Essay Plan

Title: Comparing the Female Lead in Western and Eastern Animation



  • Explaining title
  • Why I feel passionately about this
  • Why I feel it is important to write this essay
  • What I plan to discuss and why

Discussing Walt Disney Studio’s


  • Begin with ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’ (1937): Discuss plot and what purpose Snow White actually had to her own story, who was the hero and who was the villain. What message does this send to women?
  • Move on to the next Disney Princess film, ‘Cinderella’ (1950: Came over a decade later, was there much difference? Did she have more importance to her own film?
  • Skip ahead to the 80’s and 90’s and discuss ‘The Little Mermaid’ (1989) and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (1991)- discuss what has changed in this films, if anything.
  • Fast forward to 2010 onwards with films such as ‘Brave’ (2012) and ‘Frozen’ (2013) where we see a much more drastic change in the female lead.
  • Discuss why I think this has changed looking at time period, culture and how gender equality has changed most drastically in the last twenty years.


Discussing Studio Ghibli


  • Discuss ‘Castle in the Sky’ (1986), Studio Ghibli’s first film, discuss what purpose Princess Sheeta to her own story, possibly compare this to Snow White?
  • Discuss ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ (1988), and the two main characters, children, Satsuki and Mei.
  • Discuss ‘Spirited Away’ (2001) and the main character Chihiro and what purpose she has to her own story.
  • Fast forward to 2013 and compare Frozen and/or Brave to ‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya’ (2013)


Compare both Studio’s


  • Compare both studio’s first off looking at the female characters and their looks, body image and age’. Then discuss the importance they have to the story plot they are involved in.
  • Look at cultural movements of that time and discuss if this reflects in the movies.
  • Discuss why western films characters are usually between the ages of 16 and 18 and why Eastern film usually have children between the ages of 4 and 12.


What Message Does this Send?


  • What do young children say these films messages send?
  • What do grown women feel the message is that these films send?
  • What do men think?
  • What do the directors and writers of the films say the message is?
  • What do I think?




  • What message have I gotten across?
  • Do I think film has changed through time?
  • Will it?
  • Does there need to be change?
  • What can we take away from this?



Essay Proposal

DES333 (83247) Design Discourse 2, 2014 – 15

Essay Proposal Form

1. Title of Your Essay

Comparing the Female lead in Western and Eastern Animation

2. Description for Your Topic

In my essay I wish to discuss Gender & Sexuality within Animation, focusing on the female lead. I want to mainly focus on two animation studios, Walt Disney Studio’s, an extremely well known western animation company, and Studio Ghibli, a equally well known eastern animation company. I didn’t just choose these two studio’s because of their popularity but because they both have one very important thing in common, almost all of their films have female leading characters.

With Disney I want to discuss how their female leads have changed throughout time and why this has happened, discussing the likes of Snow White, (who didn’t really have the lead in her own film) right up until the likes of Merida from Brave and Anna and Elsa from Disney’s latest animated feature, Frozen, All of these characters are usually 16, the oldest being 17, turning 18.

With Studio Ghibli when looking at films such as ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ and ‘Spirited Away’ you can see that the female leads are much younger and are seen as children, for example the lead character from Spirited away is only 10 years old and the leading sisters from ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ are 11 and 4 years old.

I want to discuss why both studio’s like to focus on female leads, and I want to research further into why they have such different age ranges. I will be looking at the time period, cultural changes within different parts of the world at the time these film’s where released and how I think these factors were shown or affected the films of the time period. I also want to look at how media may have affected the story, appearance and script of these films.

3. The Research Question

  • What are the differences between female leads in Western & Eastern Animation and why is this different worldwide?
  • What message does this send to women and young girls alike?
  • Does this send a good or bad message and what should change?

4. Importance to the Field of Your Research

I feel this discussion is important because in todays society, advertising and the media sometimes send terrible messages to women and young girls about how they should look, dress, act and even what they should like, when in fact everyone should be allowed to be who they are, wear what they like, and have interest’s and act as they want without judgment. People see characters in films as role models and idols and when it comes to animated films from the two companies I am discussing, they are seen as family films, so the message they send to young girls is much more important, which is why I feel passionately about this subject and want to discuss and research it at length.

5. The Outline for the Essay

  • Introduction- What I plan to discuss within the essay and why
  • Discuss main points of both animation studios and compare similarities and differences
  • Discuss the message they give to young girls and women alike
  • Discuss reasons things may have happened, eg: finance, time period, cultural movements etc
  • Discuss what message the directors claim should be took from the films
  • Conclusion

5. Bibliography


Cavallaro, D (2006). The Anime Art of Hayao Mayazaki . London: McFarland & Co Inc .

(1992). Women and Animation: a Compendium. London: The British Film Institute

Lerew, J (2012). The Art of Brave. Chronicle Books

Davis, A (2006). Good Girls and Wicked Witches: Women in Disney Feature Animation. John Libbey Publishing

Sites and PDF’s

Gaynor, C (2014). The Ladies of Studio Ghibli

Jones, S (2014). Hayao Mayazaki: The Great Feminist Filmmaker of His Time

Stampler, L (2013). Do Animated Female Characters Need to be ‘Pretty’?

Assessment For the Module

  • Coursework 1: Group Presentation (10%)
  • Coursework 2: Essay Proposal (30%)

Each individual student will prepare a concise essay outline, which will identify their proposed methodology, chapter outline and preliminary reading list. The content of the essay will reflect an area of interest that the student has selected from the lecture programme. 500 words. Fill the Essay Proposal Form, and the deadline for submission: 2 December 2014.

  • Coursework 3: Essay (60%)

Individual students will produce a 2,500-3,000 word essay, which will explore one (or more) of the issues covered during the module programme. deadline for submission: 9 January 2014.

Essay Proposal

1.The Topic (Choose an essay topic that a) falls within one of the lecture topics, or b) is not is inspired by something you read for the course, heard in the lecture, or discussed in tutorial.)

2.The Research Question (Narrow your focus from a broad interest to a specific question. For example, “In this essay, I will analyse…, I will explain… , I will answer… ”)

3.Importance to the Field of Your Research (What is the significance of your work? Why should others care? Why is this research a worthy enterprise? Try to do two things here. First, explain whose work you are building upon; Second, explain whose work you see yourself evaluating. Situate yourself in the relevant scholarship. )

4.The Outline for the Essay (How will you structure your essay? What will be some of the sections and subsections of your argument? For example, 1. Introduction to your topic and research question; 2. Literature review; 3.Your Argument; 4. Your sub-arguments; 5. Your Conclusions)

5.Bibliography (Place a listing of all sources that you intend to use in your essay. Focus on scholarly [peer-reviewed] sources. The bibliography has to be in Harvard style, for example: Greenberg, D., ed.(2011) Building modern criminology: forays and skirmishes. Farnham Ashgate.)

Stage 1 What are the broad themes that interest you? 

Think about what interests you in the general area of Animation Studies. Be broad. Write down a list of themes, by answering the following questions:

  • What themes particularly interested you?
  • What are current “hot” topics in animation research?
  • What topics are being discussed either in research papers or in the popular journals?
  • Are there any issues in the field that are particularly important to your own national setting?
  • Are there any themes or topics that have always interested you?  What styles/genres/national animaiton do you enjoy watching? What are your favourite animaitons and what categories do they belong to?

For each of these questions write down a list of the topics that come into your mind. This might be a long or short list, but it is helpful to have at least one topic under each heading.

Stage 2 What are the interesting topics within those themes? 

Narrow down this list to a smaller list of topics. Do this, for example, by seeing if there are any themes that have come up in answer to more than one of your questions in Stage 1, or by listing the themes in Stage 1 in order of interest for you. By doing this you should be able to narrow down your choice to a short list of two or three topics of interest.

Stage 3 What questions might you ask about those topics? 

Think about the key questions that might be appropriate in relation to each of these topics. An important aspect of any research project is that it should be investigating a question, so try to think of all the questions of interest or importance in relation to each of the two or three topics you have considered.

Stage 4 Choose a question and check its viability 

From the list of questions you have it should be possible to identify two or three that are particularly interesting or exciting for you, and then to choose one that grabs your interest. This is a good starting point for checking whether it is a reasonable or sensible question. At this stage you need to check whether it is a viable topic. By viability we mean is it a question that needs answering and is it a question that can be answered in your size of essay.

Stage 5 Make your final choice

The last stage is to make your final choice of project. This may only be possible when you have been through Stage 4 several times, since there may be several possible projects you need to investigate for viability before you come up with a suitable topic. The final check to make when you are ready to settle on a topic or title is to ask yourself one last, but very important question: Does this topic really interest me and excite me? The answer needs to be “yes”, for you will be living with the topic for at least 2 months – a long time.

In the process of choosing a topic there are a number of important issues to think about.

The key issues are:

  • Do not choose a project that is too large. Most students’ first ideas about a research project are too ambitious, involving large amounts of data collection and questions that are too general. Keep your project very focused on a very specific topic.
  • Your research does not have to change the world. For a doctoral thesis you do have to make a contribution to knowledge, but this is likely to be just a small advance in understanding. Your essay may just say something in a fresh way, or look at a subject from a different perspective.

Start your project with a research question. Having a single overall question that you are investigating provides a very clear focus for your work – and you can keep asking yourself throughout your research “Is my work going to help answer my research question?” to check that what you are doing is relevant. Having a research question does not mean you have to use any particular methodology – it just keeps you on track.

You need to start by thinking through what stages there are to your project. For most research projects we can identify some stages:

Stage 1 Choosing the project 

We have already looked at this above.

Stage 2 Initial literature review

The literature review is a critical early stage in your project. A literature review has many purposes. It enables you to find out what research has been undertaken in the field, what is “known” and what the important questions are that others are investigating or have suggested for research. It helps you to understand the history of your field, to know how ideas have developed, changed, appeared and disappeared over time.

You will become aware of the range of methodologies that have been used to research your field, both in the past and in the present, and you should start to develop a critical view of the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches. It will also enable you to discover who else is working in the field and what they are working on. Most importantly, though, it will help you to look at your initial ideas for your research and develop and refine them to produce the project that you will undertake. It is almost the most important stage of the project, for if you do this thoroughly and well you will be saved many potential problems later on.

Stage 3 – Finalising the research questions

Ideally your research questions will emerge from the literature review. The literature review will have shown you what is already known in the field and what important topics need to be researched.

Stage 4 Choosing and developing the methodology

Whatever your subject and field, there will be a range of different research methods available to you. At this stage you need to choose the best approach to enable you to answer your research question. Many students though, unfortunately, start with an idea of the methods they want to use and then apply them to their research question whether or not they are the best way forward. The correct way forward is to read and reflect very broadly on possible research methods and then choose what is most appropriate, even if this involves you in learning new approaches or techniques.

Stage 5 Data collection 

Do not be put off by the word “data”. Data refers to the evidence you will use to arrive at your conclusions, and there are many types of data.
Collecting the data can be a short or a long process – in animation research your data will come from primary sources (animations, videos, screenplays, soundtracks, etc.) and secondary sources (books, documentaries, interviews etc. that deal with your topic).


Electronic Journals

(Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal; Animation magazine; Animation Studies; Animation Xpress; Computer Animation & Virtual Worlds)


Stage 6 Data analysis 

Data analysis includes the systematic organising of the data and its presentation in a form that readers of your project can understand. It also includes the interpretation of the data to identify the important ideas or new bits of knowledge that they reveal. You will need to choose the methods best suited to the data you have collected, and will need to be able to justify your choice of methods.

Stage 7 Drawing conclusions and interpretations
Stage 6 involved very detailed analysis and interpretation, working with the detail of the data and drawing out important ideas about every part of the topic that has been studied. Stage 7 is the “big picture” stage of the research, where the detailed interpretations are drawn together to try to “answer” the overall research question. It will certainly involve a critical reflection on the conclusions you have drawn and the methods you have used, and will probably make recommendations for future research in the field.

Stage 8 Preparing the final essay 

The final stage of the project is assembling the final version of the essay. You may have produced drafts of individual parts throughout the project, and these can be assembled into an essay. At this stage, though, the work needs to be prepared for submission – making sure the whole work is coherent; writing, re-writing and editing; assembling information; completing and checking the citations; printing and binding the work. This all takes a significant amount of time, which needs to be built into the planning of the project.

Points to remember

This looks a straightforward path to understand and follow, but there are a number of important points to remember with this model.

First, your real project will not follow this path in a neat sequence:

  • Some stages will overlap – for example, you will certainly start to develop interpretations and conclusions as soon as you start collecting data, and you may of course want to test some of your conclusions by collecting further data.
  • You may need to return to earlier stages – for example, Data analysis may indicate you need to make changes to the methodology.
  • Some stages will continue throughout the project – for example, you will need to keep reviewing the literature throughout the project to be sure that you have not missed anything important or that there have not been new publications on the topic. Even while you are preparing the final thesis you will need to do a last-minute literature check so that you do not miss the latest publications.

Secondly, you will need to be writing the essay from as early in the project as possible. Do not postpone the writing process: it is important to carry out your research first, but it is equally important to begin writing so that it does not develop into an impossible task. The more time you give yourself to write, the more enjoyable the experience will be.

Gender, Sexuality and Race in Animation

In class we watched then discussed the use of documentary style within Surfs Up, it was interesting and quite an enjoyable film.



  • Produced by Sony Pictures Animation, Surf’s Up is the first feature-length animated mockumentary.
  • The animation employs a vast array of codes that are used in a documentary:
  • – the idea of unmediated reality, such as quick zooms, shaky handheld camerawork and abrupt camera movements
  • – talking-head interviews
  • – photographic stills
  • – news feeds of the surf contest
  • – mock-archival footage
  • However, the fabricated penguins with human-like features is overriding. The viewer will opt from the start for a “fictionalizing reading” of the text.
  • Production designer Paul Lasaine, “We didn’t want people to wonder if we used real penguins, but if the world of Surf’s Up is a documentary, getting the look of a documentary was very important”. It was decided to avoid adopting a photorealistic approach, aiming instead at creating the film’s universe only “near reality”.
  • The documentary aesthetics deployed are simply the form through which a traditional fictional story is told. In other words, it is a narrative style.
  • Surf’s Up narrates the tale of an outcast with dreams of glory who gives up his soon-to-be victory to the advantage of a friend. The movie clearly signals throughout who the heroes are and who the villains, and it ends with an edifying moral in the tradition of Fables. It conveys a message that “winning isn’t everything”.
  • The film was released in 2007, a year apart from Happy Feet (2006), and two years from March of the Penguins (2005) and Madagascar (2005), all penguin movies exactly as Surf’s Up.
  • The narrative form gives the film a lift and renders it surprisingly fresh.

Animated Film in Context 

  • In the 1990s, several major studios, Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, and Fox began producing animated features with the assistance of computer technologies that hailed not only children, but also adults, turning animated films into “family movies”. Since then the texts and contexts of animated films have changed.


  1. New languages for expressing difference:
  • The contexts of animated films in terms of interpreting and thinking of “difference” have changed. For example, appeals to biology have given way to culture and society; overt expressions of racism and (hetero) sexism have become taboo, replaced by covert and coded formulations…
  • In this context, animated films render the others through superficial features and essentialised qualities (distinctive fashion, pattern of speech, architecture, or relationship to nature), affirm universal humanity, erase power, and above all else accentuate the positive.
  • Disney spokesperson noted, “we would never dream of doing anything that would offend anyone… It’s going to be PC [politically correct], of course. It is a family picture,” which meant it would “sidestep the racial issue by not including blacks at all”

(Mayer, 2002, 63-64)

  1. New Mediations:
  • In a series of animated films made over the past two decades women appear as more active and empowered agents, often defying authority, making their own choices, and stepping beyond conventional gender roles.
  • However, these female portrayals continues to box women into dependent, sexualised, and supplemental positions, frequently reinscribed through heterosexual romance and racialization.

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  1. 3. Modes of production and consumption:
  • Commercial animated films were once exclusively hand-drawn. In 1995, Pixar introduced computer-generated animation. in its wake, almost every film in the genre has been rendered digitally.
  • The ways audiences consume animated film also have changed. Once almost exclusively produced for domestic consumers, animated films are now produced for decidedly global audiences.
  • Where animation previously had associations with the world of children, today animated film are produced for and consumed as eagerly by adults as children.

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 17.04.22

  1. Postmodern fictions:
  • Although commercial animated film still dedicates itself to reworking the well-known formula of Disney classics and translating classical fairy tales for a new age, it incorporates broader cultural trends.
  • Until Toy Story in 1995, animated features recycled two key elements: they centred on a “princess” figure in a fantasyland who is always saved by love; they were musicals, often featuring songs that crossed over to the pop charts.
  • Now, animated film become increasingly ironic, irreverent, and satiric. They not only abandoned the fairy tale, opting for cotemporary and future settings, individual films also parodies this storyline. Animated films have aggressively poached from popular culture and other animated films. These make animated films more appealing to adults.


Racial and Sexual Pedagogies in Animation

  • Animated characters, especially in Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks productions, are often racialized, even for the animal and other non-human characters.

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Racialized Animals in Shark Tale

  • Oscar’s blackness is not only in his accent and place of residence, but also in his mannerisms, behaviour and jewellery, which are highly racialized signifiers.
  • Sykes is labelled as a “white fish”.
  • Lino: Italian-American-accented Mob shark and the master of the reef.
  • Mrs. Garcia: overweight, middle-aged, single Mexican accented female fish, also lives in the south area.

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  • Animated characters, especially in Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks productions, always have heterosexuality.

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Femininity and Citizenship in Animation

  • In classical Disney animations, the portrayal of female characters followed a similar pattern: princesses in need of rescue from unfair circumstances by Prince Charming. They are kind, passive, patient and graceful. They have no other options, and their agency is limited by their gender.
  • Recent animated film, the femininity portrayed is more assertive.

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 17.16.29

-A story of a Chinese girl who decides to join the military to save her father.

-Mulan’s roles as a bride and a brave warrior.

-Disney’s ending requires the girl to be rescued by a guy.

-The Whiteness of a girl of colour. Mulan are given an honorary U.S. citizenship, because she is given agency to pursue the kind of individualism.

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 17.16.41

Feminine Aesthetic in Women’s Experimental Animation

  • Feather Tale (Michèle Cournoyer, 1992, 5min)
  • The Hat (Michele Cournoyer, 1999, 6 min)
  • Accordion (Michele Cournoyer, 2004, 6 min)
  • Robes of War (Michele Cournoyer, 2008, 5 min)
  • Covers male/female relationships, incest, ageing and so on from a resolutely female point-of-view.
  • Constitutes a meditation on women, their sexuality, fantasies, desires, and fear.
  • Reflects surrealism, automatic writing, black humour and dreams.

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 17.16.52

  • The Sick City (Bu Hua, 2005, 7 min)
  • The Last Phase of The Future (Bu Hua, 2007, 3 min)
  • Youth Does Harm To Health (Bu Hua, 2007, 3 min)
  • Savage Growth (Bu Hua, 2008, 3 min)
  • LV forest (Bu Hua, 2010, 5 min)
  • Dysphoria (Bu Hua, 2013, 4 min)

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 17.16.58

  • Transformed herself from a source of emotional power into an impassive bystander to the society and the world. She creates a little girl as her spiritual self, who leads the audience to witness what happens on screen, and who appears in each of her late animation works.
  • Sexual symbols and bodily metaphors: besides exposing the whole woman’s body as the source and object of desire, or the innocent painful victim, Bu Hua also “deconstructs” the human body into its component parts, animates these body segments on the screen.

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Sexuality is a subject for playfulness, erotic games an endless source of amusement.

The representation of eroticism.

Animating Realities

Animation and Documentary
•Animation—fantasy, caricature, stylisation, abstraction, exaggeration, transformation…
•Documentary—truth, seriousness, evidence, objectivity…
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Animation and Documentary
•Does “animated documentary” exist?
What should a documentary look like?
What sorts of images should a documentary contain?
Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 15.56.46
John Grierson defines documentary is “the creative treatment of actuality”.
(Grierson, 1993
:8) Bill Nichols suggests, documentaries “address the world in which we live rather than a
world imagined by the filmmaker”. (Nichols, 2001 :xi)
Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 15.59.05
Nicholas and Grierson help us think of animation as a viable means of documentary expression.
animation as a way of creatively treating actuality
animation as non-fictional based on make-believe Annabelle Honess Roe suggests that an audiovisual work (produced digitally, filmed, or scratched directly on celluloid) could be considered an animated documentary if it
(i) has been recorded or created frame by frame;
(ii) is about the world rather than a world wholly imagined by its creator
(iii) has been presented as a documentary by its producers and/or received as a documentary by audiences, festivals or critics.
(Honess Ron, 2013: 3-4)
n 1918, American animator Winsor McCay made
The Sinking of the Lusitania (Winsor McCay, 1918),
which was the first commercially released animated documentary. MaCay makes no distinction between live action and animation in terms of their ability to show us reality, and the film offered audience a chance to “witness the whole tragedy, from the moment of the
first attack to the heartrending ending”.
(Bioscope, 1919:74)
The Sinking of the Lusitania demonstrates the early use of animation as a substitute for missing live-action material. (Honess Ron, 2013:8)
• Animation has historically been used as a tool of illustration and clarification non-fictional film. For example, the Fleischer Brother’s Einstein Theory of Relativity (1923); Walt Disney’s film How to Catch a Cold (1951) and Why We Fight series (1942-5); BBC recent Wonders of Solar System (2010).
For many propaganda films can convey more than fact
s through
animation by using emphasis and visual association.
For example,
We Fight films
(1942). (4’30’’)
• James Elkins points out “the real subjects of maps usually […] serve territorial, religious, or nationalist agendas, the animated maps in theWhy We Fight films serve a purpose beyond merely marking out geographical boundaries, they are also helping deliver the nationalist, propagandistic message of the series.”
• (Elkins, 1999:223)
• History of Animated Documentary
• For more films, animation is widely used to clarify, explain, illustrate and emphasis. The use of animation makes information easier to understand and retain.
• In How Spiders Fly (1909) , animation is a way to reveal aspects of the natural world that are unseen by the human eye, and animation is another technique to access the “new way of seeing” offered by the technologies developed from the Eighteen Century onwards that
expands the realm of human vision. (Beattie, 2008:129-50)
• Recently, there is a new trend of using animation in live-action documentaries to create moment of interjection or intersection. A segment of animation is inserted in a primarily live-action film to in some way enhance its meaning. Here, animation is often rendered in
a humorous and cartoon-like style as a way of contrasting with the
seriousness of the documentaries’ subject matter.
• For example, Blue Vinyl (Judith Hefland and Daniel B. Gold, 2002),
Bowling for Columbine (Micheal Moore, 2002, 38’28’’, 49’00”),
She’s a Boy I Knew (Gwen Haworth, 2007)
•Haworth has commented that she included animation to “lighten the mood” and add humor to her film, as she was concerned it might otherwise become too intense.
(Honess Ron, 2013:12)
• The animated documentary is archaeologically linked to the earlier examples of the use of animation in non-fiction scenarios, just as it is related to contemporary examples of non-fiction media utilising animation for specific purposes and animated interjections into live-
action documentary.
•The possibilities for convergence of animation and documentary into a coherent form.
(John Hubley, 1959),
Windy Day
(John Hubley, 1967),
(John Hubley, 1973),
Conversations Pieces (David Sproxton, Peter Lord, 1983)…
Since the 1990s there has been a boom of animated documentaries.
A Is for Autism (Time Webb, 1992),
His Mother’s Voice (Dennis Tupicoff, 1997),
Survivors (Sheila Sofian, 1997),
Snack and Drink (Bob Sabiston, 1999).
•By the end of the Twentieth Century, animated documentary was firmly established. Animated documentaries are now an increasingly commonplace sub-form of documentary, now included in animation and documentary festivals as a matter of course.
Representational Strategies
• What is the animation doing that the live-action alternative could not?
• Honess Ron suggests that animation functions in three key ways :mimetic substitution, non-mimetic substitution and evocation.
(Honess Ron, 2013:26)
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Mimetic Substitution
Animation illustrates something that would be very hard, or impossible, to show with the conventional live-action alternative and often it is directly standing in for live-action footage.
Non-mimetic substitution
For some animated documentary, there is no sense to make visual link with reality or to create an illusion of a filmed i mage. Instead, they work towards embracing and acknowledging animation as a medium in its own right, a medium that has the potential to express meaning through its aesthetic realisation.
Animation can respond to a different kind of representation limitation, such as certain concepts, emotions, feelings and states of mind, and can be used as a tool to evoke the experiential in the form of ideas, feelings and sensibilities.
Digital Realities
•Animated documentaries use computer-generated, digital animation to reconstruct historic and contemporary events in a way that mimics the look of both reality and photoreality.
• Photorealism, Verisimilitude, and Authenticity
• Walking with Dinosaurs (BBC, 1999)
The intention of this documentary was to go beyond fictional fantasy and to “create the most accurate portrayal of prehistoric animals ever seen on the screen.” (BBC, n.d.)
•Planet Dinosaur (BBC, 2011)
Using “the latest CGI and cutting-edge research”
Describing itself as “ground-breaking”
Digital Realities
Tracing the sights and sounds of reality by rotosco
Chicago 10 (Brett Morgen, 2007), details the run-up to the 1968
Democratic Convention in Chicago and the subsequent trial of members of the anti-war movement.
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Chicago 10
uses animation to reconstruct unfilmed historical events.
•These reconstructions of the trail in Chicago 10 were “adapted from” the 23,000-
page court transcript. The film also reconstructs from aura l evidence, such as the
the speeches given by the defendants at various public speaking engagements
undertaken at the time of the trial and the aired phone calls.
• Rotoscoping is an animation technique in which animators trace over footage, frame by frame, in order to create lifelike movement of animated characters.
• Almost all of the animation in Chicago 10 was created using the motion capture technique, a technological descendent of the rotoscope. Motion capture is
similarly about verisimilitude in movement and character design. Multiple sensors are placed on a performer’s body to capture key points of movement and these data are mapped onto a 3-D character in order to translate a live performance into a digital one.
(Menache, 2000:1)
Animated Interviews
•Documentary and testimony are always intertwined. Talking-head interviews have become the primary way to facilitate documentary subjects’ testimony, as a legitimate source of truth, proof and authenticity in a documentary.
• The body of the interviewee has been theorised as significant in the way we gain knowledge from documentary interview. Bill Nichols claims that we learn as much form what we see as from what we hear in interview documentaries—“it is not simply the knowledge possessed by witnesses and experts that needs to be conveyed through their
speech, but also the unspoken knowledge that needs to be conveyed by the body itself.
(Nichols, 1993:175)
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• Animated Interviews
• What happens when the body is no longer present?
• Creature Comforts (David Sproxton, Peter Lord, 1989)
• The use of animation to present documentary interviewees has been more frequent after Creature Comforts. There are frequently situations in which the identity of interviewees must be protected. Animation is a more creative way of achieving such anonymity.
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Rotoscoping, or the production of animation by tracing over live-action images, has a causal link with reality. It relies on the presence of the body in the original film or video footage on which the animated representation is directly based. The devise enables a process of tracing live-action footage frame by frame and these traced illustrations are then filmed to create the final animation.
• Roadhead
(Sabiston, 1998);
Snack and Drink
(Sabiston, 2003)
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•Animated Interviews
•Animation becomes a means of accentuating aspects of an interviewee’s personality and story and the absence of a physical body can metaphorically reflect their socio-political status.
•It’s Like That (Southern Ladies Animation Group, 2003);
Hidden (Aronowitsch, Heilborn and Johansson, 2002);
Backseat Bingo (Liz Blazer, 2003)
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The World in Here
• Animation is becoming an increasingly popular means by which to visually express the internal worlds of documentary subjects. Sometimes this happens in a relatively direct way, with animation offering a visualisation of a feeling or experience described by an
interviewee on the soundtrack. At other times, animation works in more oblique and metaphorical ways to evoke experiences that maybe unfamiliar to viewers.
• The use of animation to create documentary enables “the film-maker to more persuasively show subjective reality .” Animation “effectively shows the perception
of reality as it it is experienced” by a documentary subject and that “this is a more truthful reality and one which is only possible to document in animation.”
(Wells, 1998: 27)
ohn Halas suggested that animation’s key characteristics are
•Symbolisation of objects and human beings
•Picturing the invisible
•Penetration—evoke the internal space and portray the
•Selection, exaggeration and transformation
•Showing the past and predicting the future
•Controlling speed and time (Halas and Wells, 2006 :160)
•Animated documentaries convey subjective, conscious experience via animation
that is evocative rather than directly representational.Using devices such as metaphor and metamorphosis and through exploring the expressive potential of a variety of materials and animation techniques, there films encourage us to imagine what it is like to experience the world form someone else’s perspective. This perspective are often very different from what the majority of us experience in our daily lives and this type of animated documentary lends itself to films about mental health issues, feelings and brain states.
•Ryan (Chris Landreth, 2004)—relationship between the physical and the psychological, the photorealistic and the expressionistic
• Feeling My Way (Jonathan Hodgson,1997)—a first-person account of mental life combing live action and animation.
Animated Memories
• Animation can work as an powerful tool for exploring one’s own past. These works of personal memory and history are often told and made from a first-person perspective.
-the autobiographical in documentary
-memory studies
• The formal and aesthetic excess of animation can be used as a means of accessing the now absent past, especially pasts from which the filmmakers have been ruptured due to trauma or other events that cause a disruption in the continuity of personal and collective memory.
• Animation is a suitable means of bringing the temporally distal into closer proximity by allowing filmmakers to aesthetically weave themselves into the past. The way the animation is realised, its style and materiality, can also offer insight into the process of remembering and forgetting that are integral to the formation of personal identity.
Animated Memories
Memory allows us to recall earlier ideas and affords a
continuity of
consciousness and a coherent sense of personal identity.
Irinka and Sandrinka
(Sandrine Stoianov, 2007)—it not only personal
memories, but also collective memory and postmemory that
constitutes personal identity.
• You Won’t Remember This ( Jeff Scher, 2007)
• You Won’t Remember This Either ( Jeff Scher, 2009)
• You Might Remember This
(Jeff Scher, 2011)
• The unspoken and the forgotten trauma
•Silence (Sylvie Bringas and Orly Yadin, 1998)—childhoon in nazi concentration camp
•Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman, 2008)—memories of fighting in the 1982 Lebanon war
Animated Mockumentary
•The main trait of mockumentary is to adopt aesthetics proper of the factual production in order to confer the “look” of a documentary to a traditional narrative.
•The fictionality clues of animated mockumentary must always be present, as  mockumentary is by definition an audiovisual text created with a playful intent and not with the aim of deceiving the viewer into believing a fake story to be true.
• Surf’s Up (2007)
• The Simpsons episodes
Behind the Laughter” (2000) and
“Springfield Up ” (2007)

Animation Theory

What is Animation?

Is animation a genre? A technique? A mode of film? An Art form?

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Norman McLaren says

“Animation is not the art of drawings that move,
but rather the art of movements that are drawn. What
happens between
each frame is more important than what happens on each
For McLaren the art of animation is the creation of movement of paper, the manipulation of clay, the adjustment of a model.
Animators of the Zagreb School developed the definition by stressing the aesthetic and philosophic aspects.
They believe, animation is “to give life and soul to a design, not through the copying but through the transformation of reality .” (Hollyoway, 1972)
Zagreb School perceived animation as a non-realist form ; they wanted to transform reality and resist the kind of animation created by the Disney Studio.
John Halas (1912-1995) was an influential Hungarian animator. He started his own career in 1934, and two years later moved to England where later, with his wife Joy Batchelor,founded Halas and Batchelor animation studio in 1940. Their best-known film, Animal Farm (1954), was the first full-length animated film made in Great Britain.
John Halas pointed out, “If it is the live-action film’s job to present physical reality, animated film is concerned with metaphysical reality—not how things look, but what they mean.”
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Czech Surrealist animator, Jan Svankmajer perceives animation as liberating, unique and potentially contentious:
“Animation enables me to give magical powers to things.
In my films, I move many objects, real objects. Suddenly, everyday contact with things which people are used to acquires a new dimension and in this way casts a doubt over reality. In other words, I use animation as a means of subversion.”
(Wells, 1998:11 )
Walt Disney says “The first duty of the cartoon is not to duplicate real action or things as they actually happen—but to give a caricature of life and action… to bring to life dream fantasies and imaginative fantasies that we have all thought of [based on] a foundation
of fact.” (Disney, quoted in Barrier, 1999: 142)
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In the digital era, we still know animation when we see it, even in its specific incarnation as a computer-generated phenomenon, and sometimes, even when it is at its most photo-realistic.
Animation is still the art of the impossible, and whether it be the fertile imaginings of independent filmmakers represented in vivid symbolic images of inner states or the seamless interventions of visual effects animators producing spectacle in major movies, animation remains the most versatile and autonomous from of artistic expression.
it is still the case that animation mostly uses artificially created and previously conceived movement instead of transferring movement from the natural world.
(Well, 2012, 231)
It is important to recognise that animation is essentially based on stylisation and abstraction to some degree, even in its most apparently photo-realistic form.
John Halas suggested that animation’s key characteristics are:
•Symbolisation of objects and human beings
•Picturing the invisible
•Selection, exaggeration and transformation
•Showing the past and predicting the future
•Controlling speed and time
(Halas and Wells, 2006: 160)
Commercial Animation
Developmental Animation
Experimental Animation
specific continuity
specific non-continuity
narrative form
interpretive form
evolution of content
evolution of materiality
unity of style
multiple styles
absence of artist
presence of the artist
dynamics of dialogue
dynamics of musicality
(Wells, 1998, 36)
Configuration: most cartoons featured ‘figures’. Specific continuity: it has a logical continuity, which is achieved by prioritising character and context.
Narrative form: most often based on character conflict and chase sequences.
Evolution of content: it prioritise the content, concentrating specifically on
constructing character, determining comic moments and evolving the self-contained narrative.
Unity of style: the formal properties tend to remain consistent.
Absence of artist: prioritises narrative, character and style; a studio “style” is
more important than individual artist style.
Dynamics of dialogue: character and plot is often by key aspects of dialogue.
Abstraction: either redefines “the body” or resists using it as an illustrative image.
Specific non-continuity: rejects logical and linear continuity and prioritises illogical, irrational and sometimes multiple continuities. Interpretive form: resists telling stories; resists depicting conventional forms and exterior world. It is often a subjective work exploring the interior world.
Evolution of materiality: concentrates on its very materiality (the forms, colours, shapes and textures).
Multiple styles: combines and mixes different modes of animation to facilitate the multiplicity of personal visions that an artist may wish to incorporate in a film and to
create new effects.
Presence of the artist: draws attention to the relationship between the artist and the work.
Dynamics of musicality: has a strong relationship to music.
After Impressionism in the early twentieth century, paintings strove ever more to capture life itself, leaving static representation to photography.
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• In the early 20th century, cinema was a new phenomenon ignored by
the mainstream art circle, but cinema offered movement.
•The new artistic currents (Cubism, Futurism, Dada and Surrealism) were
all based on a plastic concept of movement—the new mode of painting
tries to express optical effects or psychological concepts of action.
Capable of moving, of rendering mobile any object, animation was the medium closest to the purposes of these artists. From there to film, the steps was short.
•Walter Ruttmann, Viking Eggeling, Hans Richter, Oskar Fischinger, Len Lye
Walter Ruttmann
•He said “after the war, that it made no sense to paint any more, unless the painting
could be set in motion.”
• In the spring of 1921, Walter Ruttann showed his short film Lightplay Opus Iin Frankford. This is thought to be the first screening of an abstract animated film in the world, as a new art—the vision-music of films.
•He sees music as a painterly movement form, just as other people might perceive it as an emotional experience or a law of harmony, technically continues the tradition of the animated film in order to find an immediate expression for his vision. His technical production procedure is very painstaking: with seemingly microscopic exactness, the painter must produce a series of many thousands of drawings and then colour them. This continuing pictorial sequence, like music—that is the bridging element between the two—is basically an element of eurhythmy, moving form whose rhythm fulfils itself according to the laws of harmony of the presented symphony.
•(from Berliner Tagblatt, April 21,1921)
Walter Ruttmann
•He said “after the war, that it made no sense to paint any more, unless the painting
could be set in motion.”
•In the spring of 1921, Walter Ruttann showed his short film Lightplay Opus Iin Frankford. This is thought to be the first screening of an abstract animated film in the world, as a new art—the vision-music of films.
•He sees music as a painterly movement form, just as other people might perceive it
as an emotional experience or a law of harmony, technically continues the tradition of
the animated film in order to find an immediate expression for his vision. His technical production procedure is very painstaking: with seemingly microscopic exactness, the painter must produce a series of many thousands of drawings and then colour them. This continuing pictorial sequence, like music—that is the bridging element between the two—is basically an element of eurhythmy, moving form whose rhythm fulfils itself according to the laws of harmony of the presented symphony.
•(fromBerliner Tagblatt, April 21,1921)
Len Lye (1901–1980)
•Len Lye was born in New Zealand in 1901, and made most of his animation films in England from 1928 to 1938.
•His first camera-less film is A Colour Box (1935 ) It is considered to be the first animation film painted directly on film and shown to general audience.
•He says, “… I also made Trade Tattoo, which combined several techniques of animation. There would be three ways of following the rhythm, besides jump-cutting, which is an ordinary way. There would be the vibration pattern of a very formal pattern like stippling, or cross-hatching, which I had very geometrically designed, and would be superimposed over the live action. You’d have the internal movement within the scene, such as a man’s hand waving, which would have a rhythm and you could jump-cut that, make his hand wag faster or slower, and you could jump-cut the ends of the scene. You could make these visual accents synchronize with your sound accents. And this way you got a very tight lie-in of visual imagery with sounds and rhythms.”
•(by Len Lye, “Talking about Film”, from Film Culture, 1963 and 1967)
Skeleton Dance (Disney, 1929, 5 min) & Nightmare before Christmas (Disney, 1993, 76 min)
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Feeling from Mountain and Water
(Te Wei, 1988, 19 min)
Kung Fu Panda
(Dreamwork, 2008, 76 min, 95 min)
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Luxo Jr. (Pixar, 1986, 2 min), Red’s Dream
(Pixar, 1987, 4 min), Tin Toy (Pixar, 1988, 5 min)
& Toy Story (John Lasseter, 1995)
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Geri’s Game
(Pixar, 1997, 5 min)
& Toy Story 2
(Pixar, 1999, 92 min)
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Sites we found of help

Here are some sites we found helpful when finding out information about Multi-Pass Rendering and Compositing…