ByAllen-Michael Harber, writer at
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Allen-Michael Harber

Anime has been around for a few decades, and Disney even longer than that. While these two styles may be different in various ways, anime has influenced many animators today. Additionally, modern anime was also influenced by early Disney cartoons.

How Disney Influenced Anime

Anime exists in its form today thanks to a man known as Osamu Tezuka. He is responsible for pioneering techniques in anime that are used to this day, such as the large eyes look. As a child, Tezuka would watch old Disney cartoons and movies and emulate them in his own design. The large eyes were inspired from characters such as Betty Boop and Mickey Mouse.

How Anime Influenced Disney And Other Studios

Many artists and animators attribute anime as an influence, most notably the works of Hayao Miyazaki. If you don’t know who he is, just know that he is the only Japanese animator to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature (for his film Spirited Away). He is a founding member of Studio Ghibli, whose movies have been celebrated worldwide.

Miyazaki is known for his recurring themes that can be seen in many of his movies, and many animators have gone to incorporate those themes into their own projects. For example, one of Miyazaki’s signatures is his use of flight in his movies. Kiki’s Delivery Service had a young witch flying around on a broom, Howl’s Moving Castle had a wizard fighting planes as a large bird and My Neighbor Totoro had a large cat creature flying around like Mary Poppins with an umbrella. Movies like The Rescuers Down Under, Pixar’s Up, and Dreamworks modern classic How to Train Your Dragon have had their creators use Miyazaki as an influence. Each one of these movies have their own ways to take to the skies with Up’s flying house, the dragons in How to Train Your Dragon and The Rescuers Down Under has a scene where the heroes travel to Australia on a bird.

Another staple of Miyazaki is how he portrays good guys and villains. No one in his movies are inherently good or evil — everyone is a person with flaws. In Princess Mononoke the "villain" is Lady Eboshi. She burns down a forest and kills its creatures so she can mine the iron found in the sand, however she also finds those cast out by society such as brothel girls and lepers and gives them a place to stay and work.

Many modern animated movies have followed this kind of thinking as well. Looking at Monster’s, Inc, Mr. Waternoose is the perceived bad guy of the movie because he wants to kidnap children and suck out their screams. Looking at the situation through his point of view, there is a shortage of power in the monster world and he runs a company that is doing all it can to keep society from falling to pieces. Not only this, but children aren’t able to be scared as easily anymore so you need a way to get more power. He’s not doing this because he is inherently evil, he’s doing what he feels is necessary.

How Anime Has Influenced Modern Cartoons

The influence of anime is not just felt with big movie studios, even the small screen has embraced anime by emulating its art style and themes. Three shows that perfectly symbolize this are Dexter’s Laboratory, Teen Titans and The Powerpuff Girls.

Dexter’s Laboratory was released in the ‘90s around the time that anime was becoming mainstream in America. The part of anime that Dexter’s Laboratory emulated was giant robots, which was being introduced to American audiences through shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion. In a few episodes of Dexter’s Lab we see him use giant robots, whether it’s to help him win a dodgeball game or to enlist the help of his parents to fight a kaiju or giant monster. Dexter’s creator Genndy Tartakovsky also created Samurai Jack, which took a more anime-inspired stylistic approach in its design.

Teen Titans is a great example of western cartoons embracing the anime art style. Instead of looking like their realistic comic book counterparts, they were drawn with a cartoony and exaggerated look. The show even had moments where the characters were drawn purposefully deformed to emulate the cute chibi look in certain comedic situations. Avatar: The Last Airbender is also famous for this, and has some anime fans arguing whether it should be considered anime.

Although it could be argued that The Powerpuff Girls are drawn in the super cute chibi style, what makes it different is that it had its own anime adaptation in Powerpuff Girls Z. This is an example of an increasingly common occurrence of western cartoons and even comics being turned into anime. Batman, Wolverine and Iron Man have all been given the anime treatment. Even Deadpool makes an appearance in Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers, where they do a pretty good job of nailing his character.

There are plenty more examples that have been seen throughout the years of Disney and anime’s overall influence, but to go through it all would also take years. It’s just amazing to look at so many examples and see how they can be influenced by the same thing.

Check out how anime has played a major role in Hollywood as a genre and a style in the video below:

What anime style do you like best?


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