The 22nd Annual Society for Animation Studies Conference

Paul Wells - Closing Keynote

Paul Wells has provided an abstract of his closing keynote paper to get you in the mood:

Another Fine Messi : Animation, Sport and Theorising Fascination

As the Society for Animation Studies Conference collides with the World Cup Football Finals, animation and top class sporting action once more vie for attention, each provoking the other to find out what brings them together – both the epitome of consciously created motion for a specific, pre-determined purpose, both a language of expression for a particular gaze.

Football’s own ‘professor’, Arsenal’s manager, Arsene Wenger, recently described Barcelona forward, Lionel Messi’s dazzling performance against his team in the Champions League quarter finals, as that of a ‘Playstation’ player. This is not the first time that animated figures have been cited as a way of thinking about sporting practices, ranging inevitably from critiques predicated on ‘cartoon’ humour through to acknowledgements of the relationship between animated choreographies and the lyrical beauty of sporting activity.

Perhaps more importantly, and less recognised is that sport has been intrinsically bound up with animation right from its outset. Arguably, Arthur Melbourne Cooper’s animated matches playing volleyball and cricket in films made in 1896 are the first extant animated films per se, and inaugurate a history of sporting animation which plays itself out, for example, through British topical cartoons, Goofy’s sporting response to the radicalism of Warner Bros’ and MGM shorts, Anime’s preoccupation with baseball and sci-fi, arthouse engagements with sport and memory, and the gender-sensitive sporting representations in global advertising.

This paper will address this history, seeking to determine how execution and expression in animation and sport come together, and may be theorised by seeking out the fundamentals and fascinations of ‘the sporting animus’, and how this in turn may provide tools by which to articulate why animation and sport are so similar, attractive, intense and emotionally provocative.