Why ParaNorman Featured the First Gay Character in an Animated Film
BY Diane Anderson-Minshall
November 29 2012 6:00 AM ET
Chris Butler (left) and Sam Fell
I saw some of the small models when I was at the premiere which was endlessly fascinating Mitch, the gay character. I noticed a lot of parent blogs wrote something like, “Great film about tolerance, too bad it had a gay character at the end.” Did that reaction make you laugh?
Butler: [Laughs] It is funny. It’s sad though. It’s absolutely bizarre to me that people cannot see what the movie is about. They can quite happily talk about tolerance without understanding what it means at all. That’s sad. It’s very sad to me. But that makes it all the more important to make those kinds of choices in filmmaking. That makes it all the more important for me to make family entertainment and push the boundaries. Because the only way we’re going to change that kind of stupidity is one step at a time.
Fell: It becomes an everyday thing. That’s why it was put at the end as this kind of throwaway thing. It’s not a big deal. Here’s the fabric of the world, everybody. Here’s Mitch. That’s reality. America has a black African-American president now; that’s equally shocking.
I think that one of the conservative pundits had a piece soon after the film came out that said it was only a matter of time before the gay community targeted children with films like ParaNorman. I think they were trying to say that you, Chris, being gay, meant that this is part of your so-called gay agenda.
Butler: [Laughs] My insidious agenda getting out there.
So Sam, you also did Flushed Away, which is also this sort of contemporary type of film in which you didn’t have to be a kid, or have a kid, to enjoy it. Is this type of storytelling — smart on multiple levels — the future of animation?
Fell: This medium is not just for kids. It’s for everybody now. It’s actually the perfect family medium. I can’t take credit for all the animation that’s going on in the world right now, but it’s interesting it is thriving when a lot of moviemaking, a lot of aspects of cinema, are dying out. The animated family movie is alive and well, and it’s a very interesting time.
Butler: What’s cool about that is, you can make those movies, but that’s never to say that’s all you can do with animation. I’m happy to have movies that appeal specifically to young kids, or movies that appeal specifically to adults. There is no reason that we should ever limit animation as a medium to one genre or one age group. It should be able to tell any kind of story.
Fell: Well in other parts of the world, it does. In Japan it’s completely venerated as a very serious medium.