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The University of Southampton

FILM2023 Animation: Technology, Culture and Industry

Module Overview

Animation has been a part of cinema from its inception and remains one of the most popular forms of moving image in the 21st century. Some theorists have even argued that animation has preceded, contained, or replaced cinema. Yet, animation has been largely ignored within the academic study of film and denigrated within broader cultural discourses about moving images. This module will look at the historical development of this form of filmmaking and reconsider its place within cinema and television history, as well as wider artistic practices. This module will consider animation’s distinctive aesthetic characteristics through case studies of specific periods and countries and close analysis of key films, structured around three themes: technology, culture, and industry. It will shed new light on familiar examples and introduce new and unfamiliar films and filmmakers. Yet it will also question the efficacy of categorising these works under a single term, investigating the diverse and pervasive practices animation encompasses. These include its relationship to ‘live action’ cinema, and intermedial links with other artistic practices and media, including performance arts, graphic and fine art, and music. To animate something is both to give it motion and to bring it to life, and running throughout the historical and aesthetic examination in the three themes will be a theoretical concern with the philosophical implications of the various meanings of ‘animation’.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • A range of techniques used to produce animated films and the periods and countries they are commonly associated with
  • Key theories and theoreticians of animation studies
  • The intermedial relationships that have shaped animation
  • Early, ‘Golden age’ and contemporary Hollywood animation
  • A range of (inter)national animation traditions
  • Artists’ films that use animation techniques
  • Advertising and commercial use of animation
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Discuss a variety of definitions of animation and relate their implications to provide readings of specific films.
  • Situate animation in the context of wider histories and theories of cinema and assess gaps in them relating to animation as an artistic practice and philosophical concept.
  • Position animated works within their cultural context and examine their place in the international history of animation.
  • Describe the economic and technological basis of a selection of animated works and relate this to their aesthetic and historical meaning.
  • Apply the histories and theories studied on the module to provide readings of new animated works.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Communicate effectively
  • Independently research appropriate resources
  • Produce a competent critical analysis
  • Research and compose different forms of written essay/report


The aesthetic and historical understanding of animation in this module will be structured around three themes: technology, culture, and industry. The first section of this module will examine technological approaches to animation and look at the history and aesthetics of the three most common techniques: drawn, object, and computer-generated animation. It will explore the shared characteristics and implications of these techniques, while identifying their distinctive qualities. This raises questions about the ability to create a common definition of animation, as well as challenging their separation from ‘live action’ cinema. It will typically consider examples of these techniques from mainstream studios like Disney, Pixar, Aardman, and Dreamworks, as well as international and independent work from filmmakers such as Sylvain Chomet, the Brothers Quay, David Oreilly, and Nina Paley. The second section of this module will place animation in its varying cultural contexts through cases studies of specific countries or regions. Like cinema in general, animation has been dominated by American films and interests, especially through the work of the Disney studio. However, its artisanal nature and aesthetic possibilities have also seen it adopted by filmmakers looking to express their own historical and cultural circumstances. This section will understand specific works within their national context, while also using the liminality of animation as a way to interrogate and challenge the complex ideas of national cinema and identity and their place in a global marketplace. Countries/regions addressed may include Japan, Eastern Europe, and Britain. Indicative examples of films to be screened are landmark work from Studio Ghibli, Jan Švankmajer, Priit Pärn, Joanna Quinn, and Bob Godfrey. The third section of this module will consider the institutional models within which animation has been produced. Since the 1910s mainstream animation has been produced on an industrial scale as part of the Hollywood studio system, with the Disney studio being the foremost example of this approach. Yet animation has also been produced using different funding models, including sponsored and artists’ films, and the use of animation for advertising purposes. This section of the module will consider the implications of these varying models, both for the aesthetic results they produce, as well as their political repercussions, such as labour relations and the representation of race and gender. Films examined in this section will likely cover ‘Golden Age’ Hollywood animation from Disney and UPA, independent and avant-garde work by filmmakers such as Lotte Reiniger, Norman McLaren, Len Lye, and Oskar Fischinger, as well as advertising, video game, and web animation.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures • Seminars • Screenings • Tutorials Learning activities include • Seminar discussion • Independent study, viewing, and research • A seminar presentation that communicates empirical information about the technology, culture or industrial context of an animated work, and leads group discussion on their impact on the film aesthetically. • Writing a critical essay that addresses a particular definition of animation and discusses its implications, strengths, and weaknesses. • Writing an analytical essay that studies the form of one or more animated works.

Practical classes and workshops30
Preparation for scheduled sessions40
Completion of assessment task60
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi/Spirited Away (2001). Film

Bambi (1942). Film

Pilling, Jayne (ed.) (1997). A Reader in Animation Studies. 

Sito, Tom (2013). Moving Innovation: A History of Computer Animation. 

Great (1975). Film

Coraline (2009). Film

Neighbours (1952). Film

Wells, Paul (1998). Understanding Animation. 

Hotel E (1991). Film

Gerald McBoing-Boing (1951). Film

Furniss, Maureen (2008). Art in Motion. Animation Aesthetics (revised ed). 

Toy Story (1995). Film

The Cameraman's Revenge (1912). Film

Ghost in the Shell (1995). Film

Eisenstein, Sergei, Jay Leyda, Alan Upchurch, and N. I. Kleiman (1986). Eisenstein on Disney. 

L'Illusionniste/The Illusionist (2010). Film

Russett, Robert & Cecile Starr (1976). Experimental Animation. 

Street of Crocodiles (1986). Film

Beckman, Karen (ed.) (2014). Animating Film Theory. 

Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed/The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926). 

Kaze no Tani no Naushika/Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984). Film

A Colour Box (1935). Film

Crafton, Donald (2013). Shadow of a mouse: Performance, belief, and world-making in animation. 

Fuji (1974). Film

Kreise/Circles (1933-34). Film

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011). Film

Frankenweenie (1984/2012). Film

Clements, Jonathan (2013). Anime: A History. 

Crafton, Donald (1982). Before Mickey. The Animated Film 1898-1928. 

Please Say Something (2009). Film

Madeline (1952). Film

Možnosti dialogu/Dimensions of Dialogue (1982). Film

Buchan, Suzanne (ed.) (2013). Pervasive Animation (AFI Film Readers Series). 



MethodPercentage contribution
Academic poster  (500 words) 20%
Critical essay  (1500 words) 30%
Essay  (2000 words) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

FILM1001 or FILM2006 or FILM1027 or FILM1020

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