While pioneer animator Ub Iwerks has often been praised as a driving force behind the early success of the Walt Disney Company, his independent work has received scant attention. That relative omission from animation history seems curious given two key features of his cartoon work: an emphasis on gags involving protean, transformative effects – a characteristic often linked to avant-garde filmmaking; and his pioneering work on a multiplane camera – a device that would become crucial to a developing realist aesthetic in American animation. This article examines these features to situate his work in terms of American animation's shifting aesthetic in the 1930s. It suggests that we see Iwerks' cartoons as symptomatic of a larger struggle in this period between the avant-garde and an emerging realism, closely linked to the classical narrative mode of live-action cinema, and the relative failure of his films as indicative of an inability to negotiate between these different pulls.
Today the techniques of traditional animation, cinematography, and computer graphics are often used in combination to create new hybrid moving image forms. This article discusses this process using the example of a particularly intricate hybrid – the Universal Capture method used in the second and third films of The Matrixtrilogy. Rather than expecting that any of the present ‘pure’ forms will dominate the future of visual and moving image cultures, it is suggested that the future belongs to such hybrids.
Anime abounds in images of ‘nonhuman women’, that is, goddesses, female robots, gynoids, alien women, animal girls, female cyborgs, and many others. This article provides an introduction to problems of gender and genre in relation to the nonhuman woman, followed by an extended discussion of the animated television series Chobits, based on a manga series by the four-woman team CLAMP. In a manner eerily consonant with psychoanalytic theory, Chobits reads problems of media and technology almost exclusively in terms of human desire, in terms of the weird substance of enjoyment. Yet, because the nonhuman woman remains nonhuman, structures of desire are subject to perverse material twists, and Chobits offers a very unusual logic of suture. The nonhuman woman becomes the catalyst for ways of looking that appear to bypass relations with Others altogether, promising the production of entirely new worlds at some elemental level of perception.
This article introduces and critically engages with the animated films produced in the geopolitical reality of South Korea from the colonial period under Japanese occupation to the present, and the animation-related phenomena they caused. In the past, studies of South Korean animation have tended to describe it merely in terms of a production factory on the international scene of animation. However, the history of South Korean animation, many parts of which have been forgotten or not recorded, is as extensive as that of South Korea itself. In exploring the historical and political contexts of South Korean animation in chronological order, the aim is not to present a grand narrative of national cinema. Rather, the article hopes to shed some light on the complex web of animation production, aesthetic expression and South Korean ideologies and political situations.
In the wake of Muybridge's and Marey's experiments in recording movement, comics quickly began to emphasize the depiction of continuous movement. Chronophotography mapped the kinetic body onto the regulated spaces of industrial culture: it was a means of revealing the body and a tool for its containment and control. Comics by Wilhelm Busch, Steinlen, Winsor McCay and others, however, mimic the fixed viewpoints and measured progress of chronophotography, but caricature the instrumental reason that supplied its motivation. Each episode of Winsor McCay's Little Sammy Sneeze, for example, offered systematic and meticulous time–motion breakdowns of everyday activities, but the rhythm of efficient motion is subverted by the mighty sneeze that turns all to chaos. With an emphasis on the pioneering comics and animation work of McCay, this article explores the peculiar, parodic counter-logics that mark an oasis of disorder in a time of insistent regulation.
By analyzing The Cathedral as an animation with implications for genetic architecture and strategies for design-biomimetics, this article argues (with experimental illustrations) for the use of animation in architectural research that is consistent with software visualization and fully capable of contributing to the design-thinking process. Repudiating the use of animation as merely a medium for architectural presentation and affirming the coupling of animation and design-biomimetics, Dollens considers how animation can stimulate and develop architectural ideas, forms, and design through the digital revisualization of natural elements evolving from plants, shells, and skeletons.
Animation has the capacity to re-invigorate how we think about cinematic space. Cinematic space is able to represent and be expressive, and its place in generating narrative meaning is taken to be central to cinema. This, however, overlooks another aspect of space, one associated with intensive spatial experience and other kinds of transformation. As it is rare for live-action images to show space in the process of change, this aspect is not often addressed in the cinema. By contrast, in many animations, space is caught in the act of changing, making it especially relevant to thinking about experiences of spatial transformation. The emphasis in this article is on exploring animation as a revitalization of cinematic space. By paying close attention to both the form and content of Duck Amuck (Chuck Jones, 1953), The Street (Caroline Leaf, 1976), The Metamorphosis of Mr Samsa (Caroline Leafs, 1977), Flatworld (Daniel Greaves, 1997) and Nocturna Artificialia (Brothers Quay, 1979) the author shows how animation re-animates space. To generate this position she formulates a view of space as undergoing processes of reverberation: existing beyond the location of events, fluid and marked by heterogeneity, shifting between familiarity and uncertainty, and finally, as chaotic and potentially unknowable.
Following Tom Gunning’s assertion that each change in film history implies a change in its address to the spectator, this article closely analyses The Polar Express (Robert Zemeckis, 2004) in order to interrogate what kinds of changes are at stake for the contemporary spectator of the wholly computer-generated blockbuster. The article also considers the extent to which the immersive, video game-like visual aesthetic and mode of address present in The Polar Express strive to naturalize viewer relations with digital spaces and characters such as those inherent to both computer-generated films and the ‘invisible’ virtual realm of cyberspace. Finally, the article argues that The Polar Express functions as a compelling historical document of an era when cinema and video games have never been more intertwined in terms of aesthetics, character construction, and narrative, and raises compelling questions about whether video games have begun to exert the type of formative influence upon cinema that cinema previously exerted on video games.
From Shadow Citizens to Teflon Stars: Reception of the Transfiguring Effects of New Moving Image Technologies
This article examines and compares a couple of moments of fleeting strangeness punctuating the history of the cultural reception of moving image technologies. Maxim Gorky read the early cinematographic image in terms of ‘cursed grey shadows’ (1896), while recent reviewers of Hironobu Sakaguchi’s Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) have rendered the film’s computer-generated cast as cadavers, dummies, dolls and silicon-skinned mannequins. This article argues that it is not merely the image’s unfamiliar and new aesthetics that evoke the uncanny. Rather the image is received within a cultural framework where its perceived strangeness speaks allegorically of what it means to be ‘human’ at that historical moment.
This article contrasts the different economies of motion found in cinema and animation, and explores the particular economy of movement and libidinal investment that accompanies Japanese anime, paying close attention to the first anime TV series, Astroboy (Tetsuwan Atomu). Metz and Lyotard argue that cinema generates an impression of reality through its particular economy of motion. Cel animation, in contrast, relies on a different economy of motion. This is especially the case in the specific kind of limited animation found in Japanese anime. This article focuses on the specificities of this kind of animated movement (particularly its emphasis on stillness), and the way Astroboy relied on commodity serialization to generate a particularly immersive image environment - one that set the stage for what is now known as ‘anime’.
This article considers Andrew Niccol’s comedic cyberpunk film S1MØNE, a story about the development of computer-generated animated actors. When a has-been Hollywood director secretly uploads a digital actress to save his career, passing her off as real, fans fall for the trick and delight in the newest ‘It girl’. Soon the synthespian’s celebrity eclipses the director’s fame, yet he finds it impossibly difficult to delete the program and get the genie back into the bottle. Niccol’s film is part cinematic fable and part philosophical inquiry into how the use of virtual actors (‘vactors’) in Hollywood cinema will affect filmmakers, actors and audiences.
The article examines theory-practice relationships in the field of Animation Studies via three conceptual frameworks: legitimate peripheral participation, critical practice and recontextualization. The overarching argument is that Animation Studies must be understood in an ‘interdisciplinary’ way, and that means evaluating how different communities of practice work with similar or related terms. The article draws upon email discussion group data as a way of beginning to map the discourses used by people working within the field of Animation Studies. The perceived role of technology is given specific attention, particularly the ways it can be seen to be straitjacketing the development of a truly critical Animation Studies community - one that attends to theory and practice in equal measure.
Carrying on from part one published in the July 2006 issue of animation: an interdisciplinary journal, part two continues its exploration of the animated series Chobitswith an eye to how it reads problems of media and technology almost exclusively in terms of human desire, much as psychoanalytic theory reads technology in terms of the weird substance of enjoyment. Part two takes up an analysis of partial objects and perversion in order to show how the materiality of manga and anime as media do not entirely disappear but haunt the dynamics of sexual enjoyment. Materiality returns in an evocation of ‘full blankness’ associated with the white manga page or transparent celluloid sheet, which allows Chobits to pervert the logic of suture and the associated dynamics of the male gaze. The nonhuman woman becomes the catalyst for ways of looking that appear to bypass relations with Others altogether, promising the production of entirely new worlds at some elemental level of perception.
This article addresses Western views of the Japanese animation form known as ‘anime’ through an analysis of a lesser-known film by one of the most important anime filmmakers, Hayao Miyazaki. In seeking to build what scholar Thomas Lamarre refers to as a ‘relational’ understanding of anime, we address Miyazaki’s film Porco Rosso through the lens of film studies concepts of auteur theory, and also in relation to the medium of animation. In a range of aspects, from visual approach to its deeper themes, Miyazaki’s work is found to draw on a distinctive set of strategies that might be described as ‘creative traditionalism’. Using Porco Rosso as a case study, our broader argument is that anime, as a form of postmodern popular culture, can be best understood in the West through a triangulation of different approaches that balance issues of form, medium, cultural context, and individual creators.
This article analyses and elucidates the factors involved in the animated reappearance of the Legend of the White Snake in Japan in the 1950s. Driven by the multiple demands of a new post-Second World War era in East and Southeast Asia, where the business of making new images was more urgent, profitable and competitive than ever before, the tale served both micro and macro purposes. Since the legendary tale was well known in the Chinese-speaking world and was initially a joint film project between Japan and Hong Kong, one would have expected the producers (Toei Animation Studio) to envisage the animated tale as primarily for Chinese audiences. However, the Japanese producers had, or later discovered, a wider hidden agenda in making the film that promised more lucrative and geopolitical rewards. Using the concept of ‘performativity’, this article interprets the course of the animated performance within several dimensions, and traces the history of the foundational role of Toei Animation Studio and its dream-making enterprise.
Within the academy, animation is still a relatively under-studied subject field - though, clearly, this is beginning to change. This article is a polemical response to the nascent field of animation studies. It explores some implications of the marginalization of animation and confronts what it views as significant obstacles (and cul-de-sacs) with respect to the progress and consolidation of the subject as a legitimate field of scholarship. An overall approach is suggested which - in certain respects - is at odds with what has been undertaken in the field in the past and with what is professed as legitimate and epistemologically productive in the present.
The experimental film _grau (Robert Seidel, 10:01 min, Germany 2004) deals with personal issues on a visually abstracted level. It establishes a system of interwoven complexity born out of memories, scientific visualization and real data to create a modernized version of a tableau vivant, dealing with surreal and abstract images that come alive. The film is part of ongoing research to create organic imagery that is inspired by nature, art and technology. The ideas and inspirations of the film are partly disclosed, as the works are sometimes perceived as ‘eye candy’ or some kind of screen saver: somewhat related to the classic problem of modern art when it is often claimed that abstract paintings could just as easily be created by children. It is important to recognize that no technique is in itself predestined to capture an emotional experience, rather it is the artist’s vision that shapes the experience to become more than just pretty pictures.
In this article, the author considers the experimental animations of Jeff Scher in relation to the current obsessive quest for a total `reality effect' in much contemporary commercial computer animation. While Scher does not use a computer to create his works, he does extensively use a rotoscope, a device with a long and complex connection with the construction of illusionistic effects in animation. The author discusses Scher's unusual appropriation of rotoscoping techniques, his links with certain historical tendencies in avant-garde cinema, his interest in the relationship between the individual frame and the creation of movement in animation, and his reflexive engagement with fundamental principles of cognitive and visual perception.
In this article, the author addresses the issue of flash animation and humour in computer-mediated communication. He traces Russian national graphic traditions of humour and publicity and provides historical insight into the aesthetics of flash animation. He also suggests a notion of the video anekdot, a form of flash animation that relies on the tradition of oral humorous performances that proliferated in the USSR as an attempt to overcome state censorship. With the abolishing of censorship, the anekdot continues to exist on the internet in the form of short flash animation films. The author analyses new structures of the anekdot and its relation to the previous forms of humorous and satirical art (lubok, the Soviet poster and caricature). Reflecting on the dominating themes and narrative structures of the video anekdot, he concludes with general remarks on transformations in Russian culture in regard to its traditions of oral performance and visual representations.
This article examines Disney animated propaganda of the 1940s from the perspective of globalization literature, media studies, sociology and communication studies. Using examples from September 11 and the War in Iraq, the author shows how changes in media corporations, technologies and politics have limited the use of animated propaganda since the Second World War. One of the factors influencing this change is the absence of a mass audience caused by the fragmentation and proliferation of media from cinema to television to the internet. In addition, electronic communication is facilitating a more democratic exchange of information, thus reducing the influence of nation-states over their citizens. Animated propaganda exists today in other forms such as simulations on news broadcasts and internet caricatures, and adopts a more grass-roots approach on mainstream websites and cable television channels.
In cinema it is not uncommon to see the interrelation of animation and live action but, despite this, the ascription of characteristics of one medium onto the other has been largely one-dimensional: live action upon animation. The films of Quentin Tarantino, however, illustrate an attribution of a cartoon-like aesthetic in live-action sequences, which the author subsequently terms
cartoonism'.Cartoonism' and its development have been highlighted in Tarantino's work, showing his continual desire to realize this aesthetic in his own work whilst, ironically, only fully achieving this aesthetic in another's film. The conclusions are illuminating with respect to Tarantino's filmic politics and provide a potential mode of inquiry within film theory.
Before we have explored what CGI (computer generated imagery) technology can really do, it seems that CGI technology is exploring what we can do. Animation is being used within corporate advertising to render the visual obsolete as a medium for the conveyance of messages of emotional or intellectual value.
This article examines new aesthetic modes of cinematic space. Specifically, the author examines the `virtual camera' (in practical and technical terms derived from animation born of computer-generated 3D graphics, layer-based motion graphics and most distinctly from computer and video gaming) as a construct for spatial composition, scenic depiction and viewer immersion that possesses distinct and unique qualities of engagement. The article argues that under the influence of the virtual camera, both a hybridized and re-mediated means of moving-image acquisition, cinema aesthetics are shifting; from the duopoly of composition in the frame and the staging for the camera, to a new mode entailing a composition of space and a staging of the camera. This article also examines the virtual camera in the framework of three key, oppositional, cinematic animation and narrative concepts -- diegetic positioning; mediated and unmediated engagement; and diegesis and mimesis in narrative and perspective condition. This examination also scrutinizes the impact of the virtual camera on the production process and conceptual assembly of cinematic media.
In the early 1940s, Disney animation underwent a critical reassessment, one in which commentators who had previously praised Disney's efforts, particularly for the studio's realistic advances, began to emphasize how, in its efforts at realism, Disney had moved away from, even betrayed animation's avant-garde possibilities. That seeming `break' with animation's subversive spirit, however, was hardly as definitive or deliberate as many critics claimed. This article examines Disney's hybrid animation efforts of the 1940s, particularly films like The Three Caballeros (1945), Song of the South (1946), and Fun and Fancy Free (1947), in light of the tension between animation's realistic and subversive possibilities. In these films, the author suggests, we can see the Disney studio's interest in recouping something of the modernist attitude with which it had earlier been associated, or at least an effort at finding some accommodation between what Disney had been and what it was becoming as it came to dominate the American animation industry.
This article was originally delivered as an illustrated lecture at the 2007
Pervasive Animation' symposium at Tate Modern, London, 2--4 March 2007. My goal was to describe a category of animation practice emerging today and to compare its various tendencies with my experience making films, books, and installations. I have attempted to balance my personal art history with an analysis of larger issues in animation.Concrete animation' refers to work that focuses primarily on materiality and process. It has a precedence in contemporary art practice; it has one foot in the distant, pre-cinema past, and one foot on a path leading to a future of digital and manual animation.
Animation's excursions into the impossible allow bodies to erupt and explode, fly and roar. While the histories of animation and special effects cinema are deeply linked in this regard, the sensation of viewing the physically impossible in animation has its own visual and cultural idiosyncrasies. The experience of watching bones splinter to thrash metal refuses psychology's primacy and transforms it into a kind of pure ornament. This article proposes a specific symbolic discourse of violence-animated texts, and more specifically anime via the European and Australasian releases of Manga Entertainment.
This interdisciplinary investigation of aspects of 3D character animation synthesizes relevant research findings from diverse perspectives, including neuroscience, narratology, robotics, anthropology, cognitive psychology and philosophy of mind, and considers how they might be integrated as theory for animators and animation studies. The article focuses on the creative nature of character conception and creation in a 3D animated environment and on aspects of character -- narrative and style, in particular. It examines how findings from interdisciplinary research on the embodied mind--brain, including neuroscientific research with regard to mentalizing and simulation theory, can inform the creative animation process and might be gainfully synthesized in an animation studies context to inform both pedagogy and creative practice.
Observations on the History and Uses of Animation Occasioned by the Exhibition Eyes, Lies and Illusions Selected from Works in the Werner Nekes Collection
The exhibition Eyes, Lies and Illusions held at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Melbourne and the Hayward Gallery in London was a selection from the 20,000 optical toys, scientific instruments, antiquarian books and visual entertainments in the collection of Werner Nekes, the German experimental film maker. This article begins with a consideration of the historical trajectory of belief in the afterlife in relation to
animation', the imputation of a soul to anything that appeared to move itself. The second section suggests that animation techniques bear witness to the persistence of atavistic beliefs in modernity.The third addresses the proximity of technology and magic in animation, and proposes a more extended use of the termanimation'.
Learning from the Golden Age of Czechoslovak Animation: The Past as the Key to Unlocking Contemporary Issues
Can Czech animators resurrect the Golden Age of Czech animation or will they succumb to the changes of an open market economy? The post-1989 privatization of animation studios and subsequent withdrawal of government funding are commonly considered as one of the most significant factors contributing to the current decline of Czech animated films. This article argues that a number of additional factors associated with the post-1989 change of political regime have impacted on Czech animation production. These factors include: (1) the change of themes due to the removal of the communist regime as the common antagonist; (2) the fragmentation of the Czech audience due to the importation of animated films from the west and new methods of distributing content; and (3) economic censorship pressuring artists and producers to ensure financial success. In examining the history of the Czech animation industry during and after the communist regime, the authors present an outline of the conditions of the Prague Spring in 1968, during which the Czech animated films further elevated their international reputation and experienced exponential growth. In contrast to these conditions, this article highlights the contemporary issues that are affecting Czech animation studios today.
This article explores the way that movement is formally depicted in anime. Drawing on Thomas Lamarre's concepts of the
cinematic' and theanime-ic', the article interrogates further the differences in movement and action in anime from traditional filmic form. While often considered in terms of
flatness', anime offers spectacle, character development and, ironically, depth through the very form of movement put to use in such texts. The article questions whether the modes of address at work in anime are unique to this form of animation. Taking into account how the termscinematic' and `anime-ic' can be understood (and by extension the cinematic and animatic apparatus), the article also begins to explore how viewers might identify with such images.
This article offers an examination of the use of American stars in re-voicing a set of Japanese animated texts. The author argues that a new industrial, contextual and textual understanding of stardom is required to penetrate the dense network of meanings attached to star voices in animation. Furthermore, she utilizes a mixed textual and contextual approach to several of Studio Ghibli's American DVD releases to consider the markets for and meanings of anime in America. In so doing this article represents an intervention into a range of academic debates around the nature of contemporary stardom and the significance of anime in America.
Electronic streams appear to be most illuminating when they fail or break down. At these moments, they make apparent our desire of wanting to keep continuity, to experience things uninterruptedly. In the contemporary artistic environment marked by electronic pulses and lightscapes, the flickering screen, with its conflicting modes of engagement, provides the thinking of a limit and erasure. Philippe Parreno's analogue line animation What Do You Believe, Your Eyes or My Words? Speaking Drawing: . . . (2007) inhabits such a corruptive site of
no single continuing line' where the various time structures inherent to the work resist to create unity, both in terms of the work's spatiality and its relation to our sense of time. In Semiconductor's digital piece Inaudible Cities: Part One (2002) the flickering strips the image of the failed electronic stream, its supposedly essential element. The animated cityscape presents us with yet another kind of electronic light movement co-dependent on the sonic pressures of an electrical storm. What is expressed is the process of image-forming itself, the image's potential for self-variation which is linked to imagination and Brian Massumi'svagueness of the virtual'. Referring to notions such as Gilles Deleuze's
point flicker' or Massumi'simaginative and non-systemic', the article addresses the sensation of flickering as an experience of spacing and rupturing inherent to animation. Not only does this sensation propose animation as an often paradoxical work, but, proposing a particular site its image can occupy, it allows us to think of the animated image as an erasure itself, with its potential of becoming art.
This article explores the internationalization of Japanese anime (animation) in an effort to help explain the cultural politics behind this popular cultural product. The internationalization of anime includes the incorporation of de-Japanized elements into anime's background, context, character design, and narrative organization. A theoretical framework for understanding anime's internationalization is developed, proposing that there are at least three kinds of cultural politics working behind anime's international success: one, de-politicized internationalization, which primarily serves as a commercial tactic to attract international audiences; two, Occidentalized internationalization, which satiates a nationalistic sentiment; three, self-Orientalized internationalization, which reveals a cultural desire to establish Japan as an ersatz Western country in Asia.
From the turn of the 21st century until his death in 200 Jeremy Blake worked at the convergence of animation, digital technology and painting, synthesizing them through the use of cinematic strategies. This article discusses the debt Blake's early abstract works owe to the experimental animated films of the Visual Music artists and American post-war Color Field painters. During this period, Blake applied his exceptional facility with emerging animation software to sequential figure/ground abstractions based on literary narrative structures. Subsequently, Blake shifted from `time-based painting' to richly textured non-narrative biographical sketches created in collaboration with maverick protagonists in contemporary popular music. The visuality of Blake's hallucinatory moving images intensified emotionally as new digital software became available. The deep hybridity of his visual compositions, transmitted through constant fades and overlays of photo-based images and abstracted color patches, doodles and animation characters, create a richly textured bridge between subjective consciousness and the world of appearances.
`Yeah Looks Like It N'All . . .': The `Live Action' Universe and Abridged Figurative Design and Computer Animation within Modern Toss
This article will discuss formal aspects of the Channel Four TV show Modern Toss. Through a minimalism in image and dialogue it looks at how a range of characters negotiate miniature social rebellions. What is of interest here is the highly distinctive approach to animation form that utilizes deliberately abstracted figurative designs framed in collusion with previously filmed backgrounds and actors. This specific approach of placing Flash computer figures within an agreed universe accesses, firstly, a sense of `distance' that is pertinent to the show's humorous register. Secondly, this complements the fatalism inherent within the narratives themselves and then, lastly, this process allies the show to the original graphic/web cartoon sources in service of a signature aesthetic endemic to this concept.
One of the elements that separates live-action, photoreal cinema from animation is the line, a conceptual meta-object that has no existence other than as an idea or a graphic representation. Lines are not essential to photoreal cinema. Using five animated television advertisements for Hilton Hotels made by German animator Raimund Krumme, the essay raises some of the paradoxes inherent in the single, two-dimensional, animated graphic line as both an abstract geometric construct and an eccentric visualization of energy and entropy. What Krumme's animations emphasize (even if in the service of an advertising campaign) is that, never a `thing', the line in motion intends and marks its own differánce and is always more lived and contingent than its geometry would suggest.
This article provides a context for understanding the series of computer-animated films -- Poemfields -- that Vanderbeek made at Bell Labs between 1966 and 1969, using the first moving image programming language, Bflix, invented by Bell computer scientist, Ken Knowlton. Through an analysis of these works, the author shows how Vanderbeek's politics were deeply and consciously socialist in orientation, how he aimed at nothing less than changing social consciousness through a radical conception of the then emerging information and communication technologies, and how computerized animation as it was emerging at that moment was central to both of these aims.
Gregory Barsamian's strobe-lit kinetic sculptures create an experience that places observers in a perceptual paradox that oscillates between the illusion of animated cinema and the phenomenal presence of real objects that share the viewer's physical presence in space and time. The conversation reveals Barsamian's working methods, his aesthetic and philosophical influences and intentions and his artistic relationship with animated illusion.
This article addresses the techniques and materials used in the production of The Band Concert (1935), a seven-minute Technicolor Mickey Mouse cartoon. An investigation of the standardization of drawing and line in the context of the histories of technical drawing and the industrialization of animation is followed by a description of the use of colour, particularly of the relation between the inks used on the cels and the dyes used in film prints at the time. The author asks whether it is possible to articulate a materialist theory of the aesthetic, ethical and political meanings of technique and technology without losing sight of the techniques and technologies themselves.
This article looks at historical catachresis and cultural metaphor in producing and theorizing Chinese meishu (fine arts) film in relation to the socialist, artistic discourses of the ethnic/national style. By investigating some of these issues raised by the Chinese School, the author explores the conceptualization and constitution of meishu film as a powerful metaphor for producing nationalist identity. This identity brings visual arts and the socialist nation-state discourses into a shared space to recreate Chinese aesthetics in animation filmmaking. The author argues that the Chinese meishu film, identified as a unique, nationalized cinematic form in Chinese visual history, conceptualizes and mediates the national/ethnic style, as well as constituting a discourse-based aesthetic school that has helped it survive within socialist culture and politics.
The current Western fascination with Japanese animation can be understood in relation to the experience of the digital in cultural production that opens new avenues of understanding about the self-as-subject. Visualization to engage with the image in interactive, virtual environments involves relinquishing control to recognize the individual as emerging through the unique pattern of their relationships, both human and non-human. This reality is articulated in Eastern philosophical notions of interrelatedness and pre-reflective thinking, what Marshall McLuhan called `comprehensive awareness'. The Japanese animator Miyazaki Hayao draws on a Zen-Shinto religious imaginary to empower the individual to relinquish the self. As an alternative politics to the moral confusion of the post-modern age, his practice demonstrates that Walter Benjamin's gamble with cinema is in play.
Can animation bring life to the computer? Can the computer take animation to a new horizon extending from cinema and visual art? This article starts with a scrutiny of the conventional definition of animation and its connection to the continuum of liveliness, followed by an examination of the two furthest points on that scale: lively movement, which is spiritual; and inorganic movement, which is functional. The author shows that, in the digital age, movement of various degrees of liveliness can be significant and meaningful through a wide array of motor--sensory functions. This brings about a new notion of materiality, which constructs an innovative meaning of animation. The author then argues that, when combined with the unique functions of the computer, animation can find a shortcut between the two extremes of liveliness: spirituality and functionality. Therefore, the field of animation could benefit from an expansion of its digital attributes. Finally, the author discusses a corpus of artefacts created in different historical periods and different media that exemplify the spiritual--functional loop.
The development of 3D animation systems has been driven primarily by a hyper-realist ethos, and 3D computer graphic (CG) features have broadly complied with this agenda. As a counterpoint to this trend, some researchers, technologists and animation artists have explored the possibility of creating more expressive narrative output from 3D animation environments. This article explores 3D animation aesthetics, technology and culture in this context. Synthesizing research in CG, neuroesthetics, art history, semiotics, psychology and embodied approaches to cognitive science, the nature of naturalistic vis-avis expressive visual styles is analysed, with particular regard to expressive communication and cues for emotional engagement. Two foundations of naturalistic 3D CG, single-point perspective and photorealistic rendering, are explored in terms of expressive potential, and the conclusion considers the future for an expressive aesthetics in 3D CG animation.
Endowing buildings with the capacity for movement and transformation, animated architecture represents the expansion of animation from cinematic and televisual space to real-space environments. A key example of animation in architecture is Oosterhuis.nl's proposal for a new World Trade Center. In line with similar work by fellow Dutch firm NOX, Oosterhuis.nl's Ground Zero embraces animation through references to mobility, liveliness and metamorphosis. It points to the prominence of animated form in contemporary design practice and the ubiquitous use of animation software in the process of architectural design. At the same time, Ground Zero reveals post-9/11 anxieties surrounding the soft and tender flesh of the object world. The author's analysis of Ground Zero's discursive production of life maps crucial changes in our spatial imagination and the politics of form.
Robert Zemeckis' Beowulf (2007) is the latest film made using motion capture technology, a film that tells the story of a hero's quest to defeat a series of monsters.This article examines not only the thematic role of monstrosity in the film, but also the way in which the film's very construction, through motion capture and CGI, can be understood as monstrous. That is, after Deleuze's Cinema 2: The Time Image (1989), Beowulf can be understood as typifying a cinema that has seen a shift from montage to montrage, a cinema that shows. Analysing the aesthetics of monstrosity in Beowulf, the author also considers how the film's motion capture synthespian performances can be understood as comic through Henri Bergson's (1912) theory of laughter, which suggests that humans laugh at mechanized human beings.
What Race Do They Represent and Does Mine Have Anything to Do with It? Perceived Racial Categories of Anime Characters
Is the intended race of anime characters distinguishable because of their facial features or are they too
international' to tell? This study addressed this question empirically by comparing the intended racial categories of static frontal portraits of 341 anime characters randomly selected from anime produced between 1958 and 2005 with the perceptions of 1,046 raters. Results showed that, although the race of more than half of the anime characters was originally designed to be Asian and only a small fraction were intended to be Caucasian, many were perceived as Caucasian by the largely Caucasian raters. Response patterns also indicatedOwn Race Projection (ORP)', i.e. perceivers frequently perceived anime characters to be of their own racial group. Implications for anime's international dissemination are discussed.
As an artist and filmmaker working in what is notion-ally called
animation', Thorsten Fleisch works at intersections of art, science and technology. His works belong to a genre of Structural--Materialist film as well as being highly self-reflexive investigations into the minute workings of natural phenomena. In this article, Fleisch reveals some of the underlying ideas and concepts of his films as well as the techniques involved in creating them. Fleisch has been making experimental films for more than a decade now; most of them fall under the general rubric ofanimation' but their production processes and techniques belie an unusual complexity of source materials, concepts and techniques. These processes are very important to the result as Fleisch tries to find unusual ways to generate images. Fleisch's work is notable for its aesthetic and technically masterful treatment of organic materials (blood, skin, ashes) and scientific phenomena (fractals, crystals, voltage). This richly illustrated article contains many colourful details about the following films: K.I.L.L. -- Kinetic Image Laboratory/Lobotomy (1998), Bloodlust (1998), Silver Screen (2000), Skinflick (2002), Gestalt (2003), Friendly Fire (2003), Kosmos (2004) and Energie! (2007).
This article argues that the comic book form is anything but static. The panels that litter its pages are riddled with a dynamism and motion that presents its own unique articulation of time and space. Some of the narrative action represented within a comic book panel can ‘freeze’ time, but other panels — while remaining visually static as still images on a page — open up complex depictions of time and space that create modes of perception that are particular to comics. The comic represents the animated flux of time and space through stasis.
In the world of the superhero, action is everything. Focusing on DC Comic’s ‘Fastest Man Alive’, the Flash, this article examines the techniques used by comic book artists to animate the seemingly static images of superhero adventures. Taking its cue from superheroes’ success as the stars of recent action cinema, it takes cinematic theories of action and applies them to the comic page. The frozen poses of superhero splash-pages refute the supposed opposition of narrative and spectacle, while also bestowing perceptual mastery onto the reader. Superhero comics also use their elastic temporality — made possible by the peculiar spatial and temporal aspects of sequential art — for hyperbolic representations of the impossible. The Flash’s heroic feats are rendered through conceptual mechanisms for expressing motion existing within, and between, the panels.
Animation and comic books share a common field in that both are composed of images sequenced in time: one is driven mechanically and electronically in projection, and the other by the peripatetic and wilful actions of the reader. However, the single comic book panel has its own duration which is co- ordinated both by the exigencies of the narrative and the graphic properties of the two-dimensional pictorial plane. The gestural movement of the artist is implied in each line and it is this movement that presents itself as a ground for understanding movement in both comic books and two-dimensional drawn animation. It is movement that is retained in the animated figure, in the form of the outline, but also runs tangentially in the articulation of both reading movement and artistic gesture.
The search for the ‘secrets between the panels’ in the ‘strange and wonderful’ medium of the comic book certainly evokes the appeal of a narrative adventure — a quest to find a hidden treasure in an unknown realm — but when comic book analysis is consumed by the search to locate a hidden ‘x’ that ‘marks the spot’ of a concealed presence in the medium, does the logocentric form the academic treasure hunt prevent the journey from being anything other than a linear quest progressing towards a concealed presence? In this article, the author applies Deleuze’s extra-structural object = x to the structuring of sense in comic book analysis; she submits this third thing to the ‘irreducible difference’ of Derridean and Deleuzian thought and proposes an alternate reading of the medium, one which attempts to avoid closure through an aporetic reading of the formal structure.
Dryden Goodwin’s frame-based films both challenge and reaffirm the principles and conventions of animation. A fundamental component of his wider artistic project, this form of filmmaking is intertwined with his other concerns, which include drawing, portraiture and notions of ‘series’. In this interview, Barnaby Dicker invites Goodwin to discuss, from a number of perspectives, his approach to frame-based cinematography and how it relates to his work in general. Dicker finds this a rich and important but neglected topic in animation studies; a problem the present interview aims to contribute to correcting. The interviewer is particularly interested in the links between Goodwin’s work and 19th-century chronophotography, which he proposes is more usefully applicable here as photochronography — Etienne-Jules Marey’s original term for the process. A further link is drawn between the ‘documentary’ aspects of Goodwin’s art and Jean-Louis Comolli’s theory of direct cinema. Although the two would seem to be poles apart, the interviewer finds a number of Comolli’s remarks exemplified through Goodwin’s approach. Other themes running through the interview include the role of film within gallery and installation contexts and the relationships between classical and contemporary art practices and technologies.
This article examines the politics of The Powerpuff Girls. It situates the series' three super-powered heroines within the 1990s popular discourse of Girl Power', presenting empowered images of young femininity. The narrative premise of child characters triumphing over adults also engages with a generational politics with some precedence in television for children. However, an assessment of the limitations of the politics of this Girl Power' series reveals the marginalization and vilification of certain identity formations outside the white middle-class heterosexual girlhood represented by the show's protagonists.
This article is a study of film as sensation'. It provides a new approach to abstract cinema practices and demonstrates that they include the idea of pure sensation'. Therefore, abstract cinema should not be interpreted as purely structural and conceptual. The author argues that film as sensation' has been part of the essence of cinema since the very beginning. The argument proceeds from a brief rewriting of the history of abstract cinema with a view to demonstrating how film as sensation' is present in the essential moments of cinema's history. Furthermore, it is argued that this concept of film as sensation' does not correspond to an idea of cinema or visual effects as pure entertainment' but should be understood as critical rupture'. This idea of critical rupture' finds its theoretical justification in the concept of perceptive shock' or perceptive trauma' from which Walter Benjamin justified the aesthetic intentions of the new-born art.
This article explores the work of violence in animated films. The economic and social contexts of animated film production (of the USA and the USSR) are connected to the construction and dynamics of characters' bodies. By analysing animated chase series, the author suggests that violence that results in the fluidity and changeability of animated bodies can be regarded as a manifestation of an intrinsic feature of animated film, similar in function to what Sergei Eisenstein called plasmaticness'. This feature disappears from animated films when animated characters become humanized.
Digital technology now defines our representational order. Paradoxically, digital hegemony creates new conditions for the representation of materiality through the loss of the photographic index. Object animation is especially well able to stage this emerging conception of materiality. Woznicka's object animation film Birdy creates an allegory of materiality in addition to representing it. The film foregrounds its main character's project, the construction of wings, and the ethical implications of treating materials as mere resource for human use. Elements of the narrative structure and the camera work give the materials used in the character's project a moral standing in the film, which draws audience and filmmaker, as well as the character, into an ethical situation which is significant to our shared moment in the digital era.
This article analyses animated self-portraits created by contemporary young and emerging women in animation, and elucidates significant differences between this new generation of women animators and previous ones. Through their animated self-portraits, the animatrices from previous decades explored their own identity as women and artists, developing new discourses and models for a subgenre that existed from the early days of cinema animation. But the animated female self-portrayal of the new generation comes closer to documentary and has more universal concerns, appealing to a wider audience and reaching theatrical distribution; Marjane Satrapi's feature-length animation film Persepolis (2007) exemplifies this and is a focus of the article.
The Raimund Krumme -- Play for Lines and Figures exhibition, organised by the German Institute for Animated Film (DIAF) and held in the Dresden Technical Museum from April to September 2009, showed artistic work by the German animated film director and author, Raimund Krumme. An important starting point for his film work is his graphic brainstorming sessions -- scribblings, studies of movements, collages -- during which he visualises ideas and emotions without words. The article provides an insight into the preparatory work for the exhibition that focused especially on his creative artistic processes through to the final films and also analysed the unique way in which Raimund Krumme animates space. Central aspects of the exhibition concept, such as the thematic criteria, the selection and arrangement of the exhibits as well as the presentation form of the exhibits and the moving images, are explained in detail. In doing so, the author deals with various considerations which arise with regard to both the uniqueness of an exhibition about animated film and the possibilities this provides.
Revisioning the significance of Stan VanDerBeek is beset with a number of historiographical problems that tell us a great deal about history-making in technological times. Why, and more importantly, how, does a key experimental filmmaker breaking radical ground in animation and a technoart innovator of the American avant-garde of the 1960s and 70s fall into complete obscurity? The author argues that a very similar process is taking place around the reductive term digital media', the shift in technocultural production and consumption that rendered all filmic consciousness as animation.
This article aims to flesh out how Stan VanDerBeek created what Time magazine in 1964 rather glibly described as a curious chapter in the manual of animation'. The main focus is on his pre-computer painted and puppet animation and collage animation works. After considering relevant terminologies, the author explores VanDerBeek's own writings to see how and why his artistic and cultural philosophy could be expressed using animation techniques. After a discussion of a stop-motion puppet film and a painted film, she introduces, via Modernist contexts of collage and photomontage, some of VanDerBeek's many collage and cutout animation films, proposing how his visual neologisms bear comparison with James Joyce's portmanteau technique. She then undertakes an aesthetic and socio-political analysis of his praxis within found footage genres and techniques, and suggests viewer strategies for watching his works. The article concludes by describing some of VanDerBeek's manifold poetics and aesthetics as a curious chapter' within the continuum of political photomontage and independent animation production.
From Pictorial Collage to Intermedia Assemblage: Variations V (1965) and the Cagean origins of VanDerBeek’s Expanded Cinema
Post 1964, after a half-dozen years pursuing an increasingly successful career as an independent producer of animated films, Stan VanDerBeek began to devote himself to a more performative and interdisciplinary practice he termed expanded cinema'. This article contends that the most significant moment and motivation in this transition was the artist's close collaboration with John Cage and Merce Cunningham in the production of Variations V, and that an examination of VanDerBeek's Movie-Mural in the context of that production helps us to understand the important role played by his former Black Mountain College teachers in the genesis of this vision. The author proposes that an interdisciplinary rhetoric of assemblage' in this period can help bridge the aesthetic and conceptual gap between the artist's early practice of collage animation and his later turn to expanded cinema and intermedia performance.
This article explores how the POEMFIELD series of computer animations, created by Stan VanDerBeek and Kenneth Knowlton between 1964--70, consciously mines a terrain between visibility and invisibility, drawing numbers and letters into cascades of representation simultaneously pictorial, linguistic and schematic. Skating the border of legibility, the animations exhibit a double vision of text and image, code and picture and, in so doing, work to figure a larger, epistemic question of computational visibility at the close of the mechanical age'. The subtitle of the MoMA 1968 exhibition -- The Machine' -- marked the emergence of a computational model in which mechanical animation would no longer be visible to the human eye. The resulting crisis of visibility takes on a particular importance in light of the model of the graphical user interface' being explored at that time. In the POEMFIELD series, VanDerBeek and Knowlton attempt to convey both the complexity and the promise of this emerging paradigm of layered pictoriality, language and code.
This article explores a highly striking phenomenon termed metalepsis. A metalepsis is a fictional and paradoxical transgression of the border between mutually exclusive worlds that cannot be transgressed in our actual world. The hand of the animator reaching into the diegesis of his creations as well as characters communicating with the audience, escaping to the world of their creators, or altering their own worlds are all different types of metaleptic transgressions. Even though this phenomenon appears extensively throughout the history of animation, it has not been theorized in animation studies thus far. This article introduces transmedial narratological conceptualizations of metalepsis as an analytical tool for animation. It discusses a wide range of examples, testing the applicability of the framework to various animated forms.
Sketching Under the Influence? Winsor McCay and the Question of Aesthetic Convergence Between Comic Strips and Film
The formal similarities between comic strips and film have often sparked a contentious debate about aesthetic intersections between the two mediums as well as discussions of influence. Comic historian David Kunzle, drawing from the work of Francis Lacassin, has described how characteristics of film form can be traced back to comic strips of the mid to late 1800s. Film historian Donald Crafton, on the other hand, posits that comic strips had little, if any, influence over the evolution of film language. Analyzing both Winsor McCay's comic strips and animated adaptations, this article hopes to utilize historically informed textual analysis to complicate the question of aesthetic influence.
This article explores The Boondocks and its transition from daily newspaper strip to animated series. The article is particularly concerned with the ways in which the animated series exceeds the expectations set up by the printed comic strip and emerges as a complex, highly inter-textual work with a large number of subtle cultural references. In order to account for The Boondocks, transition from one medium to another, the animated series is analyzed via theories of appropriation and adaptation, with special attention paid to the series' deft cultural borrowing and the use of formal conventions typically associated with Japanese anime. The article also examines The Boondocks' relationship to The Simpsons, and establishes The Simpsons as an important forbear to The Boondocks in terms of realism and social commentary.
Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1871) have inspired various Disney texts, including the studio's Alice comedies of 1923--27, the films that essentially brought the company into being. This early series helped shape Disney's development of a film mode, that of hybrid animation, which would pay dividends throughout the studio's history, and despite their often crude style, forecast the studio's ongoing efforts at negotiating the relationship between the real and the fantastic, including its development of a house style' that would become known as the illusion of life'. This article examines these foundational texts particularly in light of their emphasis on a hybrid style -- i.e. their combination of live-action and animation -- which necessitated a greater awareness of realistic spatial issues, as they invited audiences to enter into a fantasy space, to undertake the same sort of liminal explorations as Lewis Carroll's Alice.
With the release of The Princess and the Frog (Ron Clements and John Musker, 2009) the phrase Classic Disney' has re-entered popular discussion. Unfortunately, the concept of Classic Disney' has evolved in recent years, developing from a seemingly straightforward term featured in numerous discussions of Disney, to one which lacks the specificity required to support shorthand' critical engagement with the studio's animated features. This article develops the neologism Disney-Formalism' as a potential alternative to the term Classic Disney', referring to the formation, and continuation, of the aesthetic style forged in the films Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (David Hand, 1937), Pinocchio (Ben Sharpsteen et al., 1940), Dumbo (Ben Sharpsteen, 1941), and Bambi (David Hand, 1942).
Drawing is a key component of traditional' practice in classical animation that is sometimes seen as an outmoded form lacking relevance to a digital age. On the contrary, the use of digital tools and virtual materials can still be seen as problematic by some animators schooled in traditional methods. In contemporary art, however, there is an explosion of experimentation with different tools, processes and paradigms, and a resurgence of interest in drawing around issues of time, performance and materiality. This article considers the processes and theorization of drawn animation in light of these different practices and tools. Drawing is reflected on in terms of material basis and conceptualization. It is explored as a process that can represent the passage of time and the performance of a character, yet is in itself a performative activity with duration.
This article investigates Oshii Mamoru's experiments with voice and vision in his film Ghost in the Shell (1995). The audio-visual inversion articulated by the disembodied voice in the film dissolves the conventional image-voice conformity. The inorganic gaze adopted by Oshii breaks out of the human observer's body to spread into space, unlike the anthropocentric gaze standard in cinema. While this depersonalized sight expresses the subject's dissemination, it also echoes the film's motif of mankind's ontological opening up towards the environment. Oshii's audio-visual experiment can be considered a critique of Cartesian optics: whereas the bodiless voice undermines the Cartesian domination of vision over other senses, the inorganic gaze produces a non-perspectival space and non-human vision supplementing Renaissance perspectival systems. Consequently, Oshii's tendency to separate the voice from vision renders his animated bodies as heterogeneous, discrete agents distributed through multiple spatiotemporal dimensions beyond classical constructions of subject--object boundaries. The result of his challenge to Cartesian optics produces in the audience an intense affectivity reminiscent of Eisenstein's ecstasy' of animation.
Writings on animation have often noted the plastic quality of the image: objects stretch, squash and change forms. Such discussions of the plastic quality of animation tend to equate plasticity with the appearance of the image. This article proposes a rethinking of plasticity in animation, suggesting that it is not simply an attribute of the finished image, but an aspect of the material conditions of its production. Introducing the work of Imamura Taihei and Hanada Kiyoteru, two leftist Japanese intellectuals who wrote on Disney animation during the 1940s and 1950s, and contrasting their work with the writings of their European counterparts, this article will suggest that these Japanese thinkers focus our attention on the importance of Fordism in the production of Disney animation. The work of Imamura and Hanada enables us to critically approach plasticity in animation in terms of the material conditions of the image production within Fordism, thus enabling us to consider plasticity at the level of the medium as well as that of labor.
In his autobiography, animator Shamus Culhane describes the mid-1940s as a period of artistic awakening for him, when he engaged with the works of film theorists such as Russian Formalists Sergei Eisenstein and Vsevolod Pudovkin.Working at that point as a director at the Walter Lantz studio, he resolved to put theory to practice and began experimenting within the Lantz cartoons, taking liberties with approved storyboards to apply modern techniques. Working largely on such commercial fare as Woody Woodpecker cartoons, Culhane had little latitude to create anything that was avant-garde, so he employed a hit-and-run approach, offering moments of musical and filmic experimentation. Although the Woody cartoons might seem an unlikely vehicle for this, this article reveals how the wild and zany Woodpecker characterization provided a fairly ideal opportunity for Culhane's modernist mischief to blend in with the frenetic vigor of these short films.
This article is a conversation with Takehito Deguchi and Koji Yamamura, two distinct voices in animation practice and theory. Situated in Tokyo, Japan, the discussion follows a concept of expansion through decentralization, both in terms of the subject of animation and the place from where one speaks. Decentralization is considered in relation to how our understanding of the contemporary artwork, including animation, is formed, de- and re-formed through transforming and widening socio-political grounds. Addressing the complexity and hybridity for grasping the evolving layers in the field of anime, the dialogues with Deguchi and Yamamura gather questions and responses particularly about the status of experimental work, social change, the institutional and non-histories, seen as manifestations of incomplete historical understanding. Links are drawn between experimentation and time rupture, drawings and their shifting status in society, institutions and traditional statements, and social sentiments and animation's intrinsic qualities. The text concludes with a summary of the conversations, including valuable statements that have been made, which open out the research subject for further debates.
This article challenges the widely held view that cinema is a subcategory of the larger entity, animation. Tracing the etymology of the word ‘animation’ reveals how it acquired two separate meanings: one to endow with life or to come alive, and the other, to move or be moved. In trade and professional discourses about cinema, ‘animation’ did not refer to single-frame cinematography or to the class of films using that technique until the early 1910s. The genealogical argument that animation was the ancestor of cinema exploits the semantic serendipity of these two meanings, but the approach distracts from a larger understanding of animation as a film form, genre and social practice. A negative result of this line of reasoning is that the distinctive features of the optical toys of so-called pre-cinema are valued only inasmuch as they resembled later cinema and may not be studied in their own right.
This article explores the history of early animation and modern magic in light of discourses on the cinema’s capacities for bringing inanimate objects (including the still photograph) to life. The cinema’s early encounter with a metamorphic magic book known as a blow book, which is constructed like a flip book without sequential imagery, will be considered in order to specify the terms of one form of animation and its structures of illusion and belief. The principles of modern magic will also be addressed to explain the significance of a number of trick films that featured the blow book directly as a means of demonstrating the animating ‘powers’ of the cinema. This analysis will challenge the use of animation as an umbrella concept within cinema and media studies, and provide a basis for beginning to think through the return of new media studies to 19th-century magic as a model for understanding digital illusions.
This article works through a contrast between the magic lantern and movie projector, focusing on Meiji Japan (1868—1912) as a pivotal site in order to address the relation between cinema and animation, historically and ontologically. Using Simondon’s notion of technical objects to transform Foucault’s notion of dispositif into a theory of technical paradigms, the author finds that the difference between cinema and animation is not primarily one of materials but of qualities of movement. An exploration of the projection-image (utsushie) of the magic lantern suggests that cinema and animation share a technical paradigm, linked to electromagnetism, one that is shadowed by Cartesian technism. Modifying Deleuze’s emphasis on any-instant-whatever and on time as the virtual of the cinematic movement-image, this study finds that cinema and animation share a dark precursor, any-matter-whatever. Because animation stays close to any-matter-whatever, it offers a direct experience of life-in-matter, and anticipates the any-medium-whatever of the digital.
This article seeks to position the early pioneering 3D stop motion animation of Briton Arthur Melbourne-Cooper and Russian Alexander Shiryaev within wider discourses of turn-of-the-20thcentury modernity. The discussion suggests that the significance of such work has been lost amidst the dominant discourses about the development of both the modern city and early cinema and, crucially, the ways in which the 2D ‘cartoon’ has been recognized as possessing the agency of modernist practice, while the 3D form has gone relatively uninterrogated and absorbed within other aspects of cinematic or cultural practice. The author argues that Melbourne-Cooper and Shiryaev self-consciously use 3D animation as a mediation between live-action photo-realist observation and the graphic freedoms of the early drawn forms, focusing on a ‘symbolic body’, which revises notions of the ‘attraction’ in early cinema, re-defines the city-space and documents the meaning in the motion of modernity.
By abandoning a linear understanding of film history, the author revisits animated film history by placing its emergence within the lineage of trick films. Analysis of discourses on the first animated cartoons — such as the critical and publicity discourses found in trade papers — reveals that these films were seen like any other trick films, not as a distinct type. How, then, can we explain the popularity of the first animated cartoons in the mid-1910s when trick films had almost disappeared? How can we account for the popularity of a variety of ‘trick films’ —animated drawings — precisely when these same trick films had almost ceased to exist? This article addresses these issues by looking at the process by which a major shift occurred in the way we look at the earliest animated drawings. More precisely, the author tries to outline the context of the transition from the perception that animated drawings were trick films to their eventual consecration as a genre within the institution.
Entertainment and Instruction as Models in the Early Years of Animated Film: New Perspectives on Filmmaking in France
This study of the oeuvres of Emile Cohl, Marius O’Galop and Robert Lortac, united by reason of their biohistorical and aesthetic kinship, helps to reconstruct the specificities of the first school of animated film in France. In their films, these animators, formerly caricaturists, combined models whose function was either entertainment or educational, and specific either to the illustration industry or to the children’s books and toys market, with spectacular paradigms borrowed from the stage and other performance arts. By showing how these multiple cultural series combine and interact, this analysis of their oeuvres thus opens up an arena in which the historiography of the Seventh Art in its infancy can be viewed and appreciated as a whole.
Absence, Excess and Epistemological Expansion: Towards a Framework for the Study of Animated Documentary
This article gives an overview of the history of animated documentary, both in regard to the form itself and how it has been studied. It then goes on to present a new way of thinking about animated documentary, in terms of the way the animation functions in the texts by asking what the animation does that the live-action alternative could not. Three functions are suggested: mimetic substitution, non-mimetic substitution and evocation. The author suggests that, by thinking about animated documentary in this way, we can see how animation has broadened and deepened documentary's epistemological project by opening it up to subject matters that previously eluded live-action film.
Animated documentaries like Julia Meltzer and David Thorne's It's Not My Memory of It: Three Recollected Documents (2003), Jackie Goss's Stranger Comes To Town (2007), and Stephen Andrews's The Quick and the Dead (2004) invite us to consider the larger implications of the intensified dislocation and movement of individuals and information over the past decade. Through these exemplary texts, this article examines a trend in experimental animated documentaries in which artists visibly and self-consciously investigate the current status of the documentary guarantee'. How can current documentary establish truth claims in a context in which there is widespread cultural anxiety regarding visible movement in a world assumed to be uncertain, unstable, and precarious?
This article presents a series of images, transcriptions, and musings on the making of Stranger Comes To Town (2007): an animated documentary that centers on the stories of six immigrants and visitors to the United States who describe their experiences crossing the border. The author chooses 10 images that are accompanied by transcriptions of each interviewee's statements. She follows each pairing with a musing on either the process of making the animation - what she gleaned about the interviewee from the process of syncing a fabricated image to a real' voice, the different ways voice and text can play off each other in animation - or the (still surprisingly) subversive gesture of using subjective hand-drawn animations in documentary form.
This article first considers Kota Ezawa's video installation, The Simpson Verdict within the broader context of the rising interest in animation on the contemporary art landscape. After exploring three trends within this proliferation of artists' animation - works that animate moments from film history, works that animate reality', and works that use popular media such as cartoons, television and video games as source material, this article examines the difference between Ezawa's work, which re-draws already overexposed live footage, and those documentaries that use animation as a supplementary visual tool when live footage does not and/or could not exist.
In this article, the author discusses the animated documentary in relation to the use of staged reenactments in works that are generally understood as documentaries. His conceptual foundation draws especially on recent work by Bill Nichols on documentary reenactments, which he argues have specific fantasmatic' and reflexive qualities. These qualities clearly dovetail with key attributes of animation, with the animated documentary standing as a significant and interestingly hybrid creative form. Key ideas are applied to a case study of Chris Landreth's Ryan (2004), in which Landreth deploys fantasmatic visual flourishes partly in order to destabilize the documentary's conventional discourse of sobriety, pushing it in the direction of its mirroring discourse of delirium, and partly to explore the current status of animation (and animation tools) in the realm of visual simulation.
This article examines how animated films re-present and re-interpret real world occurrences, people and places, focusing on an area that has been overlooked to date: the process of performance and how this manifests itself in animated documentary films. Not simply a notion of performance' as we might understand it in an acting' sense (someone playing a role in a re-enactment), but that of the animator performing specific actions in order to interpret the factual material. The central questions addressed are: how does an understanding of performance' and the related term performativity' help us to frame animated/nonfictional acting? What ontological questions are raised by thinking about notions of acting in animation (and the performance instantiated in the very action of animating)? How do viewers relate to, interpret or believe in' animated films that are asserting real/factually-based stories? The article uses a recent film, the ten mark, as a case study to explore possible answers to these questions.
Calligraphic animation shifts the locus of documentation from representation to performance, from index to moving trace. Animation is an ideal playing field for the transformative and performative qualities that Arabic writing, especially in the context of Islamic art, has explored for centuries. In Islamic traditions, writing sometimes appears as a document or a manifestation of the invisible. Philosophical and theological implications of text and writing in various Islamic traditions, including mystic sciences of letters, the concept of latency associated with Shi a thought, and the performative or talismanic quality of writing, come to inform contemporary artworks. A historical detour shows that Arabic animation arose not directly from Islamic art but from Western-style art education and the privileging of text in Western modern art - which itself was inspired by Islamic art. A number of artists from the Muslim and Arab world, such as Mounir Fatmi (Morocco/France), Kutlug Ataman (Turkey), and Paula Abood (Australia) bring writing across the boundary from religious to secular conceptions of the invisible. Moreover, the rich Arabic and Islamic tradition of text-based art is relevant for all who practice and study text-based animation.
The ethics of collecting testimonies in documentary filmmaking has been the subject of academic discussion for decades, in particular since Claude Lanzmann's landmark film Shoah (1985). There are occasions however when a subject of a potential film would like to tell his or her story but for some reason is unable to speak. Language breaks down when an attempt is made to symbolize the trauma. This article gives an account of the author's experience of such an instance in making a three-part documentary series for the National Geographic about refugees coming to London. The article uses Lacanian psychoanalytical thought to give a theoretical framework to the events leading to the use of animation in the series.
This article explores the ways in which Waltz with Bashir (2008), Ari Folman's animated war memoir, combines a commentary on memory with a moral stance on war. The authors argue that the film exemplifies the capacity of animated documentaries not only to show what is otherwise difficult or impossible to represent in non-animated documentaries, but to serve as a vehicle for fostering new relationships between the viewer and the documentary text. In this vein, the authors argue that Waltz with Bashir synthetically produces a rich, consistent, and thus trustworthy sense of reality for its viewers not despite but because of its unique aesthetic choices - its innovative animation techniques and mixing of reality with fantasy. Accordingly, the authors weave together analyses of the film's content and form with accounts of their reception, discuss how the film evokes certain somatic responses with individuals, and consider the political significance these responses may engender.
Animating the Photographic Trace, Intersecting Phantoms with Phantasms: Contemporary Media Arts, Digital Moving Pictures, and the Documentary’s ‘Expanded Field’
This article investigates the ways in which contemporary media artworks across various platforms provide a fresh look at the photographic inscription of reality by animating the still photograph with digitally produced movement. These artworks are based on what the author calls digital moving pictures', hybrid images in which photographic stillness and cinematic movement are interrelated in a single picture frame by the mediation of digital imaging systems. Examining the works of Jim Campbell, Ken Jacobs, David Claerbout, Julie Meltzer and David Thorne, the author argues that the pictures' blurring of the boundaries between the live action and the animated images, and between the recorded and the manipulated, is meant to satisfy documentary epistephilia (a desire to know') and stimulate the viewer's pensive' and investigative' engagements with the photographic trace as possible spectatorial modes of the documentary. The pictures then ask us to envision the documentary's expanded field' (Rosalind Krauss), in which a series of binaries defining the modernist conception of the documentary are problematized, including prioritizing the photochemical qualities of analogue film and photography as directly guaranteeing evidential claims about their representations over the animated or graphically rendered image.
Renowned collage filmmaker Lewis Klahr has created a collage of personal statements and images from his films to reflect upon his cut-out animation films. The piece discusses his artistic process and his use of artifacts, documents and detritus to explore ephemeral aspects of history and the passage of time. He comments on his use of animated movement and stillness and the idea of reanimating objects from the past.
This article seeks to evaluate the visual style of Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, predominantly through an analysis of the films' aesthetics. The use of Rotoshop as an expressive means to illustrate character and theme, where identity becomes sketched and multi-faceted rather than fixed or stable is explored here. Yet this aesthetic play with borders has a greater resonance than simply a means by which to delineate thematic preoccupations with troubled identity. While such representations are indeed key to these two films, the darkly outlined contours of character borders, which move and slide incessantly, also comment on the blurred divide between live action and animation. Central to the argument is the use of the animated line in understanding these two films; the line provides impetus for exploring several issues raised by the films and the use of Rotoshop. This article explores the following key ideas: the animated line and aesthetic analysis; Rotoshop technology; the representation of fragmentary identity; and the relationship between photo-real cinema and animation, with a particular focus on narrative and spectacle. The author addresses Rotoshop within the context of technology and spectacle; taking industry practices into account allows for an appreciation of how a technological innovation such as Rotoshop can change the shape of live-action cinema.
This article considers the several animated interviews made by Bob Sabiston between 1997 and 2007, and the implications of considering these films as documentaries. The author argues that the films are liminal, discursive texts that negotiate tensions between reality and make-believe, observation and interpretation, and presence and absence. Textual analysis of the short films in question demonstrates an aesthetic presentation that confirms their documentary status at the same time as exploiting the expressionistic potential of Rotoshop. The nature of Rotoshop also emphasizes the absence of the physical body of the interviewee, replacing it with an excessively present style of animation. Other conventional markers of documentary authenticity and evidence, such as the visual index, are also absent in these films. These absences, coupled with the presence of an aesthetically liminal style of animation infer a pleasurably complex and challenging epistemological and phenomenological viewing experience.
Rotoshop, a proprietary digital incarnation of rotoscoping, has been discussed as a visually innovative process, but its capacity to tread new ground aurally has been overlooked. However, the recurrent appearance of the talking head' in the Rotoshop animations to date invites critical reflection on the soundtrack of the films, as well as their images. This article follows Michel Chion in arguing that novel ways of altering bodies on-screen can involve a reimagining of the relationship between those bodies and their accompanying voices. Analyses of the experimental Rotoshop short Figures of Speech and the feature-length Indiewood productions, Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, are used to demonstrate different possibilities in the coordination between voice and body. These range from an adherence to accepted conventions of lip-synchronization, which cast the voice as the guarantor of the body's authenticity', to a much more free-floating assembly, in which words and bodily movements break down into independent elements of pure form'.
The article examines a particular instance of animation practice through a reading of how Bob Sabiston's Rotoshop software was used in the 2006 film A Scanner Darkly. By discussing the notions of communities of practice' and legitimate peripheral participation', and contextualizing the film in relation to different modes of working, the author excavates the ways in which a range of people came to work on the project. Moreover, he outlines some of the production history of the film to argue that certain assumptions and expectations about accepted working practice point to wider perceptions of independent' and studio' animation. Questions of division of labour and standardization, and how they relate to creativity, autonomy and animation production will be addressed; Rotoshop's position in the history of animation forms an interesting case study for interrogating these issues.
Bob Sabiston has been working in animation since the 1980s, when he studied at the Media Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In this conversation with Paul Ward, he talks about his development of the software with which he is most associated, the digital rotoscoping program Rotoshop, as well as the artists and animators who have influenced him. Central to Sabiston's work is an interest in the everyday and how animation can capture and creatively treat it. Any discussion of animation and realism, or animation and documentary, arguably has to engage with his work. Rotoshop's often misunderstood status as a form of image filtering rather than a sophisticated form of digital mark-making means it also goes right to the heart of debates about how we define animation, what constitutes proper' animation (as opposed to some form of short cut') and how we view different kinds of animation labour. Although Sabiston is most associated with Rotoshop films, he is also active in the development of software for other platforms.
According to Paul Wells, the lengthy and intimate relationship of the animation auteur to the animated text is similar to the writing process, and the animated form's sense of its own artifice highlights the transformative aspects of adapting literary sources for the cinema. It is this expression of interiority, translation and textual process that makes the animated film a perfect vehicle for an adaptation of James Joyce's Ulysses (1922), which utilizes multiple narrators to construct and deconstruct representations of urban, Dublin society in the early 20th century. It is the purpose of this article to consider Tim Booth's animated short Ulys (1998), which is in part a commentary on Joyce's writing authorship, and also an adaptation of Joyce's novel. The author considers Booth's use of animation to recover the image-schemas' that underpin Ulysses, and the small spatial stories' that inform human cognition of both the literary and animated text.
This article aims to present an argument for why anthropology could provide animation studies with a new set of critical models that move away from the dominant paradigms that currently circulate in Western academic discourse. The author discusses how these models can be drawn upon when reading animation and she utilizes supporting examples of sub-Saharan animations to promote the benefits of an interdisciplinary approach to reading animation. This approach is bidirectional, flowing from anthropology to animation studies and the reverse. Where this article shows how animation theory stands to gain from anthropology, it will also illustrate how one can include animation in the visual anthropologist’s methodology.
Computer Generated Animation as Product Design Engineered Culture, or Buzz Lightyear to the Sales Floor, to the Checkout and Beyond!
The relationship between the cinematic image and the industrial commodity was the subject of many product placement studies during the 20th century. This article argues that the contemporary computer automation of perspective and rendering has had far-reaching consequences for the relationship between cinematic image and manufactured object. The emergence of Renaissance perspective structured a new relationship between the image and the object, both of which were rationalised under the visually representable specificity of geometrical and mathematical precision. Taking this as a departure, contemporary computer generated (CG) animation renovates ‘the visual nominalism’ of Renaissance perspective with one crucial difference: computer automation adds the fourth dimension of time to the perspectival image. This facilitates an image form qualitatively different from either hand-drawn Renaissance imaging or mechanically reproduced film, an image form that is instead both hand-drawn and mechanically reproduced at the same time. The implications of this difference are explored through a close analysis of contemporary CG animated features, which offer much to an understanding of the future development of all cinematic imaging and consumer culture. Perhaps most significantly, the objects and characters that populate CG features are integrally related to contemporary practices of industrial product design engineering: a development that has considerable implications for contemporary understandings of ‘product placement’. When every object on screen is literally an industrially manufactured, carefully placed product, traditional theories of film, advertising and consumer culture need to be retriangulated. This article asserts that CG features demand a new approach to the relationship between cinematic image and manufactured product on multiple levels.
Between 1909 and 1925, a number of toys were patented and produced that were operated by the spinning motion of a phonograph player. In this article, the author argues that these ‘phonotoys’ complement and refine our understanding of the genealogy of the sound cartoon, and suggests that popular recordings should be considered as an important expressive resource for early sound animators just as were film, vaudeville, and newspaper comic strips. By outlining a constellation of family resemblances shared by phonotoys and sound cartoons made by the Disney, Fleischer, Warner Brothers, Van Beuren, and Iwerks studios in the late 1920s and early 1930s, the article establishes a dialogue between sound cartoons of this era and phonograph culture that provides a fresh perspective on discussions in Animation Studies having to do with the representation of race, ethnicity, and gender, as well as strategies of sound/image synchronization.
In a previous article published in 2009, the author showed how animation, when combined with computer technology, makes movements of different degrees of liveliness that are meaningful to humans. Following this thesis, this article draws on insights from perceptual and cognitive psychology to propose a new typology of liveliness for classifying digital animated phenomena. This classification emphasizes balance and spread of liveliness in today’s digitally mediated environments, echoing traditional East Asian holistic thoughts, including the core ideas of Dao and Shinto. Using analyses of exemplary animated artifacts from contemporary East Asia, including a montage sequence from the Japanese animated film Ghost in the Shell (Mamoru Oshii, 1995), an animated version of the Chinese painting Along the River During the Qingming Festival exhibited in Shanghai Expo 2010, and Electroplankton, a video game released on a Japanese portable game console, the author argues that today’s digital animated phenomena incorporate co-creation between animators, computers and even spectators/users, thus provoking thought on the human–machine relationship in pursuing the illusion of life.
The Shadow Staff: Japanese Animators in the Tōhō Aviation Education Materials Production Office 1939–1945
Despite the attention paid by Japanese animation historians to cartoon propaganda films made during the Second World War, twice as much animation may have been produced in the period for military instructional films. These films, now lost, were made by a group of animators seconded to the Tōhō Aviation Education Materials Production Office (Tōhō Kōkū Kyōiku Shiryō Seisaku-sho). Occasionally running for five or six reels (c. 48 minutes), and in one case consisting of a feature-length eight reels, they form the missing link between the one- and two-reel shorts of the 1930s and Japanese animation’s first feature, Momotarō Umi no Shinpei (1945, Momotarō’s Divine Sea Warriors). The films included tactical tips for the pilots who would bomb Pearl Harbor, short courses in identifying enemy ships, and an introduction to combat protocols for aircraft carrier personnel. This article reconstructs the content and achievement of the Shadow Staff from available materials, and considers its exclusion from (and restoration to) narratives of the Japanese animation industry.
Compositing multiple plates into a single image creates challenges for lighting, grading and editing, while the distinct methods of each produces aesthetic challenges in creating apparently coherent space. The challenge is all the greater because digital screens and projectors afford only a strictly limited form of display, and the codecs associated with them share features that force these constructions of space to conform to the Cartesian grid of two-dimensional geometry. Avatar (James Cameron, 2009) attempts to build a coherent diegesis but fails because of these issues, which are redoubled in other technical domains, notably motion capture, and in the narrative. Nonetheless, ideological readings can only provide a negative response: careful analysis reveals utopian possibilities in composited live action and animated spectacle that need also to be included in the critical armoury.
This article argues that Avatar (James Cameron, 2009) is a key moment in the development of stereoscopy, cinematography and animation. On both an aesthetic/formal level and in terms of its narrative, Avatar talks back to the origins of Victorian stereography, American cinematography and the racist discourses of ethnography and ecocide that ensued. Echoing 19th-century stereographs of ‘natives’ and their resource-rich environments, together with DW Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, Avatar also attempts to negotiate the atrocities of the past and to relate them to our present. But this negotiation also takes place on a more subtle ontological level: originating within the structures of a ‘cybernetic empire’, Victorian stereographic imaging is strikingly indicative of Avatar’s contemporary position as a work of culture in the age of cybernetic systems. It has been argued that monographic imaging reputedly replaced stereographic forms in popularity because the latter disrupted the scopic regimes of modernity by emphasizing the role of the body in the process of vision. Avatar’s computer generated composite form circumvents this equation, however; while photography may have sought to minimize viewers’ awareness of their own bodies in the process of beholding the indexical form, such a framework is questionable in an age of fabricated CG composites. If the origins of stereography predated photography, and if its founding image was hand drafted, then what originally appeared a technical footnote in the history of stereography now becomes a key factor in understanding Avatar and the new ‘cybernetic regime of modernity’.
This article offers a theoretical analysis of the 3D cinema experience, paying particular attention to the paradoxical manner in which a further apparatus, medium, or filter – namely 3D glasses – enables what many viewers perceive as a greater level of realism in the cinematic image. That 3D glasses constitute a further apparatus, medium or filter between the image and the viewer ultimately will lead to a more abstract discussion of the differences between ‘solid’ and ‘gaseous’ perception – or, briefly, between seeing objects as solid barriers or as permeable, and of the importance of ‘darkness’ in perception itself. The author’s argument is that darkness, equated here with the extra medium of the 3D glasses, is a key but overlooked aspect of film viewing, something made clear by 3D cinema. Into this argument, he includes analysis of Avatar (James Cameron, 2009), which enacts some of the theoretical arguments that he wishes to make.
This article proposes that motion capture (mocap) animation relates movement to cinema in a unique way, in that rather than being a quality of the profilmic, in mocap animation movement is itself directly the profilmic. Motion capture records imagery consisting of data of a profilmic object’s positional change in space, rather than data of the object itself. Using this critical distinction between movement and object, the author argues that the experience of mocap changes the nature of the image so that it involves, or is, a specific sense of being, rather than seeing. Due to its thematic treatment of seeing as well as its own application of mocap technology, she also draws on James Cameron’s film Avatar (2009) as an illustration for this thesis on mocap and seeing/being. In the process, she revisits our experiences of seeing light when watching films and considers how mocap and the experience of movement change our engagement with cinema. This discussion is thus not only about our understanding of and interaction with the moving image, but also points to how we can understand movement and being, and the sum of our sensory experiences in the world of cinema ensconced in light and darkness.
This article demonstrates first that, in epistemological terms, Avatar relies on scientific ‘documents’ to legitimize its radical political–aesthetic fantasy with such anthropological and historical accuracy that it attains documentary status. The author shows that Avatar constructs its viewers as both hypothesizers of and experimenters with fact, while simultaneously constituting them as critics of fiction. Secondly, he illustrates how scientific legitimacy in Avatar sits in judgment of aesthetic imagination, just as aesthetic imagination sits in judgment of scientific legitimacy. Thirdly, he argues that Avatar is a radical, animated spectacle committed to scientific realism while at the same time being an animated spectacle committed to radical political fantasy. Lastly, he demonstrates how the film offers an alternative model for identity formation, based not on the psychoanalytic processes of introjection, but on the quasi-phenomenological processes of projection into a life form that is factually alien to modern Humanism – into a model of social relations that incorporates symbiotic alliances with the non-human, with flora and fauna, with networked ecological systems in which all actants are interdependent, cooperative, co-constitutive and co-creative.
Ecological approaches give an insight to the story-world of Avatar. They are extended in this article to facilitate an exploration of the connectivity between the feature film and its associated texts (production culture disclosures, making of featurettes, interviews). Drawing on the ecological thinking of Gregory Bateson, Félix Guattari and Jane Bennett, this article argues that Avatar and its associated texts are considered as an ecology of emergent space. The materiality of such a space is drawn from the various entities involved in its configuration: animation software, motion capture technologies, actors, designers and filmmakers. This argument is pursued primarily through a discussion of the ways in which real-time motion capture technologies alter our understandings of the ecologies of CG imagery in Avatar. Remaining focused on only the realism of these images, or the traces of humanness within them, misses the way in which such spaces emerge at an intersection of codes.
In France during the 1930s, the popular press and film journals offered a lively and multifaceted discussion of animation. This article examines how, within this discourse, animation was envisioned as a new form of art with its own expressive potentials. The author traces how ideas of the form were articulated in terms of animation aesthetics, animation’s relationship to other artistic and cultural forms, and animation’s history. Developing an approach to animation history that focuses on its reception and discourse, this article elaborates on the cultural formation of an idea of animation.
In addition to creating legendary comics like Little Nemo in Slumberland, Winsor McCay was a pioneer of animation. His Gertie (1914) was the first American masterpiece of animated film. Two versions are known to have existed: the original in which McCay appeared on the vaudeville stage with an animated dinosaur named Gertie projected on screen, and a later one that contained a live-action prologue and epilogue filmed and distributed by William Fox’s Box Office Attractions Company. The Fox version is still extant as original nitrate prints, but McCay’s vaudeville version was lost. However, an examination of 334 of McCay’s original drawings reveals that near the end of the vaudeville version there was a ‘Curtain Call’ sequence not included in the Fox version. Fifteen drawings from the lost segment allowed its reconstruction by the Gertie Project applying digital technology. The authors have dated Gertie’s vaudeville chronology more precisely and have demonstrated McCay’s animation techniques, including his ‘split system’, by decoding his original annotations. The authors examine the filmmaker’s claim that he had made 10,000 drawings for Gertie. The resulting historic analysis of a milestone in silent film animation discusses the artistic mastery of Winsor McCay, issues of historical authenticity, and the archival implications of digital reconstruction.
Though widely known for his contributions to instantaneous photography and studies of human and animal locomotion, the figure of Eadweard Muybridge was equally renowned during the final decades of the 19th century for his tours of the magic lantern circuit. At this time, the photographer entertained and educated audiences with a poly-generic, multi-media show alternating still views with animations produced through his projecting apparatus, the zoopraxiscope. This article examines the temporal and material dimensions of Muybridge’s lantern practice to demonstrate how it builds on 19th-century anxieties about changing epistemologies of vision and visuality, as well as time and temporality. As a dynamic process animating still images into motion, Muybridge treated animation as a palliative measure designed to bring his ungainly images of animals back into the realm of natural human vision. In so doing, he bred truth through illusion and helped prepare audiences for an emerging cinematic sensibility. By emphasizing the temporal dimensions of photographic indexicality, the author further argues that Muybridge’s endeavors amount to an archive of time, and that his lantern slides evince time made material. While the slides’ projection displayed a virtual immateriality, an examination of broken ones reveals that photographic beauty emerges from their ephemerality and fragility. The animating interchange between stillness and motion, between the material and the immaterial, functions as an indicator of the emergence of epistemic assumptions and anxieties about time and sight that took hold as cinema emerged.
This article articulates a Japanese spatial device: layering. In contrast to Western perspective, layering creates depth with contours by overlapping some 2D images. Through Mamoru Oshii’s theorisation of three layers, the author investigates the application of layering in traditional woodblock prints and anime and speculates on its derivation from calligraphy as an art form. This article addresses the idea that in anime, unlike in a unified perspective drawing, the layering system allows different depiction styles to be overlapped. Moreover, through Oshii’s films, his experiments in audio-visual exchange and the temporal application of concept of ma, pose and pause in anime’s movement are explored. The goal is to investigate the concept of ma and layering further by examining one locus of spatiotemporal experience – anime. It is speculated that the spatiotemporal concept of ma was generated by the written Japanese language, the combination of kana and ideograms.
Satoshi Kon is a Japanese animation film director whose works, story, and imagery suggest altered mental states, such as insanity or dreaming. Millennium Actress (2001), which this author regards as Kon’s magnum opus, uses a dream-like style of animation and filmmaking to create the narrative of a biography of a fictional actress. In this feature-length animated film, Kon reifies theories and findings from the functions of dreaming and the mechanics of dream that have developed over a hundred years since the early 20th century. The oneiric quality of the animation film is explored using both psychoanalytical/psychological theories and neuroscientific frameworks to reveal its story of a feminine journey in relation to the collective unconscious and mythic story structure, and the cinematic editing techniques that help the storytelling lead to the dream state.
This article discusses weightless kinetics of computer graphics animation by investigating its core mechanism and aesthetics through the practice of ‘keyframing’, that is, the generation of computer animation by setting ‘keyframes’. The author argues that it is the practice of keyframing that contributes most to the impression of a lack of gravity associated with computer graphics. More importantly, the method of deformation employed in keyframing inadvertently evokes rubber hose animation, the style popular in early animation. Rubbery movement was what struck Eisenstein as ‘plasmatic’ in Disney. Rubber hose animation resurfaced in the pioneering computer animation works by Peter Foldes, who explored free distortion and metamorphosis with the new automated movement. In the end, the technology of keyframe animation may be part of the teleology of labor rationalization, but it has come full circle back to where the animation industry began with rubber hose animation.
For decades, the notion of the creator’s absolute control over the drawn image has remained a staple of animation discourse, and the advent of computer animation has recently reinvigorated this discussion. The animated science fiction features Metropia (Tarik Saleh, 2009), Metropolis (Rintaro, 2001), and Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (Hironobu Sakaguchi and Motonori Sakakibara, 2001) engage utopian daydreams and articulate anxieties about the high degree of artistic mastery facilitated by advanced technology. Using these three films as case studies, this text examines computer-animated futuristic urban spaces as architectures of control. It discusses digital bodies as products of animators’ increased mastery over mimetic representations of the human form and explores the ways in which computer animation foregrounds its technological and artistic control over the image as a feat to marvel at. In doing so, this analysis highlights the evolution of the dream of the omnipotent creator into a fantasy of omnipotent machinery, while also foregrounding concerns about the possible danger of technology undermining animators’ labor and making it obsolete in the context of contemporary production practices.
Spirited Away: Conceptualizing a Film-Based Case Study through Comparative Narratives of Japanese Ecological and Environmental Discourses
This article discusses interpretations of environmental themes in the film Spirited Away (2011) directed by Miyazaki Hayao, including views that do not agree with any environment-related reading of the film’s contents. In analyzing this diversity of views obtained through fieldwork and secondary sources, the discussions involve interpretations of the characters and symbolisms related to the physical settings found in the animated feature. This includes: correlations with the Japanese economic fast-growth period in the Showa period from the 1960s onwards; contrasts between characters that are representations of pollution versus traditional symbols of nature; the inter-related ideas of consumption and waste; the delicate co-existence between nature and humans; traditional conceptions of nature; spirituality and interpretations of the environment; human–nature interactions; ideas about state and non-state stakeholders in Japanese society; the impact of economic production; changes in community bonds with development, etc. The methodology is based on textual analysis and interpretive work of scholarly arguments about ideas related to the environment in Japan. A second methodology is based on oral interviews with instructors and scholarly experts within the intellectual community who have experience in teaching or writing materials related to this topical matter. The concluding section discusses reception of the film and the way audiences cognitively react to and interact with the film’s contents to arrive at their own understanding (or rejection) of its environmental themes.
How does a director express his or her film style in animated films produced by a group? To address this issue, the authors analyzed the shot length of 22 Japanese animated films directed by Miyazaki Hayao, Oshii Mamoru, and Hosoda Mamoru. Their analysis reveals the statistical measurements of shot length were clearly dependent on directors. Miyazaki’s films show that he avoids both longish and brief shots, Oshii’s shot length is relatively long on average, while Hosoda prefers relatively short shot length. Furthermore, both Oshii’s and Hosoda’s first films deviated from their subsequent films in terms of statistical indices, suggesting that they established their style of shot length during their first or second time directing. The authors determine that all three directors controlled shot length primarily through their own storyboarding as a crucial process of determining the value, since the shot lengths correlated well with the designated shot lengths on the storyboards. In conclusion, the authors identified the distinctive shot length styles of the directors.
Morel_Moreau_Morella: The Metamorphoses of Adolfo Bioy Casares’ Invention in a (Re)Animating Universe
Adolfo Bioy Casares’ short novel The Invention of Morel (La invención de Morel, 2003) envisioned the wish of human beings to define themselves through technology, indeed to reanimate the human as a technological double in an environment that gradually becomes virtual. This article develops the relationships connecting The Invention of Morel with three animating forms – the phantasmagoria, the automaton, and the machine-environment – to stress the privileged association they make between invention and (re)animation. With this purpose, this article examines key contributions to our understanding of simulation and automata in the field of animation theory, such as Alan Cholodenko’s ‘Speculations on the animation automaton’, but also Joubert-Laurencin’s La lettre volante. Quatre essais sur le cinema d’animation, which directly addresses Bioy Casares’ story as a metaphor of animated cinema. Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytical approach to the field of aesthetics in ‘The Uncanny’, and subsequent theories like Masahiro Mori’s ‘The Uncanny Valley’, are also taken into consideration.
Street artist Blu creates remarkable wall-painted animations, in which he depicts cartoon figures cavorting along, around and through actual urban surfaces. Through this activity, his film Muto (2008) pictures a fraught relationship between urban space and its dwellers. In some way, the film seems to epitomize contemporary thinking about urban space. Emphasizing the primarily visual and spectacular character of the modern city, such thinking casts it as a space where a totalizing gaze elides the embodied experience of the individual. Yet, in Muto, Blu deploys this visual aspect to conceive of the metropolis as a complex ballet of individual choreographies. Envisioning the city as paradox, Muto casts urban space as both highly spectacular and embodied multiplicity. As a work of animation, Muto also encodes this contradiction formally; even as it depicts the city as a capitalistic sphere of exhaustion, it imbues its morphing bodies with the capacity to redefine place. Connecting the shapeshifting bodies of its beings, the bodies of its spectators and the body of the artist, Muto invests urban space with a sense of plurality. Incarnating urban movement as inscription, and urban inscription as movement, his artistic practice recognizes how bodies shape the spaces in which they dwell.
Cinematic Collecting: The Continuous Discontinuity of the Still Frame in Oskar Fischinger’s Walking from Munich to Berlin
The contingent instant that Walter Benjamin, among others, claims photography uniquely makes palpable has no place in film. Cinema relies on the impermanence of such elusive moments to generate continuity and presence. This article shows how Oskar Fischinger’s 1927 experimental short Walking from Munich to Berlin combines photography and film in a way that stages the incompatibility of these technologies, while also forging a new visual language – a radical form of animation – with which to overcome it. The article both examines Fischinger’s work as a singular contribution to animation and the avant-garde of the Weimar era and beyond, unraveling its philosophical implications for theories of collecting, film, photography, and animation.
In order to assign space value and enter it into an exchange economy, capitalism works to reduce it to an abstract plan. Writing about this process, Henri Lefebvre coins the term ‘abstract space’ and describes the logics of this kind of space in detail. These logics are also at work in the digitally animated spaces of virtual cinematography, such as those used in The Matrix Reloaded (Andy and Larry Wachowski, 2003). Creating totalized, predictable spaces and populating them with highly instrumental and manageable digital replacements of actors (sometimes known as synthespians), virtual cinematography takes space and individuals to be open to geometric abstraction. Using Lefebvre’s work to interpret this virtual spatial production allows a critical evaluation of the motives and consequences of this kind of computer animation to take place, and emphasizes the manner in which virtual cinematography joins up with other visual systems of spatial representation and quantification.
Czech surrealist filmmaker Jan Švankmajer is known to animate any sort of thing: leaves, the surface of a wall, socks, nails and raw flesh. But he does not limit himself to inanimate objects; he also stop animates live actors through a technique called pixilation. This article examines the performances of Švankmajer’s pixilated actors within the 1992 short, Food, which constructs a dialectic between the agency of the actor and that of the animator. The author argues that Švankmajer undermines embodied autonomy, positing limits to human agency and suggesting that the boundaries of our bodies are more permeable than we like to think.
Using examples from Ratatouille, this article illustrates how sound can be used to create identification with characters through an auditory perspective. This auditory perspective is created through reinforcing or contradicting the on-screen image with microphone placement to create distance, loudspeaker positioning to create location, digital signal processing effects to create environments, and subjective perspectives that position us as an insider or outsider, and which illustrate the internal subjectivity of characters.
The ‘plasmatic’ world of Mickey Mouse famously enchanted everyone from small children to European filmmakers and philosophers in the late 1920s and 1930s, but Disney’s attempts to use media technology to envision the freedom of childhood imagination can be traced back to his first successful series, the Alice Comedies (1923–1927), which featured a live-action girl who navigated animated wonderlands in her dreams and her imagination. Like Lewis Carroll’s original character, Disney’s Alice acts as a conduit into an irrational and magical world – the opposite of rational life in modernity. For Disney, Alice provided a way to both tie his own cultural productions to a long tradition of beloved children’s literature, and present his own vision of an animated wonderland as coming from the innocent perspective of a little girl. At the series’ outset, Alice’s trips to Cartoonland were motivated by live-action framing stories that depicted children at play, inviting audiences young and old to escape to a world of childhood imagination. But Disney didn’t just depict an idealized childhood in live-action film; he also used animation to gesture toward the existence of a universal, unassailable imaginary space. This emphasis on the child’s perspective in rendering the relationship between real and animated space speaks to larger cultural concerns at the time surrounding early education, psychological development, and the importance of protecting childhood in an increasingly rationalized world. This article examines the way childhood play is figured in both live-action and animated space in the first series of Alice cartoons – as mimicry, as performance, and as transformation of ‘real’ space – in order to show that Disney’s early work owed much of its impact to the ability of media technology to represent an idealized version of children’s imaginative play, and to evoke childhood perception through the use of animation.
The aim of this article is to show the relationship between Japanese folktales and Japanese anime as a genre, especially how the intertextuality with traditional tales and myth subvert its conventional use. To meet this goal, the author examines Toriyama’s successful Dragon Ball series, which has enjoyed continued popularity right from its first publication in the 1980s. The article analyses the parallelism between Dragon Ball and a classic Chinese novel, Journey to the West, its main source. However, there are many other references present in Dragon Ball that are connected to religion and folktales. The author illustrates this relationship with examples taken from the anime that correspond to traditional Japanese folklore but that are used with a subversive goal, which makes a rich source for analysis and for literary education.
This article considers both animation and human cognition in terms of process philosophy, and articulates some common ground between the processes of animation and the processes of human cognitive imagery. In doing so it suggests a new cognitive theory of animation – one that differs dramatically from the bulk of the literature surrounding cognitive film theories, which tend to focus only on the viewer’s cognitive response to the completed film. Instead this theory will address a number of process philosophy-based ideas that, together with a discussion of the use of cognitive imagery, can position animation quite apart from other mediums. Firstly, the author suggests that movement and image should be considered as distinct entities both in the animated form and in human cognition. Next, he suggests that animation and cognitive imagery are often made up of numerous layers signaling a unique set of processes and facilitating greater creative and epistemic potential. And finally the article considers the influence of sound as well as the comparative uses of metamorphosis.
Animation has never been a subject that has attracted much interest from philosophers, except perhaps from a very few interested in the philosophy of film or perhaps in visual aesthetics. Aspects of philosophical thinking may well be relevant to animation, however, and animators and theorists of animation have certainly shown an interest in philosophy: most often in time, movement, and process. But it is one thing to draw on philosophy in working within a field, and another thing to try to think philosophically about that field. In this admittedly naive view of animation – naive because it comes from philosophy to animation rather than the other way around – animation is explored from an explicitly philosophical perspective, with a particular focus on animation as a ‘making move’.
In contemporary digital culture, computers are shrinking in size while computer networks grow increasingly large. At the same time, individuals have an array of technologies at their command, but are also faced with overwhelming options and information, and are subject to extensive and intrusive data collection. This article explores dichotomies between the miniature and vast or gigantic in recent films with narratives of scalar difference, including Jack the Giant Slayer, Pacific Rim, and Wreck-It Ralph. The author suggests that the representations of scale in these films offer implicit commentary on the digital technologies used to produce their scaled effects and images, and further serve as allegories of containment and excess, control and the uncontrollable, as pertaining to digital imagery and technologies.
Scalar travel documentaries and their adaptations in interactive media present animated models of the body’s interior and the physical worlds at a variety of scales. Featuring increasingly comprehensive animated images at microscopic and macroscopic scales, they help scientists better understand the structure of the universe. This article examines the poetics of scale and the diverse rhetorical mechanisms used in these documentaries. In Powers of Ten and Cosmic Voyage, for instance, the metronomic overview of the underlying organization of the natural world generates ideological discourses on the position of humankind in the universe. The mechanical gaze these films produce, it is argued, reveals the instrumentality of new modes of knowledge and the posthuman nature of our perception. Finally, comparing the various ways with which scalar documentaries animate scientific models, this article suggests that the visions of the natural world these films construct should be more reflexive of the limits of representation at the edge of the knowable.
Remediating Panorama on the Small Screen: Scale, Movement and Spectatorship in Software-Driven Panoramic Photography
Examining what the author calls ‘small-screen panoramas’, a set of software-based digital panorama services that provide the production and navigation of panoramic photographs available for users’ experience on small-screen devices (laptops, mobile phones, tablet PCs), this article argues that the panoramas’ algorithmic view and movement signal an emerging visual regime that remediates the scale and mobility of their pre-digital predecessors. Digital compositing technique reinstates the sensory and epistemological conditions of the panoramic, ‘tourist’ gaze of modernity as it combines discrete pictures of a location into a 360-degree seamless visual field that proffers an immersive form of spectatorship. At the same time, however, the applications undermine the visual field and spectatorship of the traditional panorama as their technological features activate the embodied, material, and contingent aspects of mobile media spectatorship: the portability of laptops and mobile phones and the applications’ algorithmic streamlining of 2D photographs. These examples, the author claims, demonstrate that, despite the applications’ efforts to create seamless virtual 3D images, they lead to the paradoxical coexistence of the animated and the static, of the immersive and the miniaturized, and the embodied and the disembodied.
The recent adaptation of tilt-shift photography by digital technology has produced a fascinating optical illusion that makes film captures of real landscapes appear as if they are fake miniatures – an animated tilt-shift flânerie that encapsulates cities into toy-like visions of themselves, using time-lapse photography to create the effect of stop-motion animation. This sophisticated reimagining of 19th-century postcards utilizes early 20th-century innovations in aerial photography to create a radical shift in scale – both visual and temporal – that results in startling alterations in perception and a new phenomenology of seeing. The confluence of micro and macro perception into one animated image challenges the human perception of time and space in a way that mirrors modernization and globalization. Tilt-shift flânerie also, as this article argues, echoes changes in global perspective that encourage greater cosmopolitan awareness and the reworking of cultural and national boundaries in line with a postmodern erosion of the monocular eye and universal vision. It results in an enhanced spatial perspective that allows us, like Alice in Wonderland, to scale ourselves to an unexpected new relationship with the world, inscribing individuals into a landscape that fits energetically, tilting and shifting, into the eye of the beholder.
‘Scale’ is a nest of complications: it is a highly contested term in a range of disciplines, from geography to ecology, from philosophy to science and technology studies. The heart of the problem is the dispute over its ontological status and topological properties. ‘Scale’ is often assumed to be an ordered totality that one can navigate by zooming in and out, as in Powers of Ten and Google Earth. Such modes of visualization not only give form to a planetary consciousness, but also enable surveillance and warfare in what the author calls ‘the age of the world zoom’. Whereas some geographers have called for the rejection of scalar thinking altogether, he demonstrates how object-oriented ontology (OOO) and actor-network theory (ANT) can offer new insights into conceptualizing the interrelations of entities without falling into the traditional pitfalls of ‘scale’. These approaches lay the groundwork for ‘ecology without scale’, or thinking about interconnectedness beyond scalar notions.
Over the last two decades, the technologies of performance capture and robotic surgery have increased in both use and visibility. While these technologies might initially seem quite dissimilar, they each produce a human–machine assemblage that enacts itself across different scales. Each technology ‘captures’ a performance, translates that performance into digital information, and recodes that performance into another body. This article argues that both performance capture and remote surgery penetrate the materiality of the body and reconstitute that materiality elsewhere, as a human’s bodily movements are captured, transmitted, translated, and finally recoded into that of another body, be it an analogue or digital form of embodiment. The shift in scale produced by each technology – in terms of movement, perception, experience, and sensation – demonstrates the extent to which these technologies of telepresence foster a multilocal experience of the body, the dispersion of authorial control across the human–machine assemblage, and a reinforcement of embodied experience despite an embrace of cultural fantasies of the disembodiment of information. This article takes an explicitly phenomenological position, examining the connective tissue that binds actor and avatar, surgeon and robot. The ligaments that connect human and nonhuman both separate and draw the entities close together, and this article explores the resultant shifts in scale, perception, and experience engendered by performance capture and robotic surgery.
The drive to make human–computer interactions more efficient and effortless has pushed interface designers to think about new methods of information transmission, display and manipulation. The incorporation of haptic feedback cues into the computer interfacing schematic allows the tactile channel to be opened up as a means of complementing and challenging the data provided by the senses of seeing and hearing. In this article, using the Novint Corporation’s Falcon three-dimensional touch interface as a case study, the author examines the strategic aims of animating and scaling computer-generated space for the haptic. Spaces of heterogeneous scales, from the microscopic to the macroscopic, can be rendered as analogous force sensations using the Falcon’s three-dimensional workspace. The author argues that the project of incorporating complex touch feedback into computing entails not just a transformation of spatiotemporal field accessed by touch, but a wholesale redefinition and rearticulation of touch as a category of human experience.
This article analyzes the discursive and conceptual equation of the ocean and the database. Considering how the chemical and vital properties of seawater serve to transform what is ‘stored’, the language of flow and fluidity is inadequate to describe what seawater actually does to things – it encrusts them, rusts them, adheres burgeoning life-forms to them. Seawater asks us to rethink terrestrial notions of the archive or database as informed by the language of earth and sediment, and instead consider the ocean-as-database in terms of seawater’s capacity for protean transformation. Although the protean properties of seawater are meaningful at a macro scale, on increasingly microscopic scales, multiple processes of abstraction make seawater commensurate with digitality. The author considers the stakes of focusing on different scales of seawater and its materiality, taking as her examples two different data visualizations/animations: Google Ocean (scaling the ocean down to the size of a computer screen) and ATLAS in silico (scaling ocean microbial genomic data up to the size of a projection, or cluster of computer screens). She concludes by asking, how might a theory of media evolve from the materiality of seawater differently on macro and micro scales?
Viral aesthetics have become increasingly present in representations of health and illness. Since electron microscopy was first used to graphically isolate HIV, the ‘viral look’ has influenced academic and popular discussions about life and death. Commonly, the virus is associated with rapid and unseen transmission, hiding and genetic recoding that make identification and elimination difficult, and ‘sleeper cell’ behavior that delays detection and treatment. Visually isolating, eliminating and controlling molecular matter suggests that, in order to preserve life, foreign matter must be visually as well as biologically controlled. Recent attempts at imaging molecular space have shifted the practices of researchers. Using algorithms, models, and graphical interfaces, researchers now gain visual access to molecular space via simulation rather than photography, enrolling the public in the production of scientific research. Games such as Foldit use competitive play as a research method. Overcoming the problem of molecular scale using computer processing, and operationalizing the critique of ‘expert knowledge’ formulated by ACT UP in response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, some successes have already been reported. This article demonstrates how scalar travels, the practices of visualization that disclose them, and the participatory possibilities of research remind us of the power of cultural practices in creating scientific knowledge.
Telling ‘What Is’: Frame Narrative in Zbig Rybczynski’s Tango, Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis’s When the Day Breaks, and Yuri Norstein’s Tale of Tales
Using analytic tools developed by the literary critic, James Phelan, the author investigates frame narrative organization in three animated films. Zbig Rybczynski’s Tango uses addition and subtraction to frame mini-stories layered one over the other; Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis’s When the Day Breaks uses an A–B–A structure with repetitive events mirroring and revealing each other; and Yuri Norstein’s Tale of Tales uses character narrators that serve as observer/participants, allowing the film to cross narrative genres. This article also investigates the layered viewer response that frame narration requires. All three animations, while not digitally produced, demonstrate the ontological montage Lev Manovich ascribes to the aesthetic logic of digital compositing, which he maintains is layered and ‘first and foremost a conceptual [and] not only a technological operation’.
This article looks at two of the films of Japanese anime auteur Satoshi Kon – Millennium Actress (2001) and Paprika (2006) through the lens of magical realism. The authors argue that animation can be read as magical realist (which is applied to literature) as opposed to magic realist (which is applied to art), as animation is flowing art and hence has a narrative structure as in literature. While incorporating Wendy Faris’s five characteristics of magical realism in the analysis, the article also introduces additional concepts that are unique to Millennium Actress and Paprika. The authors engage with magical realist apparatuses in these anime, arguing that the two films use unconventional narratives and modes to reveal an Asian (Japanese) identity, uniqueness in form and sense of self. Kon’s films, although rooted in realism, explore the magical that embodies desire and longing in Millennium Actress and an exploration of the unconscious in Paprika.
Automation lies at the centre of many debates surrounding computer-generated animation. Rarely used as a neutral term, it is frequently a marker of changing practices somehow outside the control of human users of technologies, often threatening the terms on which agency is founded. This understanding of automation and computer animation software can be complicated by insights from software studies. Accordingly, 3D animation software Autodesk Maya is explored through a methodology that places an analysis of the visual organization of the user interface alongside interviews with users of the software, in particular modellers and animators. Discussion of the interview material is framed through Noah Wardrip-Fruin’s ideas on expressive processing and Adrian Mackenzie’s account of software and agency. The argument put forward is that users experience the automation of software via their interactions with the user interface, and that inputs generated through human users and automation counterpoint rather eclipse each other.
Walt at War – Animation, Transformation and Indoctrination: The Hypothetical Image of Disney’s Animal Soldiers
Taking as its theoretical framework Sergei Eisenstein’s writings on Walt Disney, as well as recent studies of corporeal transformation in moving image animation, this article explores the link between bodily and political transformation through the role of cartoon animals in the mass mobilized, machine war of World War II. The repercussions of the hypothetical images and scenarios that Walt Disney Productions employed reveal the absurdity and ease of transformation not only between life and death but also between seemingly disparate political ideologies. By approaching the contradictions at play in the visual and political ideology of World War II propaganda and wartime entertainment, and offering a pre-cinematic genealogy of animal caricature, the author explores the shifting manifestations of animality and humanity presented in the Disney brand’s wartime scenarios.
This article uses a special kind of distortion of spatial orientation in animation, which the author calls whole-screen metamorphosis, to problematize the relation that theories of camera movement often assume between a camera and its world. Recent developments in digital imaging have prompted confusion among scholars as to whether or not it makes still sense to talk about ‘camera movement’ – since, in many cases, real cameras were barely used (as in Gravity) or not at all (as in Frozen). The author argues that this confusion is frequently misguided: camera movement, as a tool of critical analysis, has always been based on a phenomenology of perspectival movement, regardless of any use (or non-use) of a real camera. However, animators sometimes play with perspectival movement in ways that undercut the more fundamental impression of a cinematic world, effectively metamorphosing our relation to it. Two kinds of this metamorphosis are explored. One, found in Norman McLaren’s Blinkity Blank, creates a Gestalt switch of our impression of space; the other, found in Caroline Leaf’s The Metamorphosis of Mr. Samsa, dissolves the sense of ground that is needed to support an impression of world, in a kind of becoming-animal of the camera. These phenomena point to a need for more nuanced accounts of relations between live-action, animated, and digital images.
The typology proposed in this article comprehensively illuminates the formal characteristics of live action/animation hybrid films. By reference to six film analytical categories, the interplay of animation and live action film is explored within single images as well as on the level of montage, and is illustrated by means of examples from a wide variety of films. The flexible and adaptable set of parameters comprises all animation techniques and is applicable to whole films as well as to longer or shorter sequences. A further goal is to disintegrate the boundary that is often drawn between so-called mélange films and digital hybrid films. The only requirement is that the disparity between animation and live action film must be discernible to the viewers. Ideally, the application of the proposed typology will lead to a new historical positioning of hybrid tendencies within film history.
Criteria for Defining Animation: A Revision of the Definition of Animation in the Advent of Digital Moving Images
The definition of animation has become problematic with the advent of digital media. The informational character of digital moving images has made it difficult to distinguish between what is animated and what is a reproduction of recorded movement. Previous definitions of animation, as a non-recorded (non-live action) illusion of motion and as a frame-by-frame production, do not encompass the automation of many digital illusions of motion, nor do they describe the way in which some digital moving images derive from records of movement. In this light, this article contends that animation can be distinguished in digital media by virtue of traits specific to its solely illusory motion and that are general to all animation production techniques, whether analogue or digital. The article develops a set of criteria to emphasize animation’s illusion of motion; it also examines which aspects are shared with other moving images and which are exclusive to animation. Additionally, the author deals with the persistence of the index in digital media and the authorship of automatic animations.
Postwar animation studio United Productions of America (UPA) is credited with bringing a modern art sensibility to the American cartoon, a simplified, abstract style that transformed the look of studio animation throughout the 1950s and 1960s. This article examines UPA’s signature style alongside that of Precisionism, a little-discussed school of modernist American painting peaking in the 1920s. In so doing, it complicates our understanding of UPA’s relationship to modern art, and to modernism more broadly. Precisionism sought to bring order to a chaotic modern environment by reducing the visible world to a semi-abstract form in which urban and industrial scenes are built from geometric shapes, hard-edged lines, and solid color fields – precisely the traits defining UPA’s style. Through an analysis of the animation studio’s cartoons in the context of its beginnings in wartime training films, and of the written statements of its artists, this article positions UPA as a resurgence of the particular modernist energy driving Precisionism’s visual style: a theoretically engaged attempt to develop a new mode of vision capable of navigating the sensory overwhelm of modern life. It thus draws a line between these two periods in American cultural history, enabling a clearer understanding of mid-century modernism as a cultural phenomenon, and of postwar animation’s place within a decades-long current of modernist experiment.
Gestures are meaningful acts of being. All gesture speaks of the formation of posture, and by this posture we can even comprehend the culture that is bound and produced in the action of gesture. This article examines the aesthetics of gesture found in puppet animation. Puppets are rich in their textured and sculptural forms and yet they have limited, wooden-like performance. However, it is their limitations – unlike smooth computer-generated imagery (CGI) or 2D animated drawings – which make every nuance in their performances exceptionally important and instructive in understanding the character’s motivation. Three short animation films – Jiří Trnka’s The Hand (1965), Kihachirō Kawamoto’s The Demon (1972) and Suzie Templeton’s Dog (2001) – are chosen as the case studies in this article. The authors elaborate on the way gestures are communicated through poses, shots and framings to then construct and discuss categories of gesture.
Auteur music video director Floria Sigismondi has a reputation for creating beautifully macabre imagery that has been described as surreal and uncanny. Less obvious is the way in which she uses animation and gesture to estrange the movement of performing bodies. While pixilation and stop motion animation are used together to invert the agency of humans and objects, Sigismondi’s use of gesture extends this manipulation of agency beyond technical processes. This dialectic of cinematic agency is discussed through an examination of three music videos directed by Sigismondi: End of the World (2004) for The Cure, Montauk Fling (2013) for Lawrence Rothman and The Stars (Are Out Tonight) (2013) for David Bowie. Considering these videos in relation to puppet animation, live-action film and the cultural and historical migration of gesture, the author argues that Sigismondi puppetises humans and animates gesture as a means of transgression.
Animation has often involved some degree of drawing, but ‘boiling’ and animated sketching are two unique forms of drawn animation that overtly foreground the process of drawing. In this article, the author looks at these two specific approaches to drawn animation, paying special attention to the history, process, and evolutionary qualities of animated sketching; he focuses on the processes and material essence of the ‘boiling’ image. Both of these approaches produce forms that are at once immobile and mobile and, within this dichotomy of movement, the process of drawing is further accentuated. These will be discussed in light of broader discussions of the theory and process of animation and drawing. Additionally, these discussions will be set against a (somewhat informal) backdrop of process philosophy in an effort to further underscore the importance of the drawing process in the production and presentation of these two methods of animation.
The reception of Japanese animation in East Asia is a topic of special interest in social sciences; however, little empirical research has been performed that explicitly examines the determinants of its audiences in different countries using quantitative methods. This article studies historical, social and cultural factors that affect the reception of Japanese animation in East Asia, and investigates its determinants among audiences in Taiwan, South Korea and China using a logistic regression analysis model to analyse the data of the East Asia Social Survey 2008. The authors’ findings primarily indicate that higher schooling and the consumption of other cultural goods such as Chinese movies or South Korean dramas are positive factors concerning Japanese animation. In contrast, older audiences have a negative attitude towards Japanese animation. These variables and the self-assessment of community are discussed in the context of previous research. Through empirical analysis, the authors’ findings support this previous research, confirm possible new tendencies and suggest a possible transition in the concept of ‘Japan’ in the context of East Asian cultural consumption.
This article uses two groups of case-study episodes to explore the complexities and perplexities that arise from the long-running use of a ‘floating timeline’ within The Simpsons. First, the conflicting representations of the youths of Homer and Marge in two ‘flashback’ episodes (‘The Way We Was’ and ‘That 90’s [sic] Show’) are examined. The logical quandaries presented by departing from a floating timeline and introducing fixed (but multiple and contradictory) historical reference points in individual episodes are outlined, and it is suggested that it may be better to accept the fictional paradoxes created rather than to try to resolve them. Second, the episodes featuring ‘Sideshow Bob’ are surveyed, and Bob is offered as being granted the unusual capacity (within The Simpsons’ fictional universe) to experience the passage of time and accumulate and retain an eventful history. This is contrasted with the temporal experiences of the Simpsons themselves, for whom there is eventfulness without progression. The article concludes by suggesting that The Simpsons’ status as an animated programme allows it to exhibit in a particularly pure and sustained form some of the relationship to time, history and the everyday of situation comedy and television more broadly.
The US girl cartoon genre began in the 1980s with the Federal Communication Commission’s deregulation of television, allowing the programming of toy-based cartoons. The toy industry’s gender binary of girl toys vs boy toys was translated into the definitive split of girl cartoons and boy cartoons. This first wave of girl cartoons defined the gender normative parameters that would identifiably label a cartoon program as a girl cartoon: rainbow unicorns and star sparkles in friendship communities with motivational girl leaders that displayed confidence, determination and savvy while processing emotions and solving conflicts through communication. These characters were young girls, not teenagers or young adults with developed bodies. It is rarely addressed that these cartoon characters presented an empowered girl media product in popular culture a decade before the nomenclature ‘Girl Power’, and did so sans sexualization. In this article, the author discusses the second wave of girl cartoons that came about with US television’s cartoon renaissance in the 1990s. This research explores the ways that lead girl characters were newly portrayed and how they evolved from the girl cartoon representations in the first wave era. Along with the representation of empowered girl characters, this research identified a feminine triptych. In character settings with more than one girl lead, the feminine portrayals were represented in the triptych of the beauty, the brains and the brawns. This research also revealed a persistent glitch to the empowerment of girl cartoon protagonists in the form of secondary characters, identified as mean girls and misogyny boys or no-homo boys. Another shortcoming is identified as boobs and boyfriends, to demonstrate the compulsion to give characters above the age of 12 sexualized bodies and heteronormative relationships. Several cartoon episodes of The Powerpuff Girls, Maggie and the Ferocious Beast, Dora the Explorer, Ni Hao- Kai Lan, Franny’s Feet, Lilo and Stitch: The Series, Maya & Miguel, Word Girl and Mighty B! are textually analyzed to document both verbal and visual gender cues.
This article is an intertextual reading of Nezha naohai (Nezha Conquers the Dragon King), the second cel-animated feature produced at the Shanghai Animation Film Studio, the major animation film studio in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) from the 1950s until the 1980s. Released in 1979, the story of Nezha Conquers is an adaptation from three chapters of a popular Ming Dynasty 16th-century novel about a rebellious boy-god. The year Nezha Conquers the Dragon King is released, 1979, is a turning point for the hero in PRC cinema. Visual design for Nezha Conquers the Dragon King seems to be a combination of Osamu Tezuka’s Astroboy and Chinese Communist sports propaganda. Chief director and screenwriter Wang Shuchen considered the film to be a return to fantastic subject matter after the Cultural Revolution. Nezha Conquers the Dragon King signaled a return to mythological themes in PRC film and ends with an elliptical, open-ended finale, suggesting the propensity for future social and cultural contradictions.
This article demonstrates how political inquiry can guide the study of animation. It proceeds by investigating animation’s minor status within film and media studies and then the expansion of its definition and conceptual associations. This expansion has philosophical implications, which are explored in this article through the work of Jeff Malpas and Bruno Latour. By examining how these philosophers discuss animation and animated examples – puppets, in particular – this article demonstrates a shift from thinking of animation as expressing mastery and illusion to thinking of animation as expressing transformation, heterogeneous action, and distributed agency. This shift challenges philosophy’s opposition to rhetoric, poetics, and technology, and in turn challenges modern binaries between nature and culture, science and politics, reality and artifice, facts and fetishes, and it presents the world as animated. The author argues that this idea need not obfuscate the many different moving-image technologies that have been designated animation or cinema, and contends that some of these, such as animated cartoons, directly engage the confusion about animation caused by modern binaries. This argument proposes studying animation through multiple modes or lenses in order to prevent dominant realist modes of inquiry from stifling the uncertainty and pluralism that are central to animation’s capacity for political expression.
The animated cartoon has traditionally been excluded from photographic theories of cinema on the grounds that the animation camera is only incidental to the cartoon’s production, an assumption this article challenges. Taking as its basic premise that all works of celluloid animation were photographic in origin, this article demonstrates the ways in which the physical reality of our world, and particularly the world of the animation studio, leaves its mark on the cartoon image. Through the frame-by-frame analysis of cartoons by Warner Bros and other major American studios of the mid-20th century, the author catalogues the various visual imperfections that testify to cel animation’s photographic origins. These include improperly placed cels, reflections of the camera apparatus, dust and