Database for Animation Studies


The 3-D Animated Codescape: Imperfection and Digital Labor Zones in Wall-E (2008) and Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Live-action film and video games share a presence and convergence in each media’s visuality and narrative storytelling; this is especially apparent over the last four decades – from Tron (1982) to Run Lola Run (1998) to The Beach (2000) and now ‘machinima’ as new computational genre cinema via Minecraft (2014). To complicate matters, only recently are cinema and video games now tropes in 3-D computer animation, with films such as Wall-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008) and Wreck-It Ralph (Rich Moore, 2012) absorbing these cultural relations. In this article, the authors explicate on two interwoven yet separable themes in the Walt Disney/Pixar films. First, they theorize aspects of the ‘imperfect aesthetic’ as connected to an audience and industry’s desire to aesthetically ‘deskill’ – as explained in John Roberts’s article ‘Art after deskilling’ (2010) – the image of its characters, in the process making the characters more vulnerable and thus more endearing. This imperfect aesthetic is typically associated with avant-garde animation or animated shorts, yet to link imperfection to 3-D computer animation illustrates a new visual tendency since the 2000s. Second, they draw on the scholarship of Maurizio Lazzarato to relate immaterial labor to what each character does in their animated worlds, what they call ‘digital labor zones’: the Wall-E robot is prone to affective labor while in Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph, the goofy villain, begins to question the reasons for his rampaging behavior and the labor behind such actions.

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Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal
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