Episode 23 - Gulliver's Travels (Dave Fleischer, 1939)

In episode 23, Chris and Alex turn to the work of the Fleischer studios, looking at the second North American animated feature film Gulliver’s Travels (Dave Fleischer, 1939), an adaptation of Jonathan Swift’s seminal work of fantasy fiction. As something of a follow-up to Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (David Hand, 1937), the film raises questions about animation’s creative ability to render perspectival shifts and ‘scaled’ imagery of ‘big’ versus ‘small’; world-building and the intrusive fantasy of human figuration; and the surrealist design of the Flesichers’ characters offset against Disney’s more ‘hyperrealist’ aesthetic. We suggest that Gulliver’s Travels stands as a imaginative development of animation in the U.S. context, with a playful visual register in the presentation of Lilliput that uses the drama of shifting dimensionality to speak to the emotional function of fantasy spaces for children.

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Episode 22 - Pogles' Wood (Oliver Postgate, 1965-1967) (with Simon Costin)

Episode 22 marks a return to the small screen, as Chris and Alex discuss the BBC television stop-motion animated series Pogles’ Wood (Oliver Postgate, 1965-1967), produced by renowned British production company Smallfilms. The Fantasy/Animation team are joined for this latest installment by Simon Costin, artist, set designer and director of the Museum of British Folklore, a project devoted to celebrating and researching the UK's rich folkloric cultural heritage. Weaving their way through this staple of sixties British television, the trio examine stop-motion techniques and the craft of puppetry, the integration of magic and wonder into idyllic pastoral visions, and broader traditions of British fairies, folktales, and fantasy.

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Episode 21 - Aladdin (Ron Clements and John Musker, 1992) (with Steve Henderson)

In episode 21, Chris and Alex are joined by Steve Henderson - Editor of the Skwigly Online Animation Magazine and Director of the Manchester Animation Festival, and Senior Lecturer in Animation at the Manchester School of Art - to discuss the Disney animated musical Aladdin (Ron Clements and John Musker, 1992). With the live-action/CG remake soon to hit cinema screens, this episode provides the perfect opportunity to revisit what has made this popular cel-animated fantasy so enduring among audiences. Expect all your wishes granted as the conversation turns to reflexivity and narration, the Disney Renaissance, star voices and vocal artistry, the film’s use of digital visual effects, Orientalist discourse and the representation of ‘Otherness,’ and even the Gulf War. You’ve never had a friend like this podcast!

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Episode 20 - Peppa Pig (Neville Astley and Mark Baker, 2004-) (with Richard Dyer)

Episode 20 welcomes Professor Richard Dyer (Emeritus Professor of Film Studies, King's College London and Professorial Fellow in Film Studies, University of St Andrews) to the podcast, joining Chris and Alex to discuss the popular British animated television series Peppa Pig (Neville Astley and Mark Baker, 2014-). Comparing the programme to the work of modernist painter Henri Matisse and filmmaker Béla Tarr, they examine questions of episodic seriality, simplicity and realism in character design, and the politics of niceness, as well as the idea of children as a social construct via the inscription of ‘the child’ into the animated media text. We also talk about Daddy Pig’s big tummy and the joy of jumping in muddy puddles.

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Episode 19 - The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, 1996)

For episode 19, Chris and Alex revisit the Walt Disney Studio and its adaptation of Victor Hugo’s nineteenth-century Gothic novel for its cel-animated musical The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise,1996). A melodrama set against the backdrop of medieval Paris, the film reworks its classic source material and gives it the Mouse House treatment, bringing Hugo’s mature literary Gothicism together with Disney’s ‘cartoon’ principles. Discussion ranges from the film’s evocation of the ‘topsy turvy’ carnivalesque to specific elements of its character design, as Chris and Alex consider how Hunchback’s broader thematic concerns of suppressed sexuality and obsession, damnation, and grotesque horror reconfigure Disney’s (fairy) tales ‘as old as time’ formula.

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Episode 17 & 18 - Society for Cinema and Media Studies 2019

Episodes 17 and 18 come to you live from the 2019 Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference, held in Seattle, Washington, USA! Hear Chris and Alex report on the ins and outs of attending the largest academic media conference in the world, providing you with insights into the various panels, delegates and procedures of the event through a series of interviews with the best and brightest from the worlds of fantasy and animation.

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Episode 16 - Coco (Lee Unkrich, 2017) (with Eavesdropping at the Movies)

Episode 16 heralds the first Fantasy/Animation crossover instalment, with Chris and Alex joined by Michael Glass and José Arroyo, also known as the Evesdropping at the Movies team. The focus of their discussions is Pixar’s feature film Coco (Lee Unkrich, 2017), a computer-animated fantasy inspired by the Mexican ‘Día de los Muertos’ (Day of the Dead) holiday. Seizing their moment, the foursome touch on issues of cultural specificity, authenticity and appropriation; its expressive use of luminescent lighting to illuminate its styles and details; and the themes of grief, ancestry, history and heritage that support the structures of a film whose two interconnected worlds of life and death are powered by the vitality of memory.

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Episode 15 - Tron (Steven Lisberger, 1982)

In episode 15, Chris and Alex log on to Tron (Steven Lisberger, 1982), a watershed moment in the history of computer animation and one that taps into the early electronic spectacle of digital visual effects within a Hollywood context. Representing the wonder of - if not the cultural anxieties surrounding - the newness of computers and virtual reality (as well as the growing popularity of videogames), the film reframes cyberspace as a complex three-dimensional fantasy world. Tron invites spectators into the labyrinthine geographies of hardware and software, asking us to marvel at a series of magical mainframes but also to speculate over what digital technology might look like, and how it could be represented onscreen.

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Episode 14 (Bonus) - Live from London Anime & Gaming Con 2019

Recorded live at the London Anime & Gaming Con during a special “Fantasy in Anime” panel on Saturday 16th February 2019, this bonus episode of the Fantasy/Animation podcast has Chris and Alex joined by an audience of passionate Japanese anime fans brought together through the Animeleague community. Tune in to hear an energetic discussion of anime authorship, the role of fantasy and imagination in cartoon narratives, and the creative compatibility between characterisation and design.

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Episode 13 - Animal Farm (John Halas and Joy Batchelor, 1954) (with Jez Stewart)

Far from being unlucky, episode 13 offers listeners a bumper line-up as Chris and Alex are joined by special guest Jez Stewart - curator at the BFI National Archive and expert on British animation history - to talk about Animal Farm (John Halas and Joy Batchelor, 1954). Taking on this celebrated animated adaptation of George Orwell’s popular novel, they discuss the production history of Britain’s first animated feature film and the vital role of archival material, alongside broader questions of cartoonal allegory via the narrative’s heavy politicised visions of anthropomorphic left-wing uprising.

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Episode 12 - Kubo and the Two Strings (Travis Knight, 2016)

Episode 12 takes Chris and Alex to feudal Japan as they get to grips with Laika studio’s stop-motion feature film, Kubo and the Two Strings (Travis Knight, 2016). The thorny question of animation’s inherently self-reflexive identity and status as anti-illusionist art; the magic of fantasy storytelling and spectatorship; and the medium specificity of object animation provide just some of the topics involved in their own critical battle with this popular fantasy/animated samurai epic.

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Episode 11 - Disenchantment (Matt Groening, 2018-)

Episode 11 marks Chris and Alex’s first venture to the small screen, offering a rundown of Matt Groening’s recent television series Disenchantment, which first premiered in August 2018 on Netflix. A fantasy sitcom visualised through Groening’s signature animated style (including the requisite character overbite), Disenchantment parodies the archetypes familiar from fantasy mythology. From hard-drinking princesses to sweet-toothed elves, its playful swipes at fantasy storytelling feed into an overriding irreverence that fully exploits animation’s subversive potential, as Groening’s series sets about both constructing and deconstructing the terms of its own animated world.

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Episode 10 - Moana (Ron Clements and John Musker, 2016) (with Catherine Wheatley)

For the 10th episode, Chris and Alex travel to Polynesia to tackle their first computer-animated film - Walt Disney’s all-singin’, all-dancin’ and all-digital musical Moana (Ron Clements and John Musker, 2016). They are joined by Dr Catherine Wheatley (Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at King’s College London) to discuss the film’s gender politics and feminist register; its beautiful Samoan and Tokelauan-language soundtrack (with songs written and composed by Opetaia Foa’i, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Mark Mancina); its ambivalent status as typical Disney fare; and the ‘tiny details’ that comprise its message of diplomacy and female empowerment.

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Episode 9 - Mary Poppins (Robert Stevenson, 1964)

The ninth episode takes Chris and Alex up to the rooftops of London as they tackle Walt Disney’s fantasy musical Mary Poppins (Robert Stevenson, 1964). This song-and-dance celebration follows the adventures of Mary, Bert and the Banks children, including their famous journey into the wonderful world of animation. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

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Episode 8 - Black Panther (Ryan Coogler, 2018)

Episode eight sees Chris and Alex discuss the eighteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Panther (Ryan Coogler, 2018). As the first Marvel film to feature a predominantly black cast, Black Panther offers the opportunity to situate fantasy and animation both within the codes of the popular superhero genre, and alongside broader critical questions of black subjectivity in contemporary cinema. Chris and Alex therefore move through an examination of its spectacular use of digital animation in its portrayal of Third World-but-secretly-techno-heavy Wakanda; the fruitful overlap between science-fiction and fantasy cinema as categories of classification; and post-Trump Afrofuturist identity politics. Oh, and they talk a bit about CGI rhinos too.

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Episode 7 - The Triplets of Belleville (Sylvain Chomet, 2003)

In episode seven, Chris and Alex encounter ferocious bicycle wheels, music hall stars fishing for frogs using dynamite, and the French mafia in their discussion of the frankly bizarre animated fantasy The Triplets of Belleville (Sylvain Chomet, 2003). With minimal dialogue and an expressionist, borderline surreal visual style, Chomet’s film - released in the UK as Belleville Rendezvous - is erratic, eccentric and downright charming. It offers spectators a journey through early-1900’s France via some ornate painterly backdrops, and an army of grotesque characters (in the mould of cartoonist Gerard Scarfe) that populate this pedal-powered modern metropolis.

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Episode 6 - The Greatest Showman (Michael Gracey, 2017) (with Martha Shearer)

For episode six, Chris and Alex are joined by Dr Martha Shearer (King’s College London), expert on the Hollywood musical and author of the recent monograph New York City and the Hollywood Musical: Dancing in the Streets (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). Together, they discuss The Greatest Showman (Michael Gracey, 2017) in relation to its status as a biopic, as a fantasy of New York, and its marked use of computer graphics that bring this all-singing, all-dancing American musical to life.

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Episode 5 - Yellow Submarine (George Dunning, 1968)

Episode five takes Chris and Alex on a magical mystery tour through psychedelic British animation of the 1960s thanks to Yellow Submarine (George Dunning, 1968). This animated fantasy musical mixes playful caricatures of John, Paul, George, and Ringo with a colourful, abstract and, at times, surreal visual style from art director Heinz Edelmann. Drawing from both classical, folk and pop music, sixties rebellious youth culture, and The Beatles’ own rock and roll repertoire, Yellow Submarine presented the possibilities for animation as a significant and serious art form.

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Episode 4 - My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988)

In episode four, Chris and Alex discuss the work of Studio Ghibli and their feature-film My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988). Released as part of a double-bill with Grave of the Fireflies (Isao Takahata, 1988), My Neighbor Totoro is a colourful animated fantasy that takes place in rural Japan inhabited by mysterious dustbunnies and the eponymous Totoro creature (who has since become Ghibli’s own official mascot).

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Episode 3 - Jason and the Argonauts (Don Chaffey, 1963)

The third episode sees Chris and Alex reflecting on Jason and the Argonauts (Don Chaffey, 1963), which showcases the pioneering work of stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen. Based on classical Greek mythology, the film's famed 'skeleton warrior' battle sequence designed by Harryhausen fully encapsulates the possibilities of animated special effects for fantasy cinema.

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