Close Encounters Of The Cute Kind.
By Charlotte Birch.
The new Dreamworks animation, Home, arrives in cinemas this week, introducing us to the latest cute critter who we love to love. Oh (voiced by Jim Parsons) is a member of the Boovs – a race who have joined Earth in a bid to hide from their enemy. Whilst upon earth Oh meets Tip (voiced by Rihanna) and hereby ensues an adventure of friendship, survival and love. With the recent release Big Hero 6 (the highest grossing animated film of 2014) there’s an abundance of cute monsters taking over our screens and our hearts. But what is it that makes us fall in love with these cinematic creatures?
There’s no denying that an audiences’ attachment and love for a character, such as Oh, is partially due to it aesthetics – its shape, size, colour and movements.
It’s a pattern that’s been copied again and again. These characters are often over sized or under sized, a distinctive colour with pronounced features. For example, how could anyone not love the green aliens In Toy Story? Bright green with arguably the coolest space suit in film (sorry Armageddon) and an adorable walk, these pocket sized aliens are instant favourites. There’s also B.o.B from Monsters vs Aliens, a one eyed, blue, and jelly like monster whose smile is larger than life, almost giving the urge to cuddle him. Bloat from Finding Nemo works in the opposite way. At first sight, he’s a menacing and scary puffer fish but as soon as he gets angry expands into a large and rather cute helpless ball.
In Oscar winning Big Hero 6, we meet Baymax, an oversized inflatable robot whose job it is to provide healthcare. Based on a Marvel Comic, Big Hero 6 tells the story of Hiro (Baymax’s creator’s younger brother) and his ten foot tall companion. fighting a battle against a masked villain who was responsible for his brother’s death. The audience is drawn to Baymax, partially due to his visual appearance but also because he’s an outsider in his world. This is a category that category cute movie monsters (and their companions) quite often fall into. As on outsider, it instantaneously makes them identifiable to the audience, it makes you feel compassionate towards them and it allows them to grow and explore their place in the environment they’re in. Quite often we see an alien exploring a human environment or vice versa which always makes for fun viewing. In Frankenweenie, both Victor and his dog Sparky are isolated from the rest of their town and it takes an adventure of bravery for them to eventually become part of the fold. Another example is Sully in Monsters Inc). Even though he scares children for a living, as soon as he meets the adorable Boo, he finds himself taking a step back from his workplace, concerned more with looking after – a human monsters aren’t supposed to have contact with.
This leads on to suggest that more often than not, when introduced to a monster, it’s the connection they make with their screen co star that captivates us. Lilo and Stitch not only taught us that ‘Ohana means family and family means nobody gets left behind’ but it showed us that even fugitive aliens have a heart. There’s a joy of watching two characters, usually polar opposites to begin with, working together to solve the situation they’re in. Lilo eventually teaches Stitch how to become one of the family and he provides her with the friendship she needs. Take Ponyo for example, the goldfish develops a beautiful friendship when she meets Sosuke, a human boy, which subsequently makes her want to become a human girl. There’s also pairings such as Shrek and Donkey, a green ogre who initially cannot stand his four legged friend, but after much perseverance from Donkey, and a few hairy experiences, Shrek realises he can’t live without him.
These monsters also appeal to children and adults alike. Whilst different aspects of the character probably appeal to one generation more than the other, we as an audience fall for these monsters because there are parts of them that can identify with everyone. Toy Story is a franchise that’s captured the imagination of many. Filled with various aliens and monsters, each one of them is loved by audiences. There are astronauts, pink raspberry smelling bears, gangly green dinosaurs and little green aliens that appeal to both the young, old and everybody in between.
What do they have in common? It’s that things are seldom as scary as we think they are, and that with open hearts and minds, love and friendship can overcome differences and really does conquer all, making the world – our world – a much better place. We wouldn’t want it any other way.
Home is in UK cinemas on 20th March, 2015.