Saturday, October 10, 2009

Astro Leaning Left?

OK, so this is.... unique. Watch out, incoming politics!

A new article posted on Moviefone poses the question if Astro Boy is the newest in a recent series of left-leaning animated movies.

"While it's no secret that Hollywood films tend to skew left in general, 'Astro Boy' may be the first animated blockbuster to discuss, if not necessarily endorse, explicit Marxist ideologies (albeit in cute robot form, of course.) In the movie, the aforementioned outcasts, led by Robotsky, form the Robot Revolutionary Front, stenciling their logo on city walls and chanting "Viva La Robotolution" at anyone within earshot. On the whole, it's played for laughs, but makes us ponder the question:

Have animated films gotten more leftist in recent years?"
It's an interesting topic, though perhaps a little silly to be reading this much into films like this. I can't really speak to the topic as a whole, however it's no secret who Osamu Tezuka was and what he believed in. He used his manga as a way of expressing his messages. The story of Astro Boy was born out of post-World War II Japan, and there is a reason why this story unfolds as it does. Tezuka was trying to tell us something, and it's appropriate for this movie to retain some of those themes.

One has to wonder if more will be made out of this topic as time goes forward.

You can read "'Astro Boy': The Latest in Line of Left-Leaning Animated Films?" on Moviefone or by clicking the link below for an archived version. Due chime in with your own thoughts in the comment section here, but keep it civil, ya hippies!

'Astro Boy': The Latest in Line of Left-Leaning Animated Films?

* October 8, 2009

Crude posters of Lenin and Trotsky adorn the threadbare walls of an office in a desolate part of town, and a group of outcast revolutionaries hatch a scheme to overthrow the ruling powers and bring equality and a classless society to mankind. The beginning of an Eisenstein film? Bunuel? Renoir?

Try 'Astro Boy,' the upcoming animated film featuring the voices of Nicolas Cage and Kristen Bell about a boy robot (Freddie Highmore) that leaves his scientist father after finding out he isn't human. Ostensibly a film for children -- with a fringe following of fanboys, thanks to its comic book series -- the movie features very adult ideas of ownership and class structure that will most likely be future fodder for college philosophy classes around the country.

While it's no secret that Hollywood films tend to skew left in general, 'Astro Boy' may be the first animated blockbuster to discuss, if not necessarily endorse, explicit Marxist ideologies (albeit in cute robot form, of course.) In the movie, the aforementioned outcasts, led by Robotsky, form the Robot Revolutionary Front, stenciling their logo on city walls and chanting "Viva La Robotolution" at anyone within earshot. On the whole, it's played for laughs, but makes us ponder the question:

Have animated films gotten more leftist in recent years?

Political leanings in modern animation are, of course, nothing new. Less than a decade after 1937's 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,' America's first animated feature-length film, was released, scores of propaganda-filled cartoons from World War II could be seen on both sides of the front, with titles like 'The Ducktators,' 'Education For Death' and 'Daffy the Commando.'

The 1990s saw a slew of Disney-released, politically correct folk tales that branched out across cultures, featuring lead characters who were Native American ('Pocahontas'), Chinese ('Mulan') and Arab ('Aladdin'). As we noted last month, the studio's upcoming 'Princess and the Frog' has already generated more controversy than it wanted over its character portrayals and ethnicities.

Yet just over the past year, a number of animated films have moved the political line from subtle subplot to overt messages.

Early summer's 'Battle for Terra,' concerning a peace-loving, nature-worshipping alien race attacked by warmongering humans seeking more land, seemingly employs a ripped-from-the-headlines style of dialogue to enunciate its message. "We need information on the enemy's strengths and numbers. This machine might hold the answer," says one human interrogator to an alien as he prods a captured robot. "So ask him," replies the alien. "Don't torture him." Later on, military head General Hemmer (voiced by Brian Cox) institutes a coup d'etat and proclaims, "Let future generations judge me," presciently predicting Karl Rove's assertion that "history is going to be kind to [George W. Bush]."

The upcoming animated adventure 'Planet 51' -- about an American astronaut (Dwayne Johnson) who lands in a new world inhabited by small green creatures -- is decidedly less topical, yet still paints humans as the alien race.

The PG-13-rated '9,' Shane Acker's full-length take on his Academy Award-nominated 2005 short film, opens in a world where a totalitarian regime uses an artificially created brain to manufacture tools of war that nearly end humanity. It's up to the "stitchpunks," a ragtag group of nine scientifically engineered creatures known only by their number, to use their collective power to rally against evil authoritarian forces.

And of course, there's the granddaddy of them all: 'WALL-E.' The perceived philosophy of Andrew Stanton's Academy-award winning feature, and one of last year's most critically acclaimed movies, was claimed by virtually every political and intellectual movement. Though Stanton adamantly disavowed any political message in the film, it's hard not to read at least a little into the movie's anti-consumerist, corporations-rule-the-world slant.

On the flipside stands Carl Fredricksen, the surly senior citizen hero of Pixar's summer smash 'Up' -- we can surmise he's a conservative when he admonishes a contractor on his lawn to "take a bath, hippie!" Of course, Fredricksen is voiced by Ed Asner, one of the entertainment industry's longest tenured liberal mouthpieces.

Just as the 1990s ushered in the era of political correctness in cartoons -- to the chagrin of some and admiration of others -- the line seems to have shifted once again from mere liberalism to more blatant socialist themes. We're curious to see what's in store for future animated tales.

So the question remains: Have animated films veered more left than their predecessors, or are we just reading too much into movies made for kids." Tell us what you think.

--By Jason Newman

5 comments:

Tohoscope said...

Astro Boy, Hero of the Revolution!

Somebody should send this guy a copy of that Tezuka Metropolis movie. Jeez.

Now I'm off to shop Atom's face on to the iconic Che Guevara portrait and make tee-shirts.

Anonymous said...

let it be people... sometimes its easier for us to tell truths to children than to complicated-minded adults.... and is it bad to instill ideologies to fight tyrants and exploitations? :)

Manetoys said...

I can totally see Astro Boy leaning to the left. This is no real surprise to me

Anonymous said...

I was actually really distracted by the politics in this movie.

I wanted a cartoon about a boy robot and I got a unmistakably republican villain and bunch of nonsense about blue good energy and red evil energy.

Just in case you thought the colors were just colors, the villain clarifies it for us when he characterizes the blue energy as "save the whales peace on earth etc." energy

The movie wasn't that good after the 1st 35 mins, but it would have been better without all the preachy political references.

Ninjatron said...

If you weren't expecting anything like this then you probably are not that familiar with the character or the other works of Osamu Tezuka.

Peace on Earth and Saving the Whales are not Political issues. They are just simply good things that should not have anything to do with what color party one votes for.

Sayonara.