This is my thesis statement -- while American animation and Japanese animation both have their virtues, the style of American animation, in general, has a significant amount of higher quality.
Where to Begin? Where to be Going?
To begin with, one of the major problems that has hindered American animation is budget and time constraints. On the other hand, in Japan, anime has been allowed to flourish all over. When it comes to animation, it seems that Hollywood simply does not take it seriously and would rather throw its millions into "live action" films and TV shows. There is only one company in Hollywood which devotes a significant amount of its resources to advancing our heritage in animation, and that's Disney. Comparatively, its Japanese cousin has hundreds. This is a real shame considering that animation itself was originally pioneered by us. The American form of animation has not had its techniques advanced through as many stages or been perfected as much as Japanese anime has. This would lead some to the conclusion that Japanese animation is inherently better than American animation; a false conclusion that I will dissect piece by piece as we go on. Still, there are some examples where the quality of American animation really shines through for what it was meant to be. Take another perspective, and you'll see that the cut-throat constraints which American animation producers face can actually help the quality of their animation, because they are always forced to work under the constant threat of being "canned". Any animation project cannot be a flop or else (as in showbiz terms) so-and-so "will never work in this town again!" Compare this to all that garbage floating around in Japan. However, to gain the popularity and respect that the form deserves, we need to make some big changes. Fortunately, it seems that some of the big-shots up there have finally started to take notice of what has caused the likes of Disney to become very successful and make billions of dollars for years. Of course, it will be a while before animators are given the freedom and creativity that have made the Japanese successful for the last decade. But we cannot simply play catch-up by copying their inferior anime style (even though that's what they did to us a long time ago). Then we would be giving away our pride -- selling out one of the few proud things that we can say was made in America. No, we must do things our own way!
A Little History
Few people, including those obsessed anime fans, have a clear understanding of how Japanese animation came to be or how it relates to the American form of animation. So, let's take a little look at its history. First, let's figure out what element of Japan's society has caused the proliferation of anime. Well, in Japan there is a distinctive connection between the animation industry and the comic book (called "manga") industry. In fact, many animes are based off of manga. The actual word "manga" was coined in 1814 and roughly translates into "humorous pictures", but cartoonish art had existed in Japanese culture for centuries prior to that. The crude drawings were used by the Japanese leaders and social elite, usually for political purposes. One of the earliest known collections of these drawings were drawn by a Buddhist monk named Toba in the 12th century. The need for these drawings was probably brought about by a certain trait in Japanese culture, which modern-day psychologists might call an "attention deficit disorder". The solution for this was to entice their people with certain visual stimuli. This became a useful tool for those in power, since they could use it to leverage control over the public. The effect could be described similarly to the "media saturation" which has plagued America in recent times. Flash forward to 1989 -- only 12% of published material in Japan were books, whereas the majority (38%) were manga! If this does not show anything about Japanese society...