Welcome to the first installment of “Living Pictures on the Small Screen,” a weekly column dedicated to animated programming on television. Cultural commentary inevitably comes with bias, and I wanted to create this column in appreciation of the people and shows that helped me overcome my own bias regarding animation.
While Mirrormask has become something of a cult movie, Dave McKean is still better known for his work in illustration than his directorial efforts in film. McKean’s groundbreaking style consistently raised the bar in comic art; his contribution to the 1989 release of Arkham Asylum, written by Grant Morrison, helped change our understanding of the artform. McKean’s style seemed uniquely suited to the mind space of an asylum, his layered mixed media style reflective of thoughts and emotions in conflict. Perhaps his best known work is his contributions to the cover art for Neil Gaiman’s iconic Sandman series, once again cementing the phantasmagoric quality of McKean’s work. His collaboration with Gaiman highlighted the obscured landscape of nightmares which he frightfully recreated through superimposition, collage and drawing.
Treasure Planet should have been one of Disney’s heavy hitters. The modern-day twist on Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island had a lot going for it. Pirate adventure in space filled with interstellar ships and mutinies? Check. Stunning visuals that combine traditional 2D and modern 3D animation? Check. A great cast of characters? Well, that depends on who you ask. Treasure Planet clearly wanted to teach its audience that there is greater value in self-discovery than a ship filled with treasure from a thousand worlds. However, when it came time to test the cut of its sails, Treasure Planet left audiences standing on the docks dreaming of what could have been, if only Jim had found a way to save the treasure.
Finding the reason for Akira’s resonance with all manner of audiences is not particularly difficult, since it is the zenith of great narrative-meets-dreamlike philosophical reality bending. For all that it blurs the lines of established faux-reality and fantasy, science-fiction and existentialism, it is ultimately a film about the fatal danger posed by one’s own anger.