With most film and TV projects halted for months by the novel coronavirus pandemic, voice actors and animators have been among some of the hardest-working people in show business this spring. Sony Pictures Animation chief Kristine Belson thinks that, with demand for content not slowing down and an uncertain future for many productoins, the film industry could see a surge in animation projects intended for adult consumption. In an animation industry that was already starting to move toward a more diverse slate of content, Belson believes the pandemic will accelerate that process, according to statements she made yesterday at the Collision From Home virtual conference.
That is not to say that we're going to go straight to seeing slasher movies animated. Sony seems to feel that Disney, Dreamworks, and others have saturated the market for kids' content, and that the way to increase their footprint is to diversify their audience.
"I don't think you're going to see more family animated movies because that’s very saturated," Deadline quotes Belson as saying. "There will be more R-rated animated movies....There are a couple we're working on and we're really excited about releasing our first one. I think you're going to see PG-13 animated movies, which is something you haven't seen before. Harder action-adventure sort of stuff."
The conversation touched on a number of ways that the pandemic has impacted the way animation is being made, ranging from the positive (voice actors and animators being able to rig their work at home) to the negative (the creative process is hampered when everyone else is muted so you can't get a sense for how people are reacting).
The idea of animation moving into a more adult area is not new, obviously; in addition to decades of highly-visible Japanese and indie animation that has consistently done action, romance, and other non-kids' themes, we have years of The Simpsons and Adult Swim at this point, normalizing for almost everyone in America that cartoons with a grown-up sensibility aren't an strange, even if they are an outlier in the market. With the artistic cred lent by Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and, as Belson noted, competitors who have a lock on the hearts and minds of the younger audience, it seems Sony believes its best shot at becoming a powerhouse in the animation space is to adopt this new model -- and the pandemic is almost providing proof of concept.
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