Cinematography matters here: animation should stop cribbing only from “classical Spielberg-style cinematography” and take inspiration from the camerawork of filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Hirokazu Kore-eda, and Lukas Moodysson. So do environments: “In so many animated movies, the streets are empty and the homes look unlived-in. No one’s houses really look like that in real life.”
Other manifesto items touch on characterization and story. The characters must be “memorable” and “honest.” Visually and emotionally, “they should be as deep and rich and complicated” as real people. Female characters in particular need to become more varied.
Good comedy is crucial: animated movies are full of supposedly comic moments that “don’t make ANYONE laugh.” At the same time, with the exception of Brad Bird’s works, American animated films often lack drama — the threat of something bad happening. Real stakes are needed: “We should have characters break arms and even have characters die to make the audience actually scared for our main characters.”
Plot dynamics aside, the filmmakers should deliver a clear message. “We can’t just say ‘be yourself’ or something generic,” concludes Rianda. “What is the honest thing that we’ve learned in life that we want to convey to the audience?”
Rianda himself admits that Mitchells fell short of some of these goals, “like having robots kill people on screen. Lol.” But the manifesto’s aims run clearly through the finished film. It was acclaimed for expanding the visual range of Hollywood cg animation in terms of everything from textures to shape language. Our review even noted that the Mitchell home feels “lived-in.”
The film has also been praised for the humor and nuance with which it depicts the Mitchell family. Teenage Katie, the protagonist, has been singled out as an example of how to present a queer character without making the story about their queerness.
Read Rianda’s full manifesto in his tweets below:
Netflix has made a digital copy of the film’s art book available for free (for now) at this link.