Note: This Essay is not a review of Zootopia, nor a criticism of the movie. This essay takes its queue mostly in response to the wisecrack video about Zootopia and its issues about Race – this topic deals with why Jared made these criticisms, but expands on these questions to the how and why these issues come up. The opinions and observations made in this essay, do not represent the views of ToonBarn.
There is a question folks need to start asking, and it comes in the form of the comments made by Wisecrack on YouTube. These comments made on the movie have merit, but the real issue is that on why this movie succeeded while other movies like Kubo and a few others failed, in what was historically and monetary wise – the biggest year in animation in recent decades.
Zootopia is in no uncertain terms, a movie for kids and as such the directors had to generalize the social context the movie was trying to show. Wisecrack implied that the directors really didn’t do a good job at generalization (stated in no uncertain terms that it should have been made much more simple because the history of race relations in the western world). And as many reviewers and commentators have stated – it’s a good film, with a better story and much tighter script then the other mega-hit Frozen.
But Jared, unwittingly has exposed a massive truth in his concerns. It has sort of become an unwritten secret – that you see between the lines in many of these movies reviewed- that the “puritan” block has reared its ugly head once more. But now, its being helped by another source – the source that is causing a lot of the piracy (or the support of such) in the anime industry – that site name is Crunchyroll. Let me explain with this analogy from the car industry.
You all have to realize that for decades, the auto industry in the United States has not recovered from what happened in the 1970 and most of the 80’s. Other businesses, whether it was in entertainment, construction and other such took note of these changes. Universities used these incidences to showcase market pressure and how government, other connecting markets, and other economic pressures effect society and its choices in buying product. So many businesses made it their mission, knowing that these pressures were here to stay – was to prevent such things from taken over their businesses. It became so important in the entertainment industry – that I am hear to say that Crunchyroll was one of Hollywood’s major creations of a kind in the Piracy of anime, and once successful – was given money from people in the tech field and then later the former head of Fox (Peter Cherinin) and now is in the hands of AT&T.
This in a way was both Disney’s doing of a kind as well, In 2004; the company was publicly and majorly embarrassed after a most intriguing board meeting in Philadelphia. Disney and their ad agencies made it their mission to not only save the Disney Brand, but to stop their rivals. So they did things in the music industry, they reconfigured deals, they made certain dealings with Universities for research in Internet Technology (this is where the whole issue of the H1B Visas came into play), they started to fund research into how girls interact with other girls and other boys, and what changes in society were taken place between men and women and other such. They also via ESPN started to take major sports rights into their umbrella and as well they move towards a more political sphere since 2014 and the elections – but as we now know – the market is fickle and their one sports stop shop is shaky a best – and a full on disaster at worst.
All of this, is because of the Success of Toonami in its early years, and the success of Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon (augmented as well by Toonami) and Pokemon – twice over. The fact that Pokemon could have a resurgence in the years when Finding Dory, Frozen, Zootopia, and others are breaking records sticks in Disney’s crawl. And as well, Disney got out of the Video Game Business only 6 months before Pokemon Go even arrived. These shows mentioned, begat other shows coming from Japan. It was difficult to handle – even now – even with the most inoffensive works.
Crunchyroll was pretty much created as Hollywood’s dirty little secret – it keeps Toonami struggling to get to the next level (you see it with the recent unneeded kerfuffle over Gucci’s new video, which i felt was fine) because Crunchyroll not only creates a culture that makes anime into a ghetto of sorts – it also keeps the same meme of “cartoons are for kids” mantra that still hurts other animation work from all over – because it makes it very very hard for ad agencies – especially now with all of the social puritanical streak and purity questions going around today – to take risks in TV, which keeps good anime off the airwaves where they could find a audience outside of the “ghetto” that Hollywood created with their tacit support of Crunchyroll. But there is an audience, and the Piracy proved it sadly. Crunchyroll is now working with former rivals Funimation in streaming. The rise of Kiss Anime (and Kiss Cartoon, where a lot of people see shows before they air on Cartoon Network and the like) is in the hopes of getting a similar deal with some companies like Verizon or Comcast. Hollywood in turn, uses both Crunchyroll and illegal sources take “inspiration” from these shows in order get this “ghetto” into the mainstream. Piracy pays when you have the right names – or the right colleges backing you.
But the most insidious thing about this is that Zootopia is the only thing allowed to be shown to the masses because of all of these market forces in place. All businesses want is to make money – not social change. In fact social change or the promise of social change helps these advertisers to make more money (also mentioned by WiseCrack) – making a dystopia out of the ideas great men used in order to get humanity to think. Anime has been very neutral to this argument depending on the genre or aim of the creator of the manga or light novel author. But that isn’t good enough for many in the western ad agencies, they have to match a certain atmosphere and a lot of them don’t do it – or it seen much differently due to language and how relationships between men and women are. You also have to understand that censorship also comes into play, and has gotten much, much worse after 2004. So it limits how show airs in the states and elsewhere.
Kubo had a more important story – and was funny in moments. But is hard for Laika to make inroads because of the power structure Disney and others have put on the animation industry as a whole. It is so front heavy and even despite the ad agencies support of Kubo – it just couldn’t get an audience. A very similar thing happened with Dreamworks’s last inventive movie – Jack and the Guardians, which killed any chance of Dreamworks taking any more risks and lead i feel, to the company being bought by Comcast.
So all these forces are being used, plus all the rest of these issues with what people can see or watch – causes people to not look beyond what is given to these writers and so on. These writers do what they are given, and they can make good movies at time. There is even a argument that because it was Union (SagAftra and TAG union) that they still have a say in making Disney a lot of money. But also – you see, the Union can also in a way unwittingly prevent folks from writing and making movies they want. As we have just witnessed, voice actors, animators and so on take a lot of money. One of the reasons we have problems in the industry is wage suppression and lack of movement between companies and issues with overtime. A lot of the anime that became popular came from Non union sources and that also got the leaders of said unions a bit peeved. I am never against any union, but one must take things into a honest way and see the situation on a even keel. The Union also has a say in censorship in a way – because the US dubbers margins are BEYOND tight – they lose a lot of voice actors to the mainstream work like Zootopia and other such work, that and the Unions are still pretty liberal (its is the foundation of the true left and not the new left) and they tend to talk about stories dealing these issues, a lot of them warranted. But it is a form of censorship regardless.
And all these forms now showcase the problem. Zootopia may be a good film, with a message the writers and directors tried to fit different pieces into a ever changing narrative in the movie, but Jared from Wisecrack stated that that narrative was too muddled. I’m saying this is the best American animation can reach because now a majority of the entertainment industry in Hollywood and its ad agencies are in a autocratic state and are now dealing with autocratic nations (such as China) in order to continue to fund their works. And all autocracies work in the form of collusion and censorship to prevent the truth of said collusion or to break out from said collusion and its ideologies, and mannerisms and end the unnecessary censorship. Crunchyroll is in the hands of Hollywood and now Kiss Anime wants the same, and so does Toonami Aftermath.
What it has done in the west in animation has been myriad and all of it very bad for its future – weaker works pass, the fanbase becomes a cult of sorts with no leaders (see Steven Universe and so on), there is a question of body structure in female leads which doesn’t make any lick of sense unless your in the censorship camp and so on. Its going to reach a point where stick figures will be the only thing allowed because how can stick figure offend me and doesn’t hurt the bottom line of those who bought the rights to those stick figures!?
I just want to end this with a small message that I think truly shows how sad all this collusion to hurt art and animation – and maybe in a sense – how it effect a people, really is.
Consider if you will, a people who helped build the railroads. they gave to the world. Because that is what the people are.
The wanted a honest pay. Many others got fired, because railroads wanted slave labor. They were never going to stand for it.
From this people ancestral home, travelers go around the world to find a government that will work, while other nations are used and abused for war and money and profit. In 30 years, they build a modern nation out of the ashes of war.
Many years later, this nation goes to war, and their people – there descendants that live in the US – are punished for no reason, and interned for fear of betrayal. and because of a translation mistake – two, not one…two bombs of unimaginable power hit this nation and changed it forever.
Other folks wouldn’t open their arms, wouldnt rebuild – but some how this people was able to do so (with changes to there constitution of course) rebuild. And it jumped ahead – so far ahead that even it shocked everyone that dealt with them. Many tried to copy but dont have the history – nor its methods to succeed.
They give, while we censor the gift.
They give, while we try to take away their honest pay yet again.
They give and give, while we say they are a part of a politics we no longer accept.
They give and give and give.
When are we going to accept the gift? They are not perfect – no people are and no nation will ever be.
But when one is outpacing you, and they still want to give to you, after we support lessors and copycats…
When will you accept that its time to grow up?
And just accept their gift as is?