A Reader in Animation Studies

A Reader in Animation Studies

A Reader in Animation Studies

A Reader in Animation Studies


Cartoons--both from the classic Hollywood era and from more contemporary feature films and television series--offer a rich field for detailed investigation and analysis. Contributors draw on theories and methodology from film, television, and media studies, art history and criticism, and feminism and gender studies.


Jayne Pilling

Over the past decade, animation seems finally to have emerged from its previously very marginalised status, both in terms of a growing adult audience for the very heterogenous range of films that come under the rubric ‘animation’ and in terms of academic study.

This explosion of interest reflects a growing recognition of animation as a medium that spans a far wider range of films than that of cartoons only for children.

The creation of a Society for Animation Studies (SAS) in 1988 is an indication of this changing attitude, and also a significant contributor to it. This book comprises a selection of papers presented at annual sas conferences. However, ‘animation studies’ is still hardly established as an academic discipline. Consequently, a ‘reader’ might be considered a rather pre-emptive gesture in this instance and the conventional introduction to an academic reader (which usually seeks to place its contents in context through the critical and theoretical traditions in previous writings on the subject, and establishes a position or dialectic in relation to the latter), might seem inappropriate.

Nonetheless, ‘Where can I find critical writing about animation?’ and ‘Why has there been so little written on the subject?’ are recurrent questions from students and sometimes teachers on the multitude of courses that have begun to adress animation, whether as a component of film, media and popular culture studies, or those that are production-oriented with a critical studies element. It seems more useful, then, to use this introduction to look briefly at some of the reasons for animation’s marginalisation, why this has changed in recent years, how this reflects in writing on the subject, and to touch on issues and problems raised in defining the area of animation studies itself.

Animation’s rise in popularity

Several factors have contributed to the growing popularity of animation with adult audiences. the success of feature films such as Who Killed Roger Rabbit?, the Nightmare Before Christmas, the Wallace & Gromit films or, in ‘art-house’ distribution, the films of Jan Svankmajer and the Brothers Quay are obvious examples of animation that have changed viewers’ perceptions of the medium as one that is somehow intrinsically only appropriate for entertaining children to one of interest to adult audiences.

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