Everyone is familiar with last summer’s hit movie Inception, but you might not know about Paprika, a japanese animation feature that shares a very similar premise. And even though there are major differences between the two films the most obvious and striking one is the choice of medium (animation vs. live action). In this particular case, better executed in Paprika.
Animation is the perfect medium to convey very complex abstract subjects. In animation symbols are all the more powerful because ideas and characteristics can be distilled down to their essence and therefore are better able to convey the story. For example in Paprika (this is not a spoiler), one of the main characters is an obese genius, and even though this could have been achieved easily with live action and the proper actor (think Nicolas Cage in Adaptation), by employing animation instead of live action, the character becomes an even more outsized and menacing symbol. That’s important because that singular characteristic comes into play with larger impact in the denouement.
Even-though companies like Pixar, Dreamworks, and Disney often make great use of animation, in the West animation is still widely regarded as a medium for children. My hope is that even more Western filmmakers open their minds to using animation to transmit their stories. As films like Paprika prove, in this day and age, animated material doesn’t have to cater only to children.