Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Bluey: A Pinnacle of (Family? Everyone's?) Animation


Gotta Love Big Beautiful Pictures of a Beautiful Dog Family

This is a remarkable time of life. We have access to all the animation of our childhood; whether that be Pokémon, Digimon, Winnie the Pooh, or even Peanuts specials, we can go back to the 90s and relive some of our favorite moments, like Ash meeting Pikachu, Tai wrestling Matt (or maybe you prefer Tai's wrestle with anxiety and fear at the pyramid...), or Winnie the Pooh and Piglet running from heffalumps and woozels. Or maybe you preferred Arthur, Sailor Moon, Gargoyles, or Magic School Bus. Or maybe you were a 2000s kid and watched Naruto or Avatar, or Spongebob, or an 80s kid an loved He-Man or She-ra; or maybe I'm too old to be writing about children's cartoons (I still need to watch Phineas and Ferb). We have access to so much that even now, shows seem so numerous as to be diluted in quality, and we are drowning in a sea of media. We forget the glory days, and we get lost in a blase, wishing for days of nostalgia. That's why Bluey is such a miracle. 

Set in Australia, and begun in 2018, Bluey is a preschool kids show. Except that everyone who loves and adores Bluey the most are not just preschool kids, or even elementary school kids (primary school for our Englishly inclined), but even teenagers, young adults, and of course parents. Children love Bluey. Their parents love Bluey. College students love Bluey. Everyone loves bluey. I bet my mom would love Bluey (you would too, if you saw it). So, what's to love? 

from Magic Xylophone

The first thing you'll notice is the vibrant color palette. This is a beautiful show. Every frame is full of detail, and everything helps paint the story, and the idea of this cozy little dog family. Not only that, but the expression and the movement of the characters is so well-done, that you can't help but appreciate every movement. 

from Sleepytime, a perennial favorite

Of course, you could imply some weakness in the design. It paints everything in a very bright, very "picture perfect" kind of light, which gives this challenge: are they maybe, "too perfect" looking? Of course we all know the ideal version of a dog family, but are they actually "real" and imperfect? Ultimately, that comes down to the animators. Sometimes they portray messy carseats, or a messy playroom, or cracks or leaves or hairs, and they'll put in all the details of a busy family with small children. There are even moments where we enter dreams and the imagination in ways that only animation could. This is a show that's got it.

Lovely "Jupiter" (Holst) theme

The second thing you'll have noticed (because you usually notice things you see first), is the fantastic soundtrack. From covers of the best classical music pieces of all time (and some that are particularly English and Commonwealthy), to their own original music, Bluey really smashes the keyboard. Or maybe it stretches some bowstrings. Most of the soundtrack has an energetic tilt to it, that breathes hope and life, but it also is very capable of taking time to breath. Bluey's soundtrack covers the range of emotion, from joy and manic energy, to calm, and even sadness. You'll find some of the strongest sound direction in television here. Oh, and an opening theme that can technically be conducted in 17/4 time.

Just a random, run of the mill background track, nothing special

However, the third thing you'll notice, and possibly the most powerful, is the depiction of strong, resilient familial and friend relationships. For instance Veranda Santa, an episode where family is over for Christmas, portrays the challenges of having a younger sibling or cousin who doesn't understand things well, but also how toddlers still have raw emotions when we mistreat them. This episode, which is only about six or seven minutes long, is able to convey in such a short time such strong concepts and emotions, even character development, that would make even movies blush. What's remarkable is how they're effective in doing this every single episode. Sure, there will be standouts, including ones where there is no dialogue, or ones that deal with particularly heavy adult issues, but these are all done so consistently with taste and with a brightness of hope, that I can't help but love the direction. This show covers such topics as relationship dynamics, methods of teaching, attitude cultivation, patience, mental health, and that's just scratching the surface. The depth here is deep, and appreciated.

from Veranda Santa

Of course there is another way that this show really shines, and in fact, it goes all the way back to 1995. Without being particular in every respect, the spirit of the show follows so well the ideals of the Family Proclamation, read in general conference by President Gordon B. Hinkley, that I couldn't help but read out this quote:
"Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners."  
-The Family: A Proclamation to the World

While even the religiously inclined would probably be shocked (surprised more like it) if a popular show depicted prayer or worship, the relationships depicted in this show so powerfully enshrine fidelity, love, respect, compassion, and wholesome recreational activities, that it matches so well with the Family Proclamation. As Brigham Young said, 

“[The gospel] embraces all morality, all virtue, all light, all intelligence, all greatness, and all goodness. It introduces a system of laws and ordinances.”

We can carry with us that light that we are able to find, whatever source it may, and incorporate it into our lives. Bluey shows the beautiful love and affection of family, activities and imagination that build and develops kids and adults, and how to live life well. If you haven't given it a watch, or have been wondering about the hype, go and give it a watch. It'll change your life. You can watch it on Disney+ (I know...). 

1 comment:

  1. My granddaughter’s favorite Bluey, her name is Blue!. I enjoyed your thoughts on it.