‘I’m Not a Real Boy, I’m a Puppet’: Computer-Animated Films and Anthropomorphic Subjectivity
This article rethinks anthropomorphic representation and animated animality within the context of the contemporary digital era and, more precisely, against the rise of the computer-animated feature film. By interrogating the fractured identity of the anthropomorph as a necessarily hybrid figuration, it suggests how popular computer-animated films have rejected ánthrōpos and instead exploited the non-human morphē element to manipulate virtual space through anthropomorphic subjectivity. The anthropomorph is here refined into a more prescriptive and functional agent, absorbing viewers into a spectatorial game that sharpens their awareness of the digital realm. Films such as Ratatouille (Brad Bird, 2007) and Bee Movie (Simon J Smith and Steve Hickner, 2007) are offered as case studies that reflect the shift towards the form or morphē element, one that is registered through a particular mode of subjectified address. Drawing on Gilles Deleuze’s notion of ‘gaseous perception’ to elucidate this delivery of enlivened space, this article argues that the computer-animated film is implicated in a hierarchical switch away from humanlike behaviour to embrace the possibilities of the anthropomorph’s non-human morphē identity, thereby upturning the received narrative of how anthropomorphism has been conceptualized among critical studies of animation.