The 22nd Annual Society for Animation Studies Conference

Jane Shadbolt

There Be Dragons : Animated Visual Tropes and Fantasy Aesthetics in Mainstream Live Action Cinema.

While d
igital effects have the potential to create infinite constructed environments they have also spawned a disproportionate amount of dragons, orcs, fairies and aliens, all following a familiar aesthetic template. If CGI can be considered a design tool and technique, it comes equipped, as do all tools and techniques, with a particular aesthetic. This paper examines popular animated visual tropes in mainstream genre live action film with a focus on James Cameron’s recent spectacular, Avatar and, in particular, the extent to which CGI technique shapes the aesthetic of contemporary visual effects in mainstream cinema.

Biographical statement: Jane Shadbolt is a stopmotion animator and designer. She is currently directing the short stopmotion animation The Cartographer, and is interested in spectacular cinema in miniature. She is a Lecturer in Visual Communications at the University of Newcastle, Australia.

Pamela Turner

Experimental Animation and Visual Effects; Illusive Applications of Innovative Visions

he relationship between animation and visual effects, as seen in the early resurgence of visual effects in 1970s Hollywood, will be examined through the contributions of five artists; John Whitney, Sr., Adam Beckett, Jordan Belson, Chris Casady, and Dennis Pies. This renaissance was prompted largely by the need for effects artists for the production of “The Star Wars”. There had been a lull in the need for visual effects after the 1950s and when pre-production began in 1975 the remaining experts had retired. Directors turned to experimental animators who were familiar with innovating new techniques and exploring alternative visions.

Biographical statement: As Adam Beckett’s biographer, my research has taken me from the fine arts arena into the unlikely world of Hollywood visual effects. Recently, I co-hosted a screening of Beckett’s work, an event held by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ Science and Technology Committee to honor his creative contributions to the industry. In addition to writing and research, I teach animation studio as an associate professor in the Kinetic Imaging department at Virginia Commonwealth University, and have made two award-winning animations. I oversee the Adam Beckett Project at The iotaCenter, in Los Angeles.

Charles daCosta

Who’s Out There: Halas, the Relevance of Oral Traditions and the Animated Documentary

rsations with the late John Halas impressed on me that production of good animation should not be determined by marketing and industrial demands. Rather it should be about the capture of ideas, development of thought and the projection of ideologies. Inspired by Halas, I argue that while the ability of animation to educate is well understood, the relevance of critically empowering artists – during training - is largely ignored. This however must be central to animators’ education. This could be addressed through programs in which liberal studies are integral. The design and implementation of courses that require the accurate documentation of non-technical thought processes preceding, as well as occurring during and after production must be promoted. The proliferation of affordable digital tools makes capture of these new oral histories possible.

Biographical statement: Charles daCosta is an animation history professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design. A multi-instrumentalist, he is passionate about stop-motion. Charles’s scholarly work focuses on the nexus between theory and practice in animation. Previously he taught Animation at the University of Westminster, Media and University for the Creative Arts, Farnham; Cultural Studies at the Kingston University and Animation Studies at Morley College, south London. He also taught Film and Post-Colonial Studies at the London Center of Samford University, Birmingham, Ala. Charles previously served the University of Reading as its New Media Manager, and was a project manager for the European Commission's MEDIA initiative prior to that position. In addition, daCosta has worked as a cameraman and photographer for a UNESCO expedition in the South Pole; and on several educational animation projects in Europe, Africa and South America. He is currently developing a series of history-centered animated shorts.

Alice Gambrell

Unseen Hands: The Work of Stop Motion

: This paper focuses on how the work of the animator’s hands is evoked (in implicit and explicit ways) in older and more recent examples of stop motion film. I concentrate on representations of work process in Lotte Reiniger’s The Adventures of Prince Achmed and Henry Selick’s Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, arguing that both films enfold their celebrations of richly material hand-work within far more ambivalent considerations of the political economy of cinematic production and distribution.

Biographical statement: I teach in the English Department at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. I am currently completing a book titled Writing is Work in which I analyze hands-on, below-the-line labor practices -- including editing, clerical work, typography, and print production -- that support the making of literary texts. Although the primary material in my study is largely text-based, prior studies of industrial practice and labor history in cinema more generally and in animation in particular have been absolutely crucial to my conceptualization of the larger project. In the course of my research my attention has been drawn repeatedly to media that combine older and newer technologies; these include stop motion animation. My proposed conference paper is a version of a longer essay that I have written on stop motion aesthetics and evocations of work process.

Joan Ashworth & Helen Mason

Animation Therapy

Animation Therapy is concerned with using animation as a therapeutic tool. It was discovered that animation had the potential to be adapted to compliment a range of therapeutic approaches developing new tools for use by the professional therapist and ways of working for animators who are interested in developing animation in health work. This meeting of two worlds has enabled new therapeutic opportunities and tools to be developed as well as investigating new ways of working together across non-traditional boundaries. We will discuss some of the findings so far, and show 2 films developed for use in this therapeutic practice.

l statement: Occupational Therapist Helen Mason and Professor Joan Ashworth will co present this paper. Ashworth has been involved with Animation since 1979 as a filmmaker and teacher with a mission to find the more serious side of animation. Mason, an experienced HPC registered therapist has been using animation in her clinical practice for five yrs and initiated the Animation Therapy project. Ashworth and Mason have explored the astonishing benefits of using animation in therapy, and discovered some key parallels between specific therapeutic tools/approaches , and stages of expertise and complexity in animation. The project is partially supported by NESTA.

Carol MacGillivray

The Darwinian rise of Urban Kinetics

loring the implications of an apparent new genre in animation; kinetic models that conceptualise change in space/time and address audiences outside of broadcast media. This paper asks; has a change in audience wrought a new formalism for animation? Drawing on examples of the author’s own work and analysing kinetic and ‘outsider’ animation, the paper reveals how new media and conceptualisations of kinetic expression are changing the landscape of the animation discipline. Like traditional animation, Urban Kinetics has the signature of making the impossible possible; that ‘wow’ factor and appeal that is so eagerly sought by advertisers. Is it animation’s future?

Biographical statement: Carol started her career as a film editor and animator working in claymation and later CGI. An interest in combining theoretical research with practice has led Carol to undertake a PhD in Arts and Computational Technology at Goldsmiths University. This paper combines theory with art practice drawing on Carol’s recent kinetic artworks featured at London’s Kinetica Exhibition and her PhD research into the Psychology of Kinetic Perception. Carol’s paper, ‘How Psychophysical Perception of Motion and Image relates to Animation Practice’ was runner-up for the S.A.S. McLaren/Lambart Essay Award in 2008.

Gunnar Strøm

Watch and Listen! – The Website

t the conference in Atlanta I presented the research project ’Watch and Listen! - Audiovisual language stimulation in schools and kindergartens’ which at that time was in its initial phase. Now a website with audiovisual texts like animated shorts and simple games are in development: The website will be tested in primary schools and kindergartens in Norway this spring. At the conference I will present the website, the first results from these tests and frame it in language stimulation and film phenomenology theory.

Biographical statement: Gunnar Strøm, (born 1955 in Trondheim, Norway). Associated Professor at Volda University College, Norway. Has published widely on animation, documentary and music video. Former Vice President and Secretary General of ASIFA. Has programmed for and been on juries at festivals worldwide.

Gan Sheuo Hui

The Transformation of the Teenage Image in Oshii Mamoru’s Sky Crawlers

In t
his paper I examine Oshii Mamoru’s unusual portrayal of teenage characters in his recent work Sky Crawlers (2008). Oshii contrasts the adult life styles and responsibilities of these military aviators with their youth in ways that question the meaning of both childhood and adulthood. Oshii’s approach in this work will be compared to other teenager protagonists in Japanese animation, including those employed by Miyazaki Hayao. My presentation will explore how Oshii’s Sky Crawlers treats images of teenagers and their bodies in a manner that moves away from the usual treatment in anime that often employs exaggerated liveliness and romance conventions.

Biographical Statement: I am a postdoctoral fellow with the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) affiliated with Kyoto University. This paper is part of the larger book project that analyzes many of the leading figures in the anime/animation world of Japan. The goal of this book is to produce a combination of essays on these animators together with original interviews, to provide a critical and analytical investigation of the complexity and diversity of Japanese animation. Discussions of famous figures like Miyazaki Hayao and Oshii Mamoru are included along side analyses of other prominent animators, who have often been neglected by the mass media despite their significant careers and contributions.

Lisa Bode

Avatar, “e-motion capture”, and the shifting industry rhetoric around performance/animation hybrids

oking at the chatter surrounding James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) and Beowulf (Zemeckis, 2008) among other films, this paper examines how and why industry rhetoric framing hybrid screen characters has shifted from discussing the labour of animators and VFX technicians to emphasising the labour of actors, and the discursive reassertion of the index.

Biographical statement:
Lisa Bode is Lecturer in Film and Television
Studies at the University of Queensland, Australia. Her research is primarily concerned with the shifting discursive and ontological relationships between animation and screen acting in CGI heavy cinema, and their impact on film meaning, affect and reception. She has published articles in Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal, and Cinema Journal (forthcoming).

Zoltán Varga

The Appearance of Genre Characteristics in Hungarian Animated Films

: In Hungarian cinema if we see the animated film in the point of view of popular film culture, we can find those genres which are mainly missing in the Hungarian live-action cinema. From crime genres through science fiction to horror, there are remarkable genre tendencies in Hungarian animated films. I am going to introduce Captain of the Forest (Az erdo kapitánya) as detective/cop movie, Egon & Dönci as space-travelling science fiction, while Cat City (Macskafogó, directed by Béla Ternovszky, 1986) shows a quite daring, entertaining and rexflexive mixture of several genres including spy film, war film and vampire movie.

Biographical statement: Zoltán Varga is currently a Ph.D. Student of Doctoral Program in Film, Media and Contemporary Culture at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), Budapest, Hungary. His research areas are: popular film culture, genre theory, history of genres, animated film (theory and history). His earlier publications include essays based on animation related material – in Hungarian: about Tim Burton, basic concepts of animated film, connections between live-action film and animation, clay animation; in English: Wordless Worlds? Some Notes on the Verbality in Animated Films through the Use of Verbality in Péter Szoboszlay's Animated Films. In: Ágnes Petho (ed.): Words and Images on the Screen: Language, Literature, Moving Pictures. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008. pp. 242-256.

Timothy Jones

Beyond Outsourcing: Indian Animation Education and Transnational Aesthetic Exchange

ian animation has historically been tied to transnational exchange. This paper examines how the form of this exchange has impacted instructional institutions, and ultimately animators. Building upon outsourcing successes, domestic animators have made strides in local production, supported in part by the National Institute of Design. The first decade of the 21st century has marked a crucial period of expansion, with far-reaching aesthetic and economic and political consequences. Recent NID graduates have played a disproportionate role in generating local animation culture, and their transnational collaborations suggest a growing complexity of the animation industry relating to international antecedents.

Biographical statement: As a Project Administrator at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies, I develop cognitive simulations for education that integrate cutting edge computer animation. My theoretical work complements this academic practice. This paper is the first result of a larger research effort addressing animation in South Asia, also including the rise of new media distribution technologies and complex relationships with forces of international cultural exchange. I received my Masters degree in May, 2008 from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, concentrating in animation studies. Accordingly, this paper is also part of an exploratory effort for future dissertation research.

Heather Holian

Art, Animation and the Collaborative Process

last year’s SAS conference I proposed animation was a fine art form and considered the obstacles to such a designation, including the collaborative nature of studio animation. This paper further develops these observations by discussing collaboration within the history of art and animation, and how this model for art making distinguishes animation from other traditional artistic media. The work of individual concept artists will serve as illustrative examples throughout this discussion, which seeks to posit a new, more inclusive definition for (fine) art.

Biographical statement: Heather Holian is an Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. She has a Ph.D. in Italian Renaissance Art and an established publication record in that field. Recently, Prof. Holian began to pursue research on the Pixar Studios, while teaching “The Art of Disney and Pixar,” a course she designed. Her essay, “An Animated Debate: Studio Animation as Fine Art?” will appear in Blackwell’s forthcoming anthology of animation, edited by Paul Wells. Her proposed paper springs from information recently gathered at the Pixar Studios, and represents part of a book-length project on Pixar artists.

Peter Hodges

Selling reality: the role of sound in creating narrative reality within animated film and visual effect sequences.

Abstract: Since the development of the sound film in 1927 the use of sound in animated entertainment has increased in sophistication, complementary with developments in creating the visual image. As filmmaking endlessly strives for increasingly sophisticated imagery, high definition projection and 3D stereoscopic presentation, does this equate to an emphasis of ‘reality’ in sound design for animated features and visual effect sequences? Or is there still the opportunity to celebrate the distinctiveness of this audio-visual medium? This paper discusses the evolution of the animation soundtrack, suggesting areas of consideration to maintain the unique relationship between sound and image in animated film.

Biographical statement: Peter Hodges is Head of Animation at the University of Glamorgan’s Cardiff School of Creative and Cultural Industries. He established the now internationally recognised, Skillset accredited animation programme in 1993 and has lectured for twenty-two years in audio-visual practice, primarily in animation production and sound studies.

Eliška Decká

Point and Click and Learn: Not Just Educational Benefits of Adventure PC Games/Animated Films of Czech Independent Game Development Studio Amanita Design

This paper primarily examines the educational benefits of adventure PC games, focusing specifically on games produced by Czech company Amanita Design – Samorost, Questionaut and Machinarium (available at Those games provide an outstanding example of the ever-closer relation between animation and games, as well as the immense capacity of employment of different elements of comics, visual art, literature etc., in a way that is symptomatic for contemporary trends of animation studies. This paper wants to point out these important overlaps, uncover possibly hidden benefits of these types of PC games and claim their effective use in education.

Biographical statement: Eliška Decká is a Film Studies MA program student at the Film Studies Department, Charles University in Prague. She writes on animation for various Czech journals and contributed to the historically first animation-focused issue of the impacted Czech film studies journal Iluminace. She presented the paper “Autobiographical Elements in Animated Films of Czech Female Directors“ (part of her 3-year research project funded by the Charles University Grant Agency) at the last SAS conference in Atlanta. The current paper continues to employ the methodology of the close author-researcher collaboration with an emphasis on practice aspects of animation studies.

Adam de Beer

Shiver me timber: animating gay porn

ith the exception of the Japanese tradition of Hentai, academic discussion is inhibited when focussing on pornographic imagery and films. This tends to stigmatise and obfuscate the social implications of pornography. It is in the genre of gay pornography that CGI sex is finding an audience with the release of films such as Pirate’s Booty (2009) and Tales from the gods (2010). This paper considers why specifically gay pornography has chosen to include animation as narrative technique and returns to early topographical work by Thomas Waugh (1985) to discuss this move from fantasized public space to fantasy space as backdrop for the sex act.

Biographical statement:
Adam de Beer is presently working on his doctorate in film studies in the Centre for Film and Media Studies (CFMS) at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in Cape Town, South Africa. He lectures on Video Production and Storytelling for the centre with a focus on animation and gay and lesbian films. His research centres on topics related to his thesis, namely animation, movement in animation and the history of animation in South Africa.

David Williams

Going to The Dogs

ough the Jerry the Troublesome Tyke animations were extant in the Pathé Pictorial holdings, no one had realized their significance until they were virtually rediscovered in 1992, and only Denis Gifford refers to them without having seen any. There was a special section of the Pordenone Silent Film Festival devoted to them in 2002 with a biographical presentation by David Berry on their Welsh creator, Sid Griffith. All of the cartoons are downloadable on the Pathé web site and it is the purpose of this paper as a DVD to look at the innovations and homages contained within them. It is extraordinary, though possibly predictable, that with silent screen animation saturated by cats, English animators should turn to dogs for inspiration. The enterprise of three talented men deserves wide acclaim and analysis. With minimal equipment and limited experience, Sid Griffith’s results are indeed remarkable. He creates a character of mischievous charm with a durability of style and story that remained constant throughout the 40 cartoons in the series. Diolch yn fawr, Sid.

Biographical statement: My abiding interest is the historical siting of film and film animation. To this end, I have researched British sources, Disney sources and the work of Lotte Reiniger, and organised important Exhibitions on these topics. I am especially interested in the historical techniques of animation and, as a practical animation teacher, I believed that this knowledge transmitted to students gave them a better understanding of the scope, artistry and significance of the medium. I am, of course, retired and my affiliation to an institution in a teaching capacity ceased three years ago at Teesside University.

Steve Fore

Reenactment, the Fantasmatic, and the Animated Documentary

his presentation concerns the historically vexed notion of the animated documentary, which Bill Nichols has tangentially addressed from the perspective of documentary theory, focusing on modes of documentary reenactment that introduce a “fantasmatic element” into a form of discourse that conventionally privileges an indexical relationship between an historical event and its cinematic representation. Nichols, however, only briefly considers animated examples of documentary reenactment; in my presentation, therefore, I intend to more extensively apply his argument to the discursive form of the animated documentary, most immediately in relation to the currently reinvigorated discussion of representation, mimesis, and realism in the arts.

Biographical statement: Steve Fore works in the School of Creative Media at the City University of Hong Kong, where he teaches in areas of animation studies, culture and technology studies, “new” and “old” media theory and history, surveillance studies, and documentary media. His current research is concerned with the ways in which animation artists have negotiated a relationship with the ongoing technological transformations of their creative form. He is especially interested in current trends involving the use of CG software and hardware, and with certain historical antecedents, including the history and practice of rotoscoping and early experiments with computer graphics.

Animation symposium - Bristol 13th July

If you have a bit of time in the UK after the conference finishes (or are nearby) you might want to look at this symposium being held in Bristol (you can fly direct from Edinburgh). Details and submission info below:

13th July – Watershed Media Centre, Bristol

Confirmed Keynote Speakers:

Alan Cholodenko
(University of Sydney); Editor of The Illusion of Life: Essays on Ani
mation and the Illusion of Life 2: More Essays on Animation

Nicky Hamlyn
(University of Creative Arts) Film-maker and author of Film, Art, Phenomena.

Esther Leslie
(University of Birkbeck); Author of Hollywood Flatlands, Animation, Critical Theory and the Avant-Garde, Walter Benjamin: Overpowering Conformism, Synthetic Worlds: Nature, Art and the Chemical Industry and Walter Benjamin.

Current preoccupations concerning animation's dissemination across all audiovisual media have occluded other questions regarding its specificities. The production of movement from still images is a specific technical substrate of animation that remains at the heart of its expanding role across all media. Theorists of animation have contributed important insights into the significance of this paradoxical immobility generating the illusion of movement and liveliness. Much work in animation studies, however, concentrates on mainstream deployments of animation in which a movement mapped out in the animation design is realised in such a way as to remove any sense of the 'interruption' of motion that is the basis of the animatic process. Standardised 'templates' for animated worlds, characters and actions tend to predominate in this arena. Experimental forms and films made 'in the manner of' animation (Hamlyn) frequently recognize and make transparent the critical potential of broken motion. This type of 'wrong' animation (Kingston) emphasizes and exploits the 'stop' of animation as a form of deviation, opening onto a desire to dwell, to hover and settle, and to question 'what it means to be animate or alive' (Smith) through the stop that sustains the motion, the death that drives the life.

The symposium will examine this desire through theoretical and practical exploration. Can correspondences be found between the obstruction of standard motion routines in animation and broader cultural/artistic tendencies of loitering and arresting time? Should we understand this experimental animation as wilfully under produced, whose 'incompetent...lack of smoothness is polemically set against commercial animation?' (Leslie). How can we understand animation that resists blending in, either to the general rule of the illusion of life or to other media in their largely conventional adoption of established mainstream animation techniques?

ANIMATION DEVIATION invites contributions from theorists, experimental filmmakers and animators working in this terrain of the paradoxical materiality of the production of animated audiovisuality. It is interested, for example, in structurally oriented works that revolve around use of cycles and sequences, animation as poetic, as intoxication, as excluded, operating out of field and otherwise breaking up the illusion of continuous motion as a withdrawal from the designated framing of movement. Workshops and Paper sessions will be convened to enable a mix of practice and presentation-based exploration.

DATE: 13th July 9.30am - 5.30pm
COST: £10.00 VENUE: Watershed Media Centre, 1 Canons Rd, Bristol, BS2 5TX


Please submit a 250 word abstract with your name, institutional affiliation and a 50 word bio.


Vicky Smith

Lecturer in Film Studies

Dept. of Culture, Media & Drama

University of the West of England

St Matthias Campus

BS16 2JP

Kerry Gough

Animation Re-Orientation: Animation Forum West Midlands, G(local)isation and the Creation of Regional Network Communities in the New Digital Age

This paper examines the emergence of regional clusters of creative animation industries, specifically focusing upon the work of Animation Forum West Midlands (AFWM). Created in 2005, AFWM was formed with Digital Central financing to concentrate its attention upon fostering and generating of a network of animation creatives across the bedroom cultures and SMEs of animation workers within the West Midlands. AFWM facilitates in the development of these cluster communities and networking opportunities in order to encourage the development of collaborative enterprises within the region. AFWM functions not only as a creative hub of animation activity within the new digital age, but also acts as a refuge against the centralised processes of London and a barrier against the tide of international animation outsourcing.

Biographical Statement:
Dr Kerry Gough is a Lecturer in Media Theory at Birmingham City University. She has recently completed her doctoral thesis at The University of Nottingham, which examines the historical reception of the Alien film quad and the historically specific function that Lt. Ripley fulfils, as a nexus for societal discourse and debate surrounding the body and gendered norms. She has published on comic book culture and her research interests include film and television horror, science fiction and most recently the generation of networks of animation workers and the potential that this offers for the further development of the industry within the UK.

Mark Bartlett

Filmic Consciousness, Gendering Spacetime, and the Rupture of Animation

The digital character of film production constitutes a new set of social relations and a new commodity fetishism able to render the real and fantasy worlds for costs far less than photorealist film. I will compare the social relations of animation production before the digital turn, in the works of Norman MacLaren and George Griffin, to James Cameron’s Avatar. Drawing on Marx, and on Deleuze’s method of linking perceptions, affections and actions, I will focus on how spacetime is gendered in animation in these works to form a specifically filmic form of consciousness through identification in kinship systems.

Biographical statement: Mark Bartlett is the North American editor of animation: an interdisciplinary journal, a member of the Manipulated Moving Image Cluster at the University for the Creative Arts, UK, and an Associate Lecturer at The Open University. He is completing a book on Stan Vanderbeek, and curating two exhibitions on him to open in the US in 2011. Bartlett’s work focuses on the intersections between technology, aesthetics, epistemology, and sociopolitical interpretation. His paper derives from a resistance to the technological determinism that often leads to the erasure of the social and political aspects in film studies.

Pierre Floquet

Actors in Sin City’s Animated Fantasy: Avatars, Aliens, or Cinematic Dead-ends ?

ith reference to selected animated features and shorts from the past sixty years, and focusing mainly on Frank Miller’s graphic novel related film, this paper is questioning the ever-growing impact of animation techniques on representation and story-telling. The emphasis is laid on the interaction between live actors, their personae, their fictional existence, their digital parts, and the animated environment they are immersed into. To some extent, Miller reinvents the cinema of the origin; or does he barely pay homage to it in some original yet doomed aesthetic option?

Biographical statement: Pierre FLOQUET teaches English, and is associate professor at IPB, Bordeaux University. He wrote his PhD thesis in 1996 on linguistics applied to cinema, focusing on Tex Avery's comic language. Since then, he has organized several Avery retrospectives and conferences, and been a juror at festivals. He has widened his interests to live-action cinema, participating in books and journals both in France and abroad. He edited CinémAnimationS (2007), and published Le Langage comique de Tex Avery in 2009. This paper continues research on characters in animation (two related publications so far), to be developed in a focus on Burton’s animated female characters.