Rock's Riff on Animation: Right On or Really Wrong?

However you remember it—as the only laugh-worthy bit at an otherwise comically bland Oscar's, or as an unforgivable affront—you remember Chris Rock's animation quip, even if you forgot every other presenter speech made that night. Perhaps it's because like Danny DeVito (The Lorax in the Dr. Seuss film by the same name), you disagree. In response to Rock's bit DeVito told CBS This Morning, "The thing is you can phone anything in. You can go into a booth and just do it like, 'Hey, go away from that tree' or whatever. But if you really work on it as an actor, you know, you can—I bring all kinds of nuances..."

Then again, maybe you believe Rock made more than a few valid observations about the current state of animation.

Show me the money, and I'll ... recite a few lines

What Rock said:

“I hate when people go on TV and tell you how hard it is to do animations. 'Oh, Jay, it's such hard work.' No no no, UPS is hard work. Stripping wood is hard work.”

"It’s the easiest job in the world. I go in a booth and I go, ‘what’s the line?’ And the guy goes, ‘it’s time to go to the store.’ And I go, ‘it’s time to go to the store!’ … And then they give me a million dollars!”

What's valid:

True, as DeVito's says, the better the actor, the better and more nuanced they can make their animated character, but then again, often it seems like studios are just choosing actors based on celebrity. Why else are they paying them the same million-dollar paycheck for what arguably is a lot less work than starring in a typical live-action feature? Why else when they could feasibly hire an experienced voice actor no parent's ever heard of (and hence isn't itching to see as a cartoon donkey) for a lot less money? Often it seems animated creatures are created with a famous actor's standard schtick in mind.

Studio head: "I'd love to get Seth Rogen on board for this Monster vs. Aliens movie. What could he be ...

Studio exec: "How about a slovenly blob that talks like a stoner? "

Studio head: "Done!"

So maybe not so much "nuance" is always needed.

Plus few will argue that stripping wood for minimum wage isn't harder both physically, mentally and financially than spending a few weeks in a sound booth especially if you're only required to use your own unadulterated voice, as Rock suggests, not vocally invent a variety of other personalities a la South Park.

You can be anything in animation ... unless you're black

What Rock said:

“In the world of animation, you can be anything you wanna be. If you’re a fat woman, you can play a skinny princess. If you’re short wimpy guy, you can play a tall gladiator. If you’re a white man, you can play an Arabian prince. And if you’re a black man, you can play a donkey or a zebra.”

What's valid:

Donkey (Eddie Murphey in Shrek), Zebra (Chris Rock in Madagascar), Lion (James Earl Jones in The Lion King) and ... yes, that about covers it minus the rare African-American-dominated animated fairytale like The Princess and the Frog. Most of the time, if we peer behind the cartoon in animated blockbusters, the face in the sound booth isn't a black one.

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