Does Annie understand there are people who make animation movies? Or does she think the characters are real? That’s something I’ve long wondered, but never asked her (because I haven’t wanted to do anything that might spoil the magic). With that said, our trips to Disneyland have certainly given me a hint at what she might think:
“DAD! I MET ANNA!” she screamed on our last visit, not “DAD! I MET A RECENT DRAMA SCHOOL GRADUATE PORTRAYING ANNA FROM THE FICTIONAL FILM FROZEN!”
Regardless of what she used to think, though, she now knows that animated movies are made by people, and it’s all because of a bonehead move on my part.
Annie had been jonesing to see Mr. Peabody and Sherman, which she referred to as “the movie where the little girl hates the little boy.” For some reason the thing that impressed her the most about the movie’s coming attraction wasn’t the talking dog who can travel through freaking time, but that there’s a little girl in it who doesn’t like a little boy. Anyway, my parents took Annie and her cousins to see it on Saturday, and Annie loved it. She not only found the “little girl who hates the little boy” subplot sufficiently satisfying, but also thought that Mr. Peabody was the coolest. “Rigby is really smart,” she told me afterward, “but not as smart as Mr. Peabody! He talks!”
The bonehead part of this story came the next day when I put Netflix on for Annie to watch while I made her breakfast. As we were perusing the new releases we saw a 22-minute featurette on Mr. Peabody, and Annie begged to see it. Without thinking I put it on and started cooking.
It turns out the featurette was a “behind the scenes” look at how the movie was made, and explained the animation process, how actors voice the characters, etc. I didn’t realize this, though, until Annie ran into the kitchen and said, “Dad! People made Mr. Peabody on a computer!”
“Uhhhhh,” I stammered, not sure if she was going to burst into tears. “What do you think of that?”
“IT’S COOL!” she said. “COME SEE!”
She then grabbed my hand and lead me to the TV where the actors could be seen recording their characters’ lines. “Look, Dad! The girl from that show you and mommy watch talks for Penny!” (Penny is the character formerly known as “The little girl who hates the little boy.”)
On-screen I saw that “the girl from that show you and mommy watch” was Ariel Winter of Modern Family, who also happens to voice Annie’s favorite TV cartoon character, Sofia the First. I turned to Annie and said, “Do you want to hear something crazy?” Annie nodded. “She not only does the voice for Penny, but for Sofia the First, too.”
Annie looked a little like this:
We then, of course, had to YouTube videos of Ariel recording her part for Sofia the First, and Annie was enthralled. (Ariel may be her new favorite person). Annie then spent the rest of the afternoon drawing her own movie and recording the characters’ theme songs into my phone.
I’m not sure if this was all “brand new information!” to Annie, or if she already had an inkling of how animated movies were made, but regardless I was very pleased by her reaction. I love that she didn’t skip a beat in moving from appreciating the magic of these movies to appreciating the magic of how they are made.
She’s now telling me she wants to “talk for cartoons when she grows up.” (I think I’ve created a monster.)