Look to the Animation Arts
By Oyinkan MEDUBI
These (animation) characters all exist to make us feel so…so…so… normal in spite of our abnormality and our never getting it… Nothing teaches us more about our nothingness than watching animals imitate human actions… Animation tells us clearly, succinctly and subtly not to take ourselves too seriously because nobody else does.
I celebrate animation every day. No, not necessarily by watching Tom and Jerry (though I do, no, not every day) but by watching the greatest animators in our midst – the fathers, the husbands, the mothers, the grannies, the household heads, all of who transform the hungry, little, limp bodies around them into animated bulls fit enough to scatter the house and demolish walls. You know how they do this? By putting down money for food or by cooking the food; that’s how.
The affordances of animation (I like that word!) include my being transported into a never-never land of all kinds of possibilities where a donkey teaches a human being some good, common sense; a serpent sweet-talks a human being into doing things and doves carry messages around for humans. So, what are we talking about? The Almighty himself started the business of animation! He put the idea in our heads.
As the world celebrates animation, developed from the cartoon arts, we celebrate that unique art which looks like magic but which the practitioners will tell you is so simple. You know, everything great looks very complicated on the surface but is really simple beneath. I mean, take the most complex bridge or ring road you can think of. By the time you analyse its component parts, you will find that it is nothing but an amalgamation of different simple things. So also is the logic of animation, simplicity itself. Don’t let me explain it to you however, I will only spoil it for you. Besides, I don’t know too much about the science of it.
I do know though that the art has been around since the 1800s but did not really pick up till the 1900s when it was mainly hand drawn. Now that we are in the computer age when men have taken to owning computerised toilets, animation has also been revolutionised. Many animation companies now use computer programming to produce full-length features.
Now, with such full-length efforts and other short skits, we have come a long way. Indeed, has the art not given us some of the most unforgettable characters you can think of: Mickey Mouse, Shrek, Fred Flintstone who is your average worker trying to grope his way through life; the irrepressible Tom and Jerry forever chasing each other and forever never quite getting it; Homer Simpson, the husband-father figure who just never gets it either; Spongebob Squarepants the stouthearted adventurer… and so many more? These characters all exist to make us feel so…so…so… normal in spite of our abnormality and our never getting it. When I say ‘us’, please, I do not include this country’s politicians. Those ones are not materials that we can animate because, honestly, they are beyond help. That is what distinguishes them from us humanoids.
Animation, I understand, is all of a combination of art, science and technology. Its basic material is of course the cartoon art of caricature but employs both scientific and technological methods for replicating and sequencing it, a ken that is beyond most of us. Many art works of a scene are drawn but each one is made to be slightly different from the last one so that when arranged sequentially, the figures appear to be moving or talking. That is how we come to see animals talking, eating or doing things. What we should take away from the art form is the lesson these material endeavours are trying to teach us.
To start with, I understand that animation is a multibillion dollar industry which however is not being tapped at the moment in Nigeria because of a fixated attitude. Most people believe that cartoon-related materials are for children and are not worthy of any attention. This is why people have not invested much in children’s literature, wears, food, or time. Mostly, Nigeria has been reduced, with a great deal of connivance from some of her citizens too, to depending entirely on foreign everything.
Animations teach us a lot of things. First, they teach us that with a little bit of imagination, we can make anything happen. With imagination, we can even transform Nigeria from the hopeless case it is right now to a powerful country. All we have to do is apply a little horse sense. Many of our little characters hit highs and lows, but they rise because they press on and refuse to stay down.
So yes, the other lesson is very clear already. Animation tells us clearly, succinctly and subtly not to take ourselves too seriously because nobody else does. October 28th, that’s tomorrow, is World Animation Day. Please watch an animation piece and experience the validation of your humanity: the feeling that you are not the unluckiest humanoid on the planet. That blighter talking as the donkey in Shrek probably has it rougher than you do.