What is Fantasy/Animation?
Welcome to the Fantasy/Animation research network. Co-founded by Christopher Holliday and Alexander Sergeant, Fantasy/Animation seeks to examine the relationship that exists between fantasy cinema and the medium of animation.
This research network began as an edited collection Fantasy/Animation: Connections Between Media, Mediums and Genres (Routledge AFI Film Reader, 2018). As editors, we worked alongside a number of world-renowned film and media scholars to produce a collection that examined a range of animated fantasy media, from the avant-garde experimental animation of Bret Battey to HBO’s Game of Thrones. The book began a conversation about the complex relationship that exists between animation and fantasy, developing a new methodology for approaching the study of animation and fantasy that, as we discovered, can be used fruitfully across an extremely diverse range of examples across film and media history. We hope to continue the work begun in that collection here in this research group. But we are going to need your help.
Animation has played a key role in defining our collective expectations and experiences of fantasy cinema, just as fantasy storytelling has often served as inspiration for our most popular animated film and television. From Disney’s cartoon fairy-tale adaptations and the stop-motion effects of Ray Harryhausen to the ubiquitous presence of digital animation across contemporary Hollywood Blockbuster franchises, animation and fantasy have been consistently intertwined throughout cinema history. However, the pivotal relationship between these overlapping mediums, medias, genres and modes has hitherto remained unexplored. Does animation naturally lend itself to fantasy given its specific properties, and if so what does this then tell us about the nature of these two mediums or medias? Is it necessary to use animation to produce fantasy, or does the animated fantasy film constitute a unique aesthetic in its own right separate from other ‘photographic’ means of rendering fantasy fiction on screen? Seeking to foster relationships between academic researchers, industry practitioners, fans and special interest groups, the Fantasy/Animation research network considers the various historical, theoretical, cultural and artistic ramifications of the animated fantasy film.
Fantasy scholarship has often referred to as a requirement for fantasy filmmakers to draw upon animation as a technology capable of rendering onscreen the metamorphic and transformative narratives of fantasy fiction (Butler 2009; Furby and Hines 2012). Similarly, animation scholarship is often committed to outlining the medium’s “invariably fantastic aspect” (Telotte 2010: 15), its status as a “fantastic medium” (Crafton 2013: 16) and the “fantasy aspect of animation” (Gunning 2013: 55). In the book Fantasy/Animation,we proposed an alternative approach to these attempts to either read the fantasy of animation, or find the role of animation within the depiction of fantasy. We argue that the fantasy and animation relationship is not an ‘and’ or an ‘or’, but a dialectic of ‘fantasy/animation.’ We identify the “slash” that appears between fantasy and animation both in our original book and in the title of our research group not as a fixed or immobile divide, but a fluid channel through which fantasy and animation are permitted to intersect, collide and intermingle. The concern therefore is neither how animation operates as fantasy or how fantasy operates through animation, but rather how both ideas can be productively considered in dialogue with one another. This methodology allows fantasy and animation to function as a dialectic that critically examines a relationship that has, to date, been assumed, pre-supposed or obfuscated within both popular and critical discourse.
Fantasy/Animation contends that there is a productive and correlative relationship between studies of fantasy cinema and animation that have yet to be established in either existing academic discourse or in contemporary popular culture. If you think you can help us, please get in touch. Write to us. Propose a blog entry. Submit something to our pinboard. Subscribe to our mailing list. This site exists to get conversations started. All we need from you is to join in.
Chris and Alex (co-founders)
Butler, David, Fantasy Cinema: Impossible Worlds on Screen (London: Wallflower Press, 2009).
Crafton, Donald, Shadow of a Mouse: Performance, Belief and World-Making in Animation (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2013).
Furby, Jacqueline, and Claire Hines, Fantasy (London: Routledge, 2012).
Gunning, Tom, "The Transforming Image: The Roots of Animation in Metamorphosis and Motion," in Pervasive Animation, ed. Suzanne Buchan (London and New York: Routledge, 2013), 52-70.
Telotte, J. P. , Animating Space: From Mickey to Wall-E (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2010).