The 22nd Annual Society for Animation Studies Conference

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.