Commentary
Year in Review 2006
René Walling | This was a busy year for feature animation. With what is probably an unprecedented amount of animated feature releases, there are at least 16 possible contenders for the 2006 best Animated Feature Oscar and considering some of the requirements to be accepted, many other films released this year (including Kihachiro Kawamoto's Book of the Dead and Phil Mulloy's The Christies) won't be on that list. Neither will many foreign films featured at the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time or Princess, nor made-for-TV features like Kids Next Door: Operation Z.E.R.O.

But is this bumper crop good for animation in general? The weakest films released this year were computer animated. All of them probably have something interesting to them; the fact they made it through the production process alone means they can't be 100% bad, but the overall effect is often disappointing. It seems we have entered the era of computer-animated B-movies.

There's nothing wrong with B-movies. Some of the best films ever made were B-movies produced on a low budget with untried directors and unknown stars. The problem is that you have to dig through tons of dirt to find a single gem. It's also doubtful that today's studios will leave the creative freedom old B-movie directors had to modern animation directors. On the other hand, having a lot of competition, including the possibility of a hit coming out of nowhere at any time, may just push the big studios to keep on their toes, forcing them to pay proper attention to what they release and hopefully increase the quality of their productions. It may also make them realize that computer animation is not the be all and end all of good entertainment, and that traditional animation techniques also have their place.
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