Database for Animation Studies


Woody Abstracted: Film Experiments in the Cartoons of Shamus Culhane

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.

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Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal
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