Yuanyuan Chen: “Animating the City of Desire: Bodily Metaphor and Visual Imagination in Bu Hua’s Flash-Animated Shorts”

Bu Hua (1973–), who is called one of China’s young talents by Becky Bristow, has won an enviable reputation for her distinctive Flash-animated shorts since 2002. As one of the few independent women animation filmmakers in China, her works keep abreast of the times and of advances in technology, creating a new terrain for animation in terms of subject matters and form of expression, which actively challenges the male-dominated and shaped practices and the aesthetics of animated film. This paper will examine the singular visual language and unique female perspective of Bu Hua’s works, mainly focusing on her two Flash-animated shorts, The Sick City (2005, 7 min) and LV Forest (2010, 5 min). The situation of Chinese women animation filmmakers and the development of Flash-animated film in China will firstly be briefly introduced; the paper will then offer a profile of Bu Hua and a theoretical analysis of her two animated shorts, from the specific themes that relate to female experiences and consciousness in the sick post-modern society, through the use of religious and bodily symbols, to her extraordinary visual style that combines contemporary surrealist and impressionist painting with a specific and strong sensibility.

Cristina Formenti: “The Animated Mockumentary, or when Imaginary Cartoon Worlds get the ‘Documentary Look’”

If in the last two decades animation has increasingly been employed to recount factual occurrences, at the same time we have also witnessed the proliferation of fictional animated works bearing the semblance of documentaries. In order to pretend that these audio-visual products (known as mockumentaries) are documentaries, they are constructed as factual films by recreating those aesthetics that the viewing public is accustomed to recognize as veridictive marks of the medium to which such products are destined. However, due to these films’ clearly imaginary narratives and to the presence of animation itself, the spectator cannot but be aware of their fictionality. Therefore, these animated works constitute the clearest example of mockumentary not being a genre, but rather a narrative style capable of transcending the boundaries of genres, media and individual poetics. Through the analysis of Ash Brannon and Chris Buck’s feature film Surf’s Up (2007) and of The Simpsons’ episodes “Behind the Laughter” (2000) and “Springfield Up” (2007), the paper will also argue that the mockumentary style doesn’t consist solely in the adoption of documentary aesthetics and structures, but also in the deployment of a number of elements (such as booms left “accidentally” in view, glances in the direction of the camera and so on), that I will call fictionality clues. It will be demonstrated that, whereas in hoaxes or credible live-action mockumentaries the deployment of these aesthetics can be justified by the fact that they fulfill the function of alerting the viewer to the film’s effective ontological status, in the case of animated mockumentaries such elements would be redundant, if used just for this purpose.

Helen Haswell: “To Infinity and Back Again: Hand-drawn Aesthetics and Affection for the Past in Pixar’s Pioneering Animation”

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the use of “traditional” and analogical animation aesthetic in Pixar’s computer-generated works, in order to engage with recent developments of digital animation and the emergence of the predilection for an “organic look”. Pixar Animation Studios has been at the forefront of cutting edge technology in computer animation for over 25 years. Once bound by the limitations of computer-generated animation, notable for its plastic-looking and rigid subjects (Cavalier, 2011, 298), the team of computer scientists and animators at Pixar have developed tools and methods setting a standard and a canon for animation filmmaking. In fact, the phenomenal success of Toy Story (Lasseter, 1995), the world’s first computer animated feature film, saw the ‘widespread popularization of 3D computer animation technologies in both animated and live action cinema’ (Montgomery, 2011, 7). While Montgomery argues that the technology pioneered by Pixar has ‘displaced hand-drawn traditions in mainstream American animation’ (2011, 8), we are now witnessing Pixar’s experimentation with textures that are ‘imperfect and manmade’ (Casarosa, 2011). Pixar’s cutting edge approach emerges in particular from its long-standing tradition of short films, which form the basis for the studio’s research and development. More recently, however, short films such as Presto (Sweetland, 2008) and La Luna (Casarosa, 2011) demonstrate a shift away from its sleek contemporary style. The studio, in fact, has pushed the boundaries of the medium to create digital images that resemble organic, hand-drawn artwork, highlighting a “nostalgic trend” for the analogue, which characterises contemporary media. My paper will analyse the short film La Luna in order to grasp this aesthetic shift in relation with the technological development of Pixar’s studio. The aim is to understand how this change, alongside the release of Disney’s more “traditional” short films Paperman (Kahrs, 2012) and Get a Horse! (MacMullan, 2013), represent a new trend in animation where nostalgia is set to become a mainstream aesthetic.

Lilly Husbands: “Rolling Amnesia and the Omnivorous Now: Jeff Scher’s You Won’t Remember This Trilogy (2007–2011)”

Throughout his career, New York-based experimental filmmaker and animator Jeff Scher has created animated works that are in dialogue with the diary film tradition in avant-garde cinema. Scher uses his distinctive single-frame rotoscope and collage animation technique to investigate the selective nature of memory and to celebrate the moments that constitute everyday life. Scher’s animated trilogy, You Won’t Remember This (2007), You Won’t Remember This Either (2009), and You Might Remember This (2011), depicts a series of everyday moments in the early childhoods of his two sons Buster and Oscar. The trilogy is centred on the mnemonic phenomenon that is referred to in developmental and cognitive psychology as childhood amnesia, which has presented problems for the philosophy of memory since John Locke first investigated the roles of memory and consciousness in the constitution of the identity of the self. Scher’s three portraits invite spectators to reflect on the mnemonic imbalance that is specific to this particular temporal situation—where the parent is able to remember what the child will ultimately forget—in both a distilled and heightened way. This paper investigates the ways in which the rotoscope collage technique employed by Scher in the You Won’t Remember This trilogy not only endows the works with a special capacity to emphasise the universal nature of childhood amnesia but also, conversely, resembles the phenomenological experience of remembering itself.

Danijela Kulezic-Wilson: “Tango for a Dream: Narrative Liminality and Musical Sensuality in Richard Linklater’s Waking Life

The first feature film made using the technique of rotoscoping, Richard Linklater’s Waking Life is the epitome of contradiction: unapologetically cerebral and irresistibly sensuous, fragmentary and yet all-encompassing, simultaneously distancing and immersive. Even its audiovisual style seems contradictory, representing liminal narrative spaces by juxtaposing perpetually moving and increasingly unstable shapes and colours with the most “earthly” of music genres, the tango. The distinctly oneiric content and visual style of Waking Life make its positioning in a neo-surrealist framework both natural and reasonable, as is suggested by John Richardson in An Eye for Music (2012). I will contest this reading, though, by viewing Linklater’s film in the context of the filmmaker’s epistemological and metaphysical concerns, arguing that Waking Life’s internal paradoxes are the embodiment not so much of the surrealist obsession with the unconscious and the irrational but rather of the film’s themes – the mysteries of existence and time. Supporting this interpretation is my contention that the references to Jean-Luc Godard’s Prénom Carmen (1983) in the scoring not only evoke the French director’s distrust of the film medium itself but also connect to Waking Life’s wider concerns with the nature of reality and our experience of it.

Paul Ward: “Animation as Atavistic Magic”

The presentation is concerned with the notion of animation as an atavistic form of magic. Atavism is commonly taken to mean a reversion to ancestral type or an invoking of a ‘primitive’/pre-cultural set of beliefs, which can be intimately linked to ritual, superstition and sorcery. Animation is arguably built on these same foundations, with the figure of the animator clearly comparable to that of the conjuror – deliberately tricking the audience (and making them love that they are tricked) – or the shaman – activating or willing-to-life something that we know to be inanimate. The understanding of animation as a form of magic is therefore less to do with the simple ‘magic of the movies’, and more to do with the complexity of belief systems, the anthropological power that magic has over us, and the ‘uncanny’ ways that the animated form connects to (and exceeds) the real world. The paper will explore some of the connections between animation, magic and belief in this broad context, focusing particularly on how notions of atavism connect to our experiencing of the animated documentary form.


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