Introducing Ryan Van Vuitton's "My Fantasy Environment: A Narrative Cartography Project"

An Animated Analysis of Deforestation & Animal Devaluation


You are lying to yourself if you think the world of animation has not influenced you in one way or another. And no, I am not strictly focusing on television shows that depict the quirkiness of “The Fairly Oddparents,” nor movies that indulge in psychopathy like “Perfect Blue.” If you look up the definition of animation, you’ll find that it is characterized by liveliness and vigor. Some of you may have been surrounded with the luxury of television and having either cable or antenna TV. Some of you probably grew up without a television but had figurines that ultimately became your best friends. Some of you may have neither had a television or toys, but rather, the world itself 一 yes, the world itself. You created schemas for birds and butterflies associating them to be the same thing, and even befriended the mongoose living underneath your house, and named it Nugs (what… is this not relatable?). The point is, animation surrounds us like a sea of enigma. A sea of ambiguity and inspiration. We are so heavily influenced by its entity that by the time we get older, we merge its reality with our reality. A wall of amnesia deflects most of our remembrance and our present is heavily defined by a systematic, conniving, apparatus of slavery. The world we live in is entrenched in problems that can literally determine the livability of our future. Carbon emissions, the emulsification of radiation in places like Cherynoble, and the killing of animals are all due to humanistic ideologies. So how does animation capitalize on these issues? How is it addressed to their audience because, as we all know, animation no longer caters its opulence to children. Through my map, I hope to illustrate my research endeavors as clearly as I possibly can. Analyzing different cultures and expanding the environmental, biological, and humanistic aspects of some of their cartoons 一 as well as animated movies 一 will hopefully showcase their influence towards people.


Culture is so important when it comes to the conveyance of messages through animation. When a certain populace enjoys a certain type of art style, initially, it starts off as experimental but then gradually becomes something that is seen on various media outlets. Take America for example. Disney is a well-known media channel that almost everyone knows. Through this platform, they have gone from using two-dimensional animation to three dimensional “Pixar'' animation, almost within nine decades. Because of cultural and technological development, Disney brought something new and invigorating to the table, maintaining their relevance and stamping on their economic power supply. Although their main focus revolves around the lives of a prince and a princess, Disney has touched on topics that relate to environmentalism. Take “Bambi” for instance, a movie that perfectly encapsulates the life of a deer. The animation starts off with excitement, introducing Bambi as a young fawn while the animals of the woodlands praise him with glee. His father is later introduced in the movie but primarily, Bambi grows up to acquire the title of “Prince of the forest.” Throughout this experience however, humans 一 which are referred to as “Man” 一 create disorienting upheaval. They hunt relentlessly, refusing to see from the animals’ perspective. In the end, a forest fire was ignited by a campfire, sadly embezzling the freedom of Bambi’s woodland. This movie was made in 1942. In retrospect, I can only imagine Bambi’s impact. Knowing that it received a golden globe in 1948 makes me think that children, as well as adults, felt its message on significantly different wavelengths. From a child's perspective they could create emotions on a more noticeable level in comparison to adults. For example, if a child recognizes that the animals are getting killed by the humans, one could only infer that their facial expression as well as their body language would appeal more to sadness and fear rather than happiness or comfort. This specific event in their life could be deemed as traumatic, however it depends heavily on their parent’s influences. Regardless, the scenes of Bambi could influence a child’s life. Sure. One can argue that animation is definitely not the only factor that influences one’s life, but just like the love we give to our dogs, animation can give an individual feelings that make them inspired, able to care for others, practice perseverance, and develop a sense of responsibility. Through these developments, in terms of Bambi, this child will probably grow a field of interests in expelling deforestation, the study of animal psychology, and might even consider changing their diet. “Bambi” gives children an early perspective of other life forms, promoting positive behavior towards the environment.


But how are these messages being conveyed in countries like Japan? With totally different socioeconomic systems, how is environmentalism expressed to the youth and adults? A notably famous animation studio called, “Studio Ghibli,” has released quite a few movies that push emphasis on environmental issues. Similar to Bambi, one of their movies, titled “Princess Mononoke” focuses on deforestation through a fantastical lens. In contrast to “Bambi” (which although personifies animal characteristics), “Princess Mononoke” portrays animals as being the spirits of the forest. Because of human selfishness, mainly encouraged by Lady Eboshi (a pivotal character in the movie), the maintenance of an “Irontown” was established. In context, Irontown is a place that works on the production of guns. This alone however is not what caused the war between the spirits of the forest and Lady Eboshi. Later in the movie, Eboshi’s right arm is ripped off by Moro, a three hundred year old wolf God, residing in the forest. Because of this circumstance, her internalized hate is fueled into the production of guns as well as the planning of a strategized way of killing the “Forest Spirit.” If the Forest Spirit dies, then the cedar forest and its inhabitants will die with it. Connecting this to the real world, Studio Ghibli brings the topics of deforestation, animal devaluation, air pollution, and human selfishness, to a more visible surface. Additionally, the movie itself remained (for a good amount of time) Japan’s highest grossing film in 1997. This by itself speaks for the impact it had on people. Soaked predominantly in environmentalism, “Princess Mononoke” successfully urges its audience to take action against issues such as these. Issues such as our rising climate change crisis. I remember when I watched this movie, at the age of 14, I realized what our world was truly going through. I was hit with the realization that if we do not take the initiative to do something in the present, our future will be detrimentally impacted. Even adolescent me was sparked with the curiosity of our world through “Princess Mononoke.” I can tell you that, if it were not for this movie, I would not be as keen as I am on the topic of environmentalism. In fact, it sparked my interest in biology and ecology. Although my intended major is Psychology, I still incorporate the aspects of these sciences into my life. By paying attention to my recycling percentage, and nature’s general plea for help, I can better our world in some way, shape, or form. As implied in my own example of how this movie has affected me, I believe that children in Japan, as well children all over the world, have been impacted by “Princess Mononoke” in a similar way.


The creative process behind my map highlights the significance of animation and its impact on both human and nonhuman community members. I noticed that my genre topic is a very bizarre one, especially since I never picked a topic that specifically related to environmentalism. It almost seems like I am going through a tunnel just to get to another tunnel. It would have been easier to choose a topic like studying veganism in different cultures directly or even understanding how crustaceans maneuver themselves in “different” waters. However, I quite honestly did not exhibit much passion for studying these. Instead, I found something that I was passionate about, hence my animation topic, and found ways to connect it to our class subject.


Environmentalism in animation exists on a public level but does not receive as much exposure as it should get. In this case, I would say that this is a particular void that society has not analyzed clearly. Many people assume that cartoons deter an individual’s knowledge but that is certainly not the case. Not only can someone be educated but, animation can spark something so enlightening that it stays with that person for their entire life. It happens with every type of cartoon. No matter the enigmatic views we may have to our friend, brother, or sister’s liking towards an animated show or movie, they have learned something from it. Learning to retain a certain emotion is one of them. By watching a series like “Spongebob Squarepants,” an individual may have learned the ability to retain happiness as well as recognize the steps in the process of making a “Krabby Patty” or as we call it in our world, a hamburger. Needless to say, when people watch “Princess Mononoke” and “Bambi,” they can hopefully develop an understanding of our world. Although cartoons paint Earth with vibrant colors, the creators juxtapose this characteristic by insinuating an emotionally sensitive plot. Viewers will ultimately feel these movies’ message on much deeper levels and may even cause them to reflect on their lifestyle and future endeavors. The introduction of deforestation(to viewers with this ambiguity), can also cause individuals to reflect on actions they do every year. For example, if someone goes camping, a thought of one of these movies (or related) may ruminate in their head, causing them to take extra precautions when starting a campfire. The void of environmental animation is quite large and does not always have to be its center of attention (for example, “The Lorax,” “Wall-E,” “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind,” etc.). It is always engraved in animation that has nothing to do with the environment, which is usually where the best meaning comes from.


This research has been primarily focusing on the global scale of animation and its interactions with environmentalism. Japan and America perfectly entailed my theme and allowed me to maneuver my map towards the right creational concept. I centered my map on deforestation. The two movies that were analyzed acted as the foundation for the map. However, since my topic heavily touched on the psychological aspect of humans, I decided to use people as markers as well as for decorative purposes. Lady Eboshi as well as the humans from “Bambi” represent the perpetration of these forest fires. Throughout Japan and America, I represented deforestation with animals, and other things that I think hold symbolic use. The reason why I am focusing on deforestation is because it is a prime theme in both movies that I analyzed, and I think it is perfect for the creation of a map. Also, dispatchers highlight deforestation news through written words and pictures, however, you never see a map specifically representing deforestation. Of course, there are maps for this certain topic, but it is usually very professionally done with quantified values. Incorporating art into my map will emphasize the true meaning of deforestation and will hopefully interest viewers with wanting to know more. My fantasy environment has been created with these things in mind. I believe my map strongly represents a prominent environmental issue that is not necessarily discussed in places that are not facing it.


If you take a look at the map, I chose to represent the statistical value of deforestation through two different perspectives. Because my research focuses on two countries, I used symbols from their corresponding movies to replicate the nature of the two aspects. I used a drawing of Bambi’s antler as well as a rendition of Lady Eboshi as markers for regions responsible for tree cover loss between the years 2001 and 2019. Regions that had the most tree cover are represented by Kodama, a forest spirit from “Princess Mononoke,” and Thumper from “Bambi.” I chose these two characters because they matched the positivity of forest covering being undisturbed. However, because good things do not usually last long, provinces and states, like Fukushima and Alaska, are represented with both the positive and negative markers. The only reason I used these combinations is because it correlates with themes of animated movies, specifically the “Good guy versus bad guy” one. When you think of the animals of the forest, we tend to be the bad guys. The bite from the fruit of knowledge gave us access to sense. To elaboration and deceit. Since we remain the smartest animals on this planet, survival of the fittest is automatically implying that we have won the game, in comparison to other animals. Having this knowledge leads us to develop things like deforestation and technology that gags us with pollution, without a reflex. Representing the human race through lady Eboshi and the remains of a deer (the antler) on my map, targets our hypocrisy and will hopefully resonate with my viewers.


Deforestation is important. Intensifying its graphic contents through a much more playful theme could benefit any age viewing it. Incorporating cartoons and focusing on a minimalistic approach towards design, will help people understand its contents with the help of the legend. Connecting deforestation to the ill production of CO2 will hopefully give my viewers a sense of motivation. A type of motivation that gives them the energy to wake up everyday, feeling thankful and willing to change the environment, for the better.



Bibliography

- Contributors, Wikipedia. “Bambi.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Feb. 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bambi.


- “Princess Mononoke and Environmentalism.” N00bcreator, 11 July 2016, n00bcreator.wordpress.com/2016/07/11/princess-mononoke-and-environmentalism/#:~:te xt=Princess%20Mononoke%2C%20or%20San%2C%20is%20a%20representative%20of.


- “How ‘Bambi’ Hoodwinked American Environmentalists.” What It Means to Be American, 19 Apr. 2016, www.whatitmeanstobeamerican.org/ideas/how-bambi-hoodwinked-american-environmen talists/.


- Emmons, Nichlas, et al. “Exploring Environmental Relationships with Princess Mononoke.” HuffPost, 18 Feb. 2016, www.huffpost.com/entry/exploring-environmental-r_b_9252810.


- Global Forest, Watch. “Deforestation - Japan (Statistics).” Global Forest Watch, Global Forest Watch, www.globalforestwatch.org.

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