Cartoonists and animators have given animals human characteristics for so long that audiences are now accustomed to seeing Bugs Bunny singing opera and Mickey Mouse walking his dog Pluto.
The Animated Bestiary critically evaluates the depiction of animals in cartoons and animation more generally. Paul Wells argues that artists use animals to engage with issues that would be more difficult to address directly because of political, religious, or social taboos. Consequently, and principally through anthropomorphism, animation uses animals to play out a performance of gender, sex and sexuality, racial and national traits, and shifting identity, often challenging how we think about ourselves.
Wells draws on a wide range of examples, from the original King Kongto Nick Park's Chicken Run to Disney cartoonsùsuch as Tarzan, The Jungle Book, and Brother Bearùto reflect on people by looking at the ways in which they respond to animals in cartoons and films.
Mickey Mouse, Betty Boop, Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny, Felix the Cat, and other beloved cartoon characters have entertained media audiences for almost a century, outliving the human stars who were once their contemporaries in studio-era Hollywood. In Animated Personalities, David McGowan asserts that iconic American theatrical short cartoon characters should be legitimately regarded as stars, equal to their live-action counterparts, not only because they have enjoyed long careers, but also because their star personas have been created and marketed in ways also used for cinematic celebrities.
Drawing on detailed archival research, McGowan analyzes how Hollywood studios constructed and manipulated the star personas of the animated characters they owned. He shows how cartoon actors frequently kept pace with their human counterparts, granting “interviews,” allowing “candid” photographs, endorsing products, and generally behaving as actual actors did—for example, Donald Duck served his country during World War II, and Mickey Mouse was even embroiled in scandal. Challenging the notion that studios needed actors with physical bodies and real off-screen lives to create stars, McGowan demonstrates that media texts have successfully articulated an off-screen existence for animated characters. Following cartoon stars from silent movies to contemporary film and television, this groundbreaking book broadens the scope of star studies to include animation, concluding with provocative questions about the nature of stardom in an age of digitally enhanced filmmaking technologies.
Long considered "children's entertainment" by audiences and popular media, Hollywood animation has received little serious attention. Eric Smoodin's Animating Culture is the first and only book to thoroughly analyze the animated short film.
Usually running about seven or eight minutes, cartoons were made by major Hollywood studios––such as MGM, Warner Bros., and Disney––and shown at movie theaters along with a newsreel and a feature-length film. Smoodin explores animated shorta and the system that mass-produced them. How were cartoons exhibited in theaters? How did they tell their stories? Who did they tell them to? What did they say about race, class, and gender? How were cartoons related to the feature films they accompanied on the evening's bill of fare? What were the social functions of cartoon stars like Donald Duck and Minnie Mouse?
Smoodin argues that cartoons appealed to a wide audience––not just children––and did indeed contribute to public debate about political matters. He examines issues often ignored in discussions of animated film––issues such as social control in the U.S. army's "Private Snafu" cartoons, and sexuality and race in the "sites" of Betty Boop's body and the cartoon harem. Smoodin's analysis of the multiple discourses embedded in a variety of cartoons reveals the complex and sometimes contradictory ways that animation dealt with class relations, labor, imperialism, and censorship. His discussion of Disney and the Disney Studio's close ties with the U.S. government forces us to rethink the place of the cartoon in political and cultural life. Smoodin reveals the complex relationship between cartoons and the Hollywood studio system, and between cartoons and their audiences.
Animating Film Theory
Karen Beckman, ed. Duke University Press, 2014 Library of Congress NC1765.A535 2014 | Dewey Decimal 791.4334
Animating Film Theory provides an enriched understanding of the relationship between two of the most unwieldy and unstable organizing concepts in cinema and media studies: animation and film theory. For the most part, animation has been excluded from the purview of film theory. The contributors to this collection consider the reasons for this marginalization while also bringing attention to key historical contributions across a wide range of animation practices, geographic and linguistic terrains, and historical periods. They delve deep into questions of how animation might best be understood, as well as how it relates to concepts such as the still, the moving image, the frame, animism, and utopia. The contributors take on the kinds of theoretical questions that have remained underexplored because, as Karen Beckman argues, scholars of cinema and media studies have allowed themselves to be constrained by too narrow a sense of what cinema is. This collection reanimates and expands film studies by taking the concept of animation seriously.
Contributors. Karen Beckman, Suzanne Buchan, Scott Bukatman, Alan Cholodenko, Yuriko Furuhata, Alexander R. Galloway, Oliver Gaycken, Bishnupriya Ghosh, Tom Gunning, Andrew R. Johnston, Hervé Joubert-Laurencin, Gertrud Koch, Thomas LaMarre, Christopher P. Lehman, Esther Leslie, John MacKay, Mihaela Mihailova, Marc Steinberg, Tess Takahashi
A formal approach to anime rethinks globalization and transnationality under neoliberalism
Anime has become synonymous with Japanese culture, but its global reach raises a perplexing question—what happens when anime is produced outside of Japan? Who actually makes anime, and how can this help us rethink notions of cultural production? In Anime’s Identity, Stevie Suan examines how anime’s recognizable media-form—no matter where it is produced—reflects the problematics of globalization. The result is an incisive look at not only anime but also the tensions of transnationality.
Far from valorizing the individualistic “originality” so often touted in national creative industries, anime reveals an alternate type of creativity based in repetition and variation. In exploring this alternative creativity and its accompanying aesthetics, Suan examines anime from fresh angles, including considerations of how anime operates like a brand of media, the intricacies of anime production occurring across national borders, inquiries into the selfhood involved in anime’s character acting, and analyses of various anime works that present differing modes of transnationality.
Anime’s Identity deftly merges theories from media studies and performance studies, introducing innovative formal concepts that connect anime to questions of dislocation on a global scale, creating a transformative new lens for analyzing popular media.
In Anime’s Media Mix, Marc Steinberg convincingly shows that anime is far more than a style of Japanese animation. Beyond its immediate form of cartooning, anime is also a unique mode of cultural production and consumption that led to the phenomenon that is today called “media mix” in Japan and “convergence” in the West.
According to Steinberg, both anime and the media mix were ignited on January 1, 1963, when Astro Boy hit Japanese TV screens for the first time. Sponsored by a chocolate manufacturer with savvy marketing skills, Astro Boy quickly became a cultural icon in Japan. He was the poster boy (or, in his case, “sticker boy”) both for Meiji Seika’s chocolates and for what could happen when a goggle-eyed cartoon child fell into the eager clutches of creative marketers. It was only a short step, Steinberg makes clear, from Astro Boy to Pokémon and beyond.
Steinberg traces the cultural genealogy that spawned Astro Boy to the transformations of Japanese media culture that followed—and forward to the even more profound developments in global capitalism supported by the circulation of characters like Doraemon, Hello Kitty, and Suzumiya Haruhi. He details how convergence was sparked by anime, with its astoundingly broad merchandising of images and its franchising across media and commodities. He also explains, for the first time, how the rise of anime cannot be understood properly—historically, economically, and culturally—without grasping the integral role that the media mix played from the start. Engaging with film, animation, and media studies, as well as analyses of consumer culture and theories of capitalism, Steinberg offers the first sustained study of the Japanese mode of convergence that informs global media practices to this day.
This witty and fascinating study reminds us that there was animation before Disney: about thirty years of creativity and experimentation flourishing in such extraordinary work as Girdie the Dinosaur and Felix the Cat. Before Mickey, the first and only in-depth history of animation from 1898-1928, includes accounts of mechanical ingenuity, marketing and art. Crafton is equally adept at explaining techniques of sketching and camera work, evoking characteristic styles of such pioneering animators as Winsor McCay and Ladislas Starevitch, placing work in its social and economic context, and unraveling the aesthetic impact of specific cartoons.
"Before Mickey's scholarship is quite lively and its descriptions are evocative and often funny. The history of animation coexisted with that of live-action film but has never been given as much attention."—Tim Hunter, New York Times
In Birth of an Industry, Nicholas Sammond describes how popular early American cartoon characters were derived from blackface minstrelsy. He charts the industrialization of animation in the early twentieth century, its representation in the cartoons themselves, and how important blackface minstrels were to that performance, standing in for the frustrations of animation workers. Cherished cartoon characters, such as Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat, were conceived and developed using blackface minstrelsy's visual and performative conventions: these characters are not like minstrels; they are minstrels. They play out the social, cultural, political, and racial anxieties and desires that link race to the laboring body, just as live minstrel show performers did. Carefully examining how early animation helped to naturalize virulent racial formations, Sammond explores how cartoons used laughter and sentimentality to make those stereotypes seem not only less cruel, but actually pleasurable. Although the visible links between cartoon characters and the minstrel stage faded long ago, Sammond shows how important those links are to thinking about animation then and now, and about how cartoons continue to help to illuminate the central place of race in American cultural and social life.
Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida opened in Orlando at the dawn of the Disney Renaissance. As a member of the crew, Mary E. Lescher witnessed the small studio’s rise and fall during a transformative era in company and movie history. Her in-depth interviews with fellow artists, administrators, and support personnel reveal the human dimension of a technological revolution: the dramatic shift from hand-drawn cel animation to the digital format that eclipsed it in less than a decade. She also traces the Florida Studio’s parallel existence as a part of The Magic of Disney Animation, a living theme park attraction where Lescher and her colleagues worked in full view of Walt Disney World guests eager to experience the magic of the company’s legendary animation process.
A ground-level look at the entertainment giant, The Disney Animation Renaissance profiles the people and purpose behind a little-known studio during a historic era.
In the American imagination, the Soviet Union was a drab cultural wasteland, a place where playful creative work and individualism was heavily regulated and censored. Yet despite state control, some cultural industries flourished in the Soviet era, including animation. Drawing the Iron Curtain tells the story of the golden age of Soviet animation and the Jewish artists who enabled it to thrive.
Art historian Maya Balakirsky Katz reveals how the state-run animation studio Soyuzmultfilm brought together Jewish creative personnel from every corner of the Soviet Union and served as an unlikely haven for dissidents who were banned from working in other industries. Surveying a wide range of Soviet animation produced between 1919 and 1989, from cutting-edge art films like Tale of Tales to cartoons featuring “Soviet Mickey Mouse” Cheburashka, she finds that these works played a key role in articulating a cosmopolitan sensibility and a multicultural vision for the Soviet Union. Furthermore, she considers how Jewish filmmakers used animation to depict distinctive elements of their heritage and ethnic identity, whether producing films about the Holocaust or using fellow Jews as models for character drawings.
Providing a copiously illustrated introduction to many of Soyuzmultfilm’s key artistic achievements, while revealing the tumultuous social and political conditions in which these films were produced, Drawing the Iron Curtain has something to offer animation fans and students of Cold War history alike.
The LEGO Movie
By Dana Polan University of Texas Press, 2020 Library of Congress PN1997.2.L4548P65 2020 | Dewey Decimal 791.4372
What happens when we set out to understand LEGO not just as a physical object but as an idea, an icon of modernity, an image—maybe even a moving image? To what extent can the LEGO brick fit into the multimedia landscape of popular culture, especially film culture, today? Launching from these questions, Dana Polan traces LEGO from thing to film and asserts that The LEGO Movie is an exemplar of key directions in mainstream cinema, combining the visceral impact of effects and spectacle with ironic self-awareness and savvy critique of mass culture as it reaches for new heights of creativity.
Incorporating insights from conversations with producer Dan Lin and writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, Polan examines the production and reception of The LEGO Movie and closely analyzes the film within popular culture at large and in relation to LEGO as a toy and commodity. He identifies the film’s particular stylistic and narrative qualities, its grasp of and response to the culture industry, and what makes it a distinctive work of animation within the seeming omnipresence of animation in Hollywood, and reveals why the blockbuster film, in all its silliness and seriousness, stands apart as a divergent cultural work.
Kids around the world love Disney animated films, and many of their parents trust the Disney corporation to provide wholesome, moral entertainment for their children. Yet frequent protests and even boycotts of Disney products and practices reveal a widespread unease with the sometimes mixed and inconsistent moral values espoused in Disney films as the company attempts to appeal to the largest possible audience. In this book, Annalee R. Ward uses a variety of analytical tools based in rhetorical criticism to examine the moral messages taught in five recent Disney animated films—The Lion King, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, and Mulan. Taking the films on their own terms, she uncovers the many mixed messages they purvey: for example, females can be leaders—but male leadership ought to be the norm; stereotyping is wrong—but black means evil; historical truth is valued—but only tell what one can sell, etc. Adding these messages together, Ward raises important questions about the moral ambiguity of Disney’s overall worldview and demonstrates the need for parents to be discerning in letting their children learn moral values and life lessons from Disney films.
Mulan, the warrior maiden who performed heroic deeds in battle while dressed as a male soldier, has had many incarnations from her first appearance as a heroine in an ancient Chinese folk ballad. Mulan’s story was retold for centuries, extolling the filial virtue of the young woman who placed her father's honor and well-being above her own. With the publication of Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior in the late 1970s, Mulan first became familiar to American audiences who were fascinated with the extraordinary Asian American character. Mulan’s story was recast yet again in the popular 1998 animated Disney film and its sequel.
In Mulan’s Legend and Legacy in China and the United States, Lan Dong traces the development of this popular icon and asks, "Who is the real Mulan?" and "What does authenticity mean for the critic looking at this story?" Dong charts this character’s literary voyage across historical and geographical borders, discussing the narratives and images of Mulan over a long time span—from premodern China to the contemporary United States to Mulan’s counter-migration back to her homeland.
As Dong shows, Mulan has been reinvented repeatedly in both China and the United States so that her character represents different agendas in each retelling—especially after she reached the western hemisphere. The dutiful and loyal daughter, the fierce, pregnant warrior, and the feisty teenaged heroine—each is Mulan representing an idea about female virtue at a particular time and place.
In 2008, Waltz with Bashir shocked the world by presenting a bracing story of war in what seemed like the most unlikely of formats—an animated film. Yet as Donna Kornhaber shows in this pioneering new book, the relationship between animation and war is actually as old as film itself. The world’s very first animated movie was made to solicit donations for the Second Boer War, and even Walt Disney sent his earliest creations off to fight on gruesome animated battlefields drawn from his First World War experience. As Kornhaber strikingly demonstrates, the tradition of wartime animation, long ignored by scholars and film buffs alike, is one of the world’s richest archives of wartime memory and witness.
Generation after generation, artists have turned to this most fantastical of mediums to capture real-life horrors they can express in no other way. From Chinese animators depicting the Japanese invasion of Shanghai to Bosnian animators portraying the siege of Sarajevo, from African animators documenting ethnic cleansing to South American animators reflecting on torture and civil war, from Vietnam-era protest films to the films of the French Resistance, from firsthand memories of Hiroshima to the haunting work of Holocaust survivors, the animated medium has for more than a century served as a visual repository for some of the darkest chapters in human history. It is a tradition that continues even to this day, in animated shorts made by Russian dissidents decrying the fighting in Ukraine, American soldiers returning from Iraq, or Middle Eastern artists commenting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Arab Spring, or the ongoing crisis in Yemen.
Nightmares in the Dream Sanctuary: War and the Animated Film vividly tells the story of these works and many others, covering the full history of animated film and spanning the entire globe. A rich, serious, and deeply felt work of groundbreaking media history, it is also an emotional testament to the power of art to capture the endurance of the human spirit in the face of atrocity.
From computer games to figurines and maid cafes, men called “otaku” develop intense fan relationships with “cute girl” characters from manga, anime, and related media and material in contemporary Japan. While much of the Japanese public considers the forms of character love associated with “otaku” to be weird and perverse, the Japanese government has endeavored to incorporate “otaku” culture into its branding of “Cool Japan.” In Otaku and the Struggle for Imagination in Japan, Patrick W. Galbraith explores the conflicting meanings of “otaku” culture and its significance to Japanese popular culture, masculinity, and the nation. Tracing the history of “otaku” and “cute girl” characters from their origins in the 1970s to his recent fieldwork in Akihabara, Tokyo (“the Holy Land of Otaku”), Galbraith contends that the discourse surrounding “otaku” reveals tensions around contested notions of gender, sexuality, and ways of imagining the nation that extend far beyond Japan. At the same time, in their relationships with characters and one another, “otaku” are imagining and creating alternative social worlds.