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’.
FILM1001 or FILM2006 or FILM1020 or FILM1027 or FILM1020
Aims and Objectives
Knowledge and Understanding
Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:
- Early, ‘Golden age’ and contemporary Hollywood animation
- Advertising and commercial use of animation
- A range of (inter)national animation traditions
- A range of techniques used to produce animated films and the periods and countries they are commonly associated with
- Artists’ films that use animation techniques
- Key theories and theoreticians of animation studies
- The intermedial relationships that have shaped animation
Transferable and Generic Skills
Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:
- Research and compose different forms of written essay/report
- Independently research appropriate resources
- Communicate effectively
- Produce a competent critical analysis
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.
- Describe the economic and technological basis of a selection of animated works and relate this to their aesthetic and historical meaning.
- 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.
- Apply the histories and theories studied on the module to provide readings of new animated works.
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
Learning activities include
- Seminar discussion
- Independent study, viewing, and research
- Writing a comparative essay critically examining a film studies text and an animation studies text.
- Writing an analytical essay that studies the form of one or more animated works.
- Writing a research report that communicates empirical information about the technology or economics of an animated work and assesses their impact on the film aesthetically.
|Preparation for scheduled sessions||40|
|Completion of assessment task||60|
|Practical classes and workshops||30|
|Total study time||150|
Resources & Reading list
Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed/The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926).
Please Say Something (2009). Film
L'Illusionniste/The Illusionist (2010). Film
Ghost in the Shell (1995). Film
Coraline (2009). Film
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011). Film
Street of Crocodiles (1986). Film
The Cameraman's Revenge (1912). Film
Možnosti dialogu/Dimensions of Dialogue (1982). Film
Bambi (1942). Film
Madeline (1952). Film
Great (1975). Film
Frankenweenie (1984/2012). Film
Gerald McBoing-Boing (1951). Film
A Colour Box (1935). Film
Fuji (1974). Film
Kaze no Tani no Naushika/Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984). Film
Neighbours (1952). Film
Hotel E (1991). Film
Kreise/Circles (1933-34). Film
Toy Story (1995). Film
Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi/Spirited Away (2001). Film
Furniss, Maureen (2008). Art in Motion. Animation Aesthetics (revised ed). Eastleigh: John Libbey.
Clements, Jonathan (2013). Anime: A History. London: British Film Institute.
Wells, Paul (1998). Understanding Animation. Abingdon: Routledge.
Crafton, Donald (2013). Shadow of a mouse: Performance, belief, and world-making in animation. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Buchan, Suzanne (ed.) (2013). Pervasive Animation (AFI Film Readers Series). Abingdon: Routledge.
Eisenstein, Sergei, Jay Leyda, Alan Upchurch, and N. I. Kleiman (1986). Eisenstein on Disney. Calcutta: Seagull.
Sito, Tom (2013). Moving Innovation: A History of Computer Animation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Pilling, Jayne (ed.) (1997). A Reader in Animation Studies. Eastleigh: John Libbey.
Crafton, Donald (1982). Before Mickey. The Animated Film 1898-1928. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Beckman, Karen (ed.) (2014). Animating Film Theory. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Russett, Robert & Cecile Starr (1976). Experimental Animation. New York: Reinhold.
This is how we’ll formally assess what you have learned in this module.
This is how we’ll assess you if you don’t meet the criteria to pass this module.
Repeat type: Internal & External