Animation, Fantasy and the Disney/Pixar Dilemma

The shifting place of fantasy within contemporary animation allows us to make some preliminary discriminations about how fantasy’s own icons and images function in relation to the shaping of Hollywood studios and their brand identity. The continued business strength of the U.S. animation industry in the post-millennial period thanks to Pixar Animation Studios, DreamWorks Animation and Blue Sky - as well as the parallel renaissance of Disney Feature Animation - has provided a growing number of critically and commercially successful test cases that showcase where fantasy does (and does not) appear in popular animated media, but also how fantasy has become a default and highly durable viewing strategy utilised by audiences in determining the precise terms of studio authorship.

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The Fantastical Sonic Ambience: Disney Creating Worlds With Music

Imagine if films had no music, would the cinematic medium survive the way it has today? While music can be used as an aesthetic component that enhances the film experience, is also a storytelling device and a language that serves similar purposes to the verbal language in the film context, although it is rarely perceived as such.

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“Something Gruesome and Horrible and Real Gory…But Kinda Cute”: Violet Newstead’s Snow White Fantasy Sequence

These days, I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (David Hand, 1937). Call it a professional interest during its eightieth anniversary year. But here, rather than talk specifically about Snow White, instead I would like to look at my favourite non-Disney reference to it: Violet Newstead’s (Lily Tomlin) Snow White-themed revenge fantasy in the 1980 Feminist political comedy classic 9 to 5 (Colin Higgins, 1980).

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Review: Film as Film Today - On the Criticism and Theory of V. F. Perkins

A wealth of staff and students both past and present came together across two days at the University of Warwick to celebrate and reflect upon the work of V. F. Perkins (1936-2016). It was Perkins’ immeasurable contribution to Film Studies and his writing on popular cinema that would come to form the basis for the superlative Film as Film Today: On the Criticism and Theory of V. F. Perkins conference co-organised with due fondness and feeling by James MacDowell (University of Warwick) and Andrew Klevan (University of Oxford).

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The Trouble with Reiniger?

Over the last eighteen months or so myself and Katharina Boeckenhoff (University of Manchester) have been engaged in archival research on the German animator Lotte Reiniger for a project about craft and animation. During that time I was grateful to be asked to write a chapter in Fantasy/Animation: Connections Between Media, Mediums and Genres on Reiniger by Christopher Holliday and Alexander Sergeant. While this chapter was not directly informed by the archival research we had been involved in, it raised a number of interesting thoughts and potential challenges that informed my writing.

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Review: Saving Christopher Robin - A Review of Two Winnie-the-Pooh Films

In the past twelve months, cinema audiences have been treated to not one, but two films based on the eponymous children’s book character, Winnie-the-Pooh. Both focus on male protagonists and explore the psychological effects of growing up and the responsibilities associated with adulthood. Both are live action dramas with frequent forays into animated fantasy sequences. And both films are British / American co-productions with a strong emphasis on the past, nostalgia and heritage.

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Making is Thinking: Writing a Fantasy Screenplay for a (hoped-for) Animated Film

Right around 2004, I speculatively wrote a feature-length screenplay. In that earliest moment of what has become a very long-running project, the core concept, at the level of theme and character types, was determined. This has now been a fourteen-year process of imagining a family film in the initial form of a screenplay (and I subscribe to the view that the screenplay is definitely not the film).

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Fantastic Products: The Phantasmagorical Appeal of Animated Advertising

This post explores the way ideas of fantasy can provide new insight into animated advertising, and applies these to analyse the recent Ikea advertisement Ghosts (2018) and its use of digital animation. Exploring the long history of a particular form of fantasy, the phantasmagoria, allows a consideration of the ghostly iconography associated with it, as well as its use as a metaphor for the workings of capitalism. 

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The Sounds of Silence (or, What Noises Do Animated Fantasies Make?)

The critical noise surrounding the recent release of horror film A Quiet Place (John Krasinski, 2018) has largely served to amplify its considered (and sparse) application of sound. The film’s narrative certainly explores the implications of selective sound and image arrangement, with the complex interplay between each sonic component used in service of crafting the danger of (largely offscreen) fantasies.

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The Success of Animated Fantasy and Science-Fiction Cinema

When researching my contribution to Christopher Holliday and Alexander Sergeant’s collection Fantasy/Animation, I examined a range of sources that demonstrated the enormous box office success, both in the United States and in the rest of the world, of fantasy and science-fiction movies, and of ‘animation’ (a category here understood to include live action films heavily reliant on computer generated imagery) in recent decades.

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Review: Incredibles 2 (Brad Bird, 2018)

The Hollywood landscape into which Pixar’s twentieth computer-animated feature Incredibles 2 (Brad Bird, 2018) now sits is very different to the filmmaking climate of the original. Back in 2004 when audiences first glimpsed the superheroic exploits of the Parr family – headed by patriarch Bob/Mr. Incredible, wife Helen/Elastigirl, alongside their three children Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack – the resurrection of contemporary superhero cinema was still very much in its infancy.

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The Subversive Horror of Fantasy and Animation

Fantasy and animation, especially when combined, are often associated within popular discourse with children’s media. Referring predominantly to stop-motion animation, this post offers some thoughts on what the intrinsic association between children, fantasy and animation might mean in the context of another genre which has a more problematic relationship with child audiences: horror.

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Review: Lilian Munk Rösing, Pixar with Lacan: The Hysteric's Guide to Animation (2016)

The title of Lilian Munk Rösing’s recent publication Pixar with Lacan: The Hysteric’s Guide to Animation (London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2016) contains many of my favourite words. With. The. Hysteric. But seriously, the blending of Jacques Lacan’s structuralist re-visioning of psychoanalytic theory with the stable of Pixar animation is both a provocative and insightful one. 

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Louis Armstrong’s Flying Head, Clothing as Food, and Renegade Angels: Queering Animation through Fantasy

If a dragon were to suddenly swoop down from the clouds, spread its huge wings over London, and wrap its mighty body around Big Ben, it would certainly be strange. Unusual. Weird. Fantastic. Maybe even queer. Of course, such an incredible event is not about to happen. Dragons, faeries, wizards, elves, hobbits – all remain firmly in the realm of fantasy. 

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Review: Bob Rehak, More Than Meets the Eye: Special Effects and the Fantastic Transmedia Franchise (2018)

The history, theory and reception of visual and special effects occupies a significant place in recent film and media scholarship (Pierson 2002; Turnock 2015). This interest in CGI animation is not surprising given the reliance within the production practices over the past forty years of Hollywood filmmaking.

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