENTED ANIMATORS. They knew how to stage each scene so the characters are sharing the same world, not the case here. Not only that, but the camera work is incredibly shoddy. There’s no strong emotional impact, there are close-ups where there don’t need to be close-ups. The lighting is terrible. Nothing is working here. It’s barely above “ReBoot” in quality.
Let’s compare that atrocity to the big fight scene in 2007’s “TMNT”
The fight between Leonardo and Raphael is one of my favorite pieces of CGI animation, and it’s easy to see why. First off: the build up. When we first see Leo he’s up on a rooftop looking down on Raph, blanketed in shadows, giving him an imposing look. There’s an impressive camera pan as Leo leaps from the roof to the ground below to give chase. The animation as Leo and Raph leap through the traffic and back up to the roofs is very fast and fluid, very ninja-like. As the two finally confront each other, their body movements and facial expressions become more and more aggressive and broad as the tension builds. You really get a strong feel that these are two real brothers having a tense argument. Finally: the battle. It’s a spectacle to behold. The two move perfectly in synch, you can feel sharpness of their blades, you can feel the rain beating down on them, you can feel the raw animosity between them. All of this was done on a much smaller budget that that of Kung-Fu Panda’s. Where did all the money go if not on the voice acting? We’ll get to that a little later.
Let’s jump from the animation to the art style. Dreamworks Animation seems to be hell-bent on creating the ugliest characters ever seen in animation. Let’s take a look at a normal character design in animation…
Daffy Duck: Egg-shaped head with large round eyes that fit perfectly in place. Round sausage-shaped body that gives the illusion of a three dimensional figure. Cylindrical arms and legs that can be easily moved in space. Overall look is cartoony, yet believable. It reads strongly, shows personality, and works in animation. It’s a perfect example of solid drawing.
Now, unfortunately, let’s look at a Dreamworks character…
Shrek: Big oval head with way too much detail going on in the face. Beady little eyes that look like they’re trying to steal your soul and replace it with bile from a troll’s corpse. Wide open mouth that’s meant to display some kind of emotion that is currently lost to me. Lumpy mass of clay for a torso and massive arms and legs more complex than they need to be. The design is unappealing and becomes more painful to look at with each passing second.
The design of their characters is confusing. They seem to be in an awkward place where they don’t know whether they want to be cartoony, or go for full realism. As a result, they fall into a little realm known in the animation world as The Uncanny Valley. Dreamworks adds as much detail as they can into the look of their characters, but in turn it just makes them look more and more fake. How’s that possible? Well, to quote animator Peter Lord, “As living breathing people, our senses are so acute that we can sniff a fake a mile off. The closer they get to imitating reality, the more we can sniff a fake. As they get ever closer into reality, tiny things start to loom really large. In copying life, the closer they get – the deeper the chasm”.
Colin, you may be asking, sure that animation may blow Spanish donkeys, but what about the story? Surely their stories make up for it. Well…NO! Dreamworks’ animated movies have the most hackneyed, recycled, predictable plots I’ve ever seen. Sure, Disney got by for years telling the same damn Princess story, but they had solid animation and voice acting to make up for it. I still haven’t seen “How to Train your Dragon”, don’t plan to anytime in this lifetime, but one look of that trailer and I could instantly tell exactly how the movie plays out.
Tell me if I’m wrong…
– We meet the main character. He’s a bit of a dorky loser. Can’t fight but has some quirky skill that will be semi-useful by the end.
– There’s a girl there that he’s got the hots for but is too much of a wimp to get with her.
Meanwhile, she’s a tough, independent chick who doesn’t need a man to stand up for her, but that point will be rendered moot by the final conflict.
– Main loser meets up with one or more loser(s) who help each other to grow while engaging in some wacky antics.
– Then there’s the point where everyone is sad.
– In the final conflict the main loser fights the tough villain, gets kicked around, saves the tough chick who suddenly becomes weak and helpless, then by some miracle the villain is defeated, the tough chick greatly lowers her standards and gets with the main loser. Everyone’s happy, except the audience.
Like I said before, formulaic isn’t always bad, but it needs something special to help set it apart. Great animation, interesting characters, top notch voice acting. Dreamworks has none of these. Their characters are all stock, devoid of any personality. Some may argue with me on this, but keep in mind, character traits and personality are two different things. It’s impossible to care about them when I feel nothing for them. Each character exists not to make an imprint on the audience, but to move the story on. They serve their roles and they’re done, and you’re left wondering why the hell you paid to see the movie.
Finally, we come to my biggest problem with Dreamworks animation. I can forgive the formulaic stories, I can probably look past the crap animation, but the one thing I can’t forgive is their voice casting. Remember when I posed the question “where’s the money going if not on the animation”? Here’s the answer. Dreamworks blows truck-loads of money casting the biggest celebrities they can get to voice their weak characters. Why go for talented voice actors like Rob Paulsen or Phil LaMarr to bring Megamind to life when they can get the wacky shouting stylings of Will Ferrell. Why get a strong voice like that of Daran Norris, John DiMaggio, or Steve Blum to voice Metro Man when they can get an unremarkably bland performance out of Brad Pitt. Dreamworks has been doing this since the start. Instead a crafting a well thought-out character with charm and personality, they go after any A-list celeb they can think of, pull out some stock character they can play, then slap the celeb’s name all over poster so that it completely overshadows everything else about the movie. They don’t hire a voice actor to bring their characters to life, instead they model the characters completely after the actors. Because of that, they become less believable, to the point where you only hear the actor rather than the character. You’re not hearing the characters of Megamind, you’re hearing Will Ferrell, and Brad Pitt, and Tina Fey, and Jonah Hill. They might as well have made the movie as a radio play.
So there you have it. Every time I hear some reviewer gush praise over a new Dreamworks animated flick I have to bury the rage deeper and deeper, less I unleash it on my poor unsuspecting Toshiba. Their stories are boring, their characters are bland, their art style is atrocious, and their animation is the absolute pinnacle of mediocrity. Now, I’m not telling all of you to stop watching their movies. All I’m saying is if you do, you’re just encouraging their crap and I hate you forever.