Database for Animation Studies


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.

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Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal
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