I can’t really get behind the anger over the Lego Movie snub. I know that it was extremely popular and that it had a clever screenplay and it made a point about American consumerist culture. The problem I have with it? At the end of the day, it’s still a toy brand. In effect, the Lego Movie, like Transformers, is really just a kicked-up version of a feature-length commercial for a brand. Sure, one could argue that all of tent-pole cinema now is branded – that the sequels themselves are brands, that any comic book film is a brand. Any films that sell toys and merch are branded. To me, it’s NOT quite the same thing as a movie selling Legos.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 won big at the Annie’s, which seemed to cause some grumbling among Lego fans. But to me, they picked the right movie to honor.
Today the Superbowl will launch the best in advertising. The football game will come almost second to the excitement over the commercials. Selling shit is really what America is all about. Movies are made to make money, certainly. The formula is the formula. As an old timer in the days before branding became so all-consuming I still lean towards celebrating originality in art. It’s a gray area to be sure and arguments can be made in both directions.
At the end of the day, for me, I just can’t see The Lego Movie as anything but an ad. However great the Burger King commercial will be today, or the Go Daddy commercial or the Budweiser commercial or the McDonald’s commercial — however good they are they are still ads. Artistry can be brought to them and they should be rewarded in the advertising field for great and innovative advertising but can films still be films? And ads still be ads?
I’ve watched this sink into full blown commercialism starting back when Pirates of the Caribbean became a movie. Really? A movie about an amusement park ride? That’s what the world was coming to and that’s what the world became. That is what our world is. We embrace consumerist culture in every aspect because Hollywood makes its maximum profits from “pre-awareness.” What kid didn’t play with Legos? Who hasn’t been to Disneyland?
The first How to Train Your Dragon was so good it should have won Best Animated Feature that year. It didn’t because you can’t get in the way of the Pixar train. This year, both Dragon 2 and Big Hero 6 are innovative, original, brilliantly executed stories that take animation to new heights. Dragon 2 is as good, if not better, than the first one. Breathtaking animation that should be rewarded.
The Lego Movie fits into some category, just not really in the animation category. Whatever it is it marks, to me, the day everything really changed to where it doesn’t matter anymore whether you’re watching a full length advertisement or not – as long as it’s entertaining. Though I give the Academy a lot of shit for how they continually and systematically shut out women, I have to applaud their efforts in this category, despite what the popular opinion is. The animators in the Academy are traditionalists, thus, they reward animation as art, not as pop culture.
Dreamwork’s animation is one of the few studios that really does support women in all aspects of their company. Both How to Train Your Dragon 1 and 2 are both about preserving the natural world, and loving our animal friends. They’re spectacular while also being good for humanity overall. Not to sound like an Academy voter but really, it’s hard not to admire these films.