The Emoji Movie, which had it’s release on Friday, is perhaps the prime example of what the current state in mainstream American animation is – if it is not a Disney property, it is most likely mediocre at best.
According to Variety, the box office for the first day of the animated comedy is not promising when competing with Atomic Blonde and Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk:
“Emoji” appeared headed for about $25 million. Charlize Theron’s “Atomic Blonde” is performing slightly under expectations and is forecasted to finish in the $18 million to $20 million range.
Should Warner Bros.’ “Dunkirk” prevail, it will be the first title to top back-to-back weekends since the studio’s “Wonder Woman” did so on June 9-11. But “The Emoji Movie” is showing decent drawing power with an opening day in the $9 million range, although the core demographic of children plus some rain in the Eastern United States makes predictions problematic.
Critics have given a big thumbs down to “The Emoji Movie,” currently at 3% on Rotten Tomatoes, but the film’s core demographic of younger children is critic-proof. Sony has been actively promoting “The Emoji Movie,” with Miller parasailing into Cannes in May to help launch the movie’s first trailer, and will begin an international rollout next weekend (McNary 2017).
Entertainment Weekly has given even less praise, with a source from Vox calling the film: ” is a waste of time, resources, and a bunch of comedians’ voices, plus a premise that actually had the potential to do some small good in the world. It’s less of a movie and more of an insult” (Rosen 2017).
What exactly is the problem with the film though? It has a good voice cast, an apparent interesting premise, why isn’t it making money?
Firstly, the film was produced by Sony, who, in recent years has not had a slew of successes (Spiderman: Homecoming being an exception, granted, that was shared with Disney/Marvel). Secondly, the film’s themes, which is similar to both Zootopia and Wreck-It-Ralph, both Disney properties, are forced down the audiences throats. T.J. Miller is quoted in saying that the film will “fight Trump and make young people adopt progressive values.” Continuing on, Miller says: “We (The Hollywood Elite) have very few weapons in the current administration, and one of them is to target a younger demographic…”
The problem with this is tactic is that it goes against what propaganda is supposed to be. I understand that animation is a medium, but animation is also considered by many to be a “children’s medium” (I detest the term “children’s medium” but in this case, it’s true). The film is a children’s film, the marketing, the idea, points to this. Children’s films do not need propaganda, they need life lessons and moral lessons; films like Pinocchio or Dumbo do what The Emoji Movie is attempting to do leaps and bounds better than the current fare. Another issue with this is that it allows children to become essentially brainwashed into believing a certain thing and not being able to think for themselves. Animation, particularly in the 21st century, has seen a progressive swing. Frozen, Tangled, and Brave are considered feminist films; there is nothing inherently wrong with the animation or the films themselves, but rather the message they present, while good intended, could have been portrayed better.
In the Golden Age of Animation (1928-1969) all throughout the world the propaganda cartoons brought about social change, supported a cause, that hasn’t really changed… what has changed is the demographic. The older cartoons were targeted for adults (i.e. the Warner Brothers SNAFU cartoons, Disney’s Education for Death, most of the “Buy Your War Bonds” cartoons), the current cartoons are targeted for children. The issue this presents is that it presents children with a preconceived idea that the world has to without a doubt work a certain way when in fact it doesn’t always. While “utopia” sounds like a good idea on paper, like most progressive values, it fails in practice.
Hollywood, cease with your propagandist march for children, but if you must create it, be sure that it is subtle and do not show your political biases so clearly next time T.J.