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Mormon animators popular in Hollywood

May 23, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
The New York Times Magazine has an interesting article this week about how many Hollywood film animators are young Mormons who were educated by Brigham Young University in Utah. The university aims to produce graduates who will create material with a positive message and make people feel better about themselves after leaving the theater.

The writer of the piece, a New Yorker, seemed a little bemused by all these clean-cut young 20-somethings who have promised not to drink, smoke, have sex before marriage and don't swear or watch many R-rated movies. One of the young animators she interviewed compared the very dark Batman movie trilogy unfavorably to the cartoon "Wreck-It-Ralph." The last Batman movie was great but made her feel horrible about humanity when she left the theater; the cartoon made her feel good about people and the world.

I wouldn't want to reduce all of film-making to a children's cartoon, but I think the young Brigham Young animation students make an excellent point. I've noticed that my own film viewing has been sporadic in recent years, though I did go to the new "Star Trek" movie last week and probably will see a few more movies this year in the theater. Some of my dwindling interest in movies is because the movie studios are mostly interested in making movies for teenage and college-age comic book fanboys. I'm no longer in their target market.

Of the movies I have seen recently, last year's cartoon "Brave" was a standout. I found the relationship between mom and daughter appealing in the story of the Scottish warrior princess who argues with her mom, accidentally turns her into a bear and then spends half the movie trying to figure out how to turn her back into a human being. The character of the mother is realistically and sympathetically drawn, unlike so many of the women in live action movies. Apparently there were a few BYU grads on the animation team for "Brave."

I don't know how good the new animated film "Epic," which opens Friday, will be. It looks like it is getting some mixed reviews. On the other hand it, too, looks like a good family film that could probably be enjoyed by both adults and children. I wonder how many BYU graduates are among its animators?


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