International Animation Day

October 28, 2008

Today is International Animation Day, marking the 116th anniversary of French inventor Emile Reynaud putting on the first public performance of animation with his “optical theatre” at the Grevin Museum in Paris.

I don’t think there’s any arguing that animation contributes to a substantial amount of content to the larger body of SF, and that it’s had, one way or another, an influence on the developement of most geeks of the current era. As children, the first movie (or, at least one of the first movies) most peole get taken to is some kind of animation (mine was Disney’s “Pete’s Dragon”). Throughout childhood we’d gorge ourselves on SF television – and I recall that most of the shows (even the biggest exceptions like Bugs Bunny had their SF moments – how can you forget Marvin the Martian or Duck Dodgers or Witch Hazel?) that I paid any attention to back in the late 70’s and early 80’s were SF-oriented (“Superfriends”, “Starblazers”, “Battle of the Planets”, “Transformers”, “Masters of the Universe”, “Herculoids”, “The Spiderman & His Amazing Friends and the Incredible Hulk Adventure Hour”, and “The Secret Railroad” to name but a few).

As adults, many SF fans continue to watch animation of one form or another. Geeks go in for kids’ stuff for nostalgia (as evidenced by the huge DVD industry reissuing old shows), to take another look at it with adult eyes, or for just plain fun. The market for intergeneratinal stuff like Miyazaki’s works or the Pixar flicks has proven itself to be near limitless (’cause anything by Miyazaki is cool and Pixar’s “WALL-E” rocked). And many Sf fans are attracted to thoroughly adult fare like South Park as platforms for cutting social satire, unapologetic raunchiness, and the tendencies to reference to SF culture in what ultimately becomes a self-referential feedback loop. And if you want to look at sub-genre tribalism, animation stakes out some pretty big territory in the SF realm in the form of anime followers – you can’t walk 5 steps at any kind of ‘con without bumping into some woman wearing cat ears and a sailor suit or a guy decked-out like a command officer from Gundam (personally, I’m a big fan of “Royal Space Force”, but you wouldn’t see me dressing up like Shiro Ledatt). In fact, the mall just down the street has not one, but two anime-oriented stores, and it’s not kids who are buying the product.

Like any other form of geek culture, animation is an intensely personal experience. We may group together under its sub-genre wing – or, more realistically, the wings of one of several sub-sub-genres, or there may be no agreement as to what show or movie constitutes the best that animation has to offer to SF culture. That being said, animation is a fundamental part of SF culture, and I’d encourage all of you to celebrate International Animation Day by going out and watching whatever your favourite happens to be.

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