On Story: “The Heart and Humor of Animation”

Animation is such a tricky subject to tackle and I’m sad to say ‘On Story’ was slightly disappointing due to its usual structuring. During every other episode I was able to follow the editing style, but this week I found their mix and match of clips to be disorienting. The hodge-podge of King of the Hill rammed against The Iron Giant was far too obscure and didn’t blend as well as I had hoped. Nevertheless, I did learn a thing or two from ‘On Story’ this week — it could never be completely disappointing.

Now, I may have mentioned in the past that I am taking an auteur course in University for the time being… and if I have mentioned this, well, just skip over the next few sentences and you’ll get to my point. The “Auteur Theory” is an idea based on directors as the sole author of a film and that every aspect of the film itself is penned by the director. Andrew Sarris, the famed film critic, deemed a group of fourteen directors as the “pantheon” group; from Hitchcock to Von Sternberg to Renoir, these directors possessed technical competence, personal style, and somehow their personalities also bled through the celluloid to develop an “interior meaning” — for example, Hitchcock uses an overbearing mother in most of his films which is a testament to his personality. If you haven’t sensed the sarcasm in my voice, then you should watch ‘On Story’ to see that this theory is bunk!

Hitchcock’s “mother theme” at its finest:

A boy’s best friend is his mother. (Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock, 1960.)

Screenwriters of animated film — who are required to bow down to the artistry of the animators — have their hand in the creation of these films. One of the screenwriters for Kung Fu Panda talked about the image of his sister in the cookie jar which translated to a scene within the film. I’m convinced, if not by ‘On Story’ alone, that screenwriters will always be the true authors of film. Unless, of course, the director also writes the film (like Charlie Chaplin), but that’s another can of worms.

So, what do you think? Is the director the true author of the film? Or are the screenwriters like Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, and Tim McCanlies the authors of filmmaking? Perhaps producers?

Join me again next week at 5:30P on KACV for ‘On Story’ as writer/director Shane Black lets us know the ins-and-outs of suspense filmmaking!

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