Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


IdeaofAnimation Report Summary

Project ID: 338110
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: United Kingdom

Mid-Term Report Summary - IDEAOFANIMATION (The Idea of Animation: Aesthetics, Locality and the Formation of Media Identity)

The Idea of Animation has been examining the multifaceted ways that animated film was understood, used and situated within culture during its formative years as a medium, from the mid-1910s to the late 1930s. Undertaking extensive archival research, the project has been studying a diverse range of animated films alongside a rich body of the extratextual material that circulated around animation, including the writing of animators at the time, the marketing and exhibition of animation, and discussions of animation in the popular press. One of the central innovations of the project is to examine how animated film was situated in the frameworks of other media and artistic forms. This has been an area of particular richness in the research, which has traced diverse ways in which animation was interrelated with forms such as painting, music, advertising, comic strips and live action cinema. The research has also found that the artistic, expressive and sensational potentials of motion were pivotal to the aesthetic qualities of animated film and the wider cultural fascination with the medium. This was evident in the work of major animators such as Earl Hurd, Otto Messmer, Norman McLaren and Mary Ellen Bute, as well as the reception, exhibition and marketing of animated films from the period; moreover, different sites such as shop windows and art galleries, different media such as pop-up books and radio and different cultural aims such as advertising and education drew upon the appeals and potentials of animated motion.
The research for the project has been disseminated in articles and conference papers that address central facets of animation’s identity. Intermedial qualities of animation have been explored in articles on two important but rather neglected figures in the history of animation. One article examines how J. R. Bray was heralded in the popular press as the ‘inventor’ of animated film not just through his introduction of the new technology of cel animation but also through his development of an idea of animation as a form that could entwine the imaginative and realistic potentials of comic strips and live action film. Bray was an early innovator, helping establish animated film as a mass medium in the mid-1910s. A second article traces a later manifestation of intermediality, in the 1930s, in the work of Mary Ellen Bute. Bute was an abstract animator working outside the industrialized contexts of mainstream animation. But, like Bray, Bute’s work as an animator and her discussions of her artistic practice emphasized intermediality. For Bute, the sensorial power of music, sculpture and painting could be harnessed by animation’s visualization of motion, allowing for the creation of new expressive forms and novel sensations. Taking a slightly different focus, but with a continued emphasis on animation’s diversity and intermediality, research presented in conference papers has examined how animation bridged contexts of art and advertising in the work of the animator Norman McLaren and the cultural context of late 1930s New York.
As the project continues to develop, it will further examine the multifaceted potentials of animation and motion within a diverse range of films and cultural expressions as part of the larger examination of animation’s developing media identity. In order to illuminate this multifaceted identity, the project will maintain its focus on the diversity of animation, animation’s intermediality and animation’s place in culture. Further researching the distinct formations and understandings of animation within the different national contexts of the United States, France and England, the project will also trace a comparative international and transnational understanding of animation. These key considerations will continue to inform the project’s research and will be central areas of exploration in the dissemination of its results, which includes a book-length study of how animated film was envisioned, used and imagined during its febrile first decades.

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United Kingdom
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