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Animating Space

From Mickey to WALL-E

J.P. Telotte

Publication Year: 2010

Animators work within a strictly defined, limited space that requires difficult artistic decisions. The blank frame presents a dilemma for all animators, and the decision of what to include and leave out raises important questions about artistry, authorship, and cultural influence. In Animating Space: From Mickey to WALL-E, renowned scholar J. P. Telotte explores how animation has confronted the blank template, and how responses to that confrontation have changed. Focusing on American animation, Telotte tracks the development of animation in line with changing cultural attitudes toward space and examines innovations that elevated the medium from a novelty to a fully realized art form. From Winsor McCay and the Fleischer brothers to the Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros., and Pixar Studios, Animating Space explores the contributions of those who invented animation, those who refined it, and those who, in the current digital age, are using it to redefine the very possibilities of cinema.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Front cover

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Copyright page

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pp. iv


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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

A great many people have contributed to the creation of this book and deserve special mention. Foremost among them are my family members, Leigh and Gabby, who not only watched a great deal of animation with me, but did so with some apparent relish and were willing to talk about what we had seen. My fellow Georgia Tech faculty members, especially ...

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Introduction: Animating Space

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pp. 1-23

The focus of this book is on animation and space—not the sort of wondrous space that we have historically looked up at and all too glibly talked about conquering, but rather another kind of space that in its own way has proven to be just as challenging and that similarly holds great attraction for us, what I term animating space. Within that ...

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1. Early Animation: Of Figures and Spaces

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pp. 25-44

One of the abiding images of early animation is of a hand reaching into the fi lm frame to sketch a variety of characters or things on a sheet of paper, a large easel-mounted pad, or a chalkboard. Whatever is sketched then usually undergoes a series of amazing or simply amusing transformations at the hand of “the hand.” As most historians have noted, this ...

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2. Winsor McCay's Warped Spaces

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pp. 45-59

An oft-repeated anecdote of early film history recounts how audience members at the Lumière brothers’ first screening of their Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat (1895) recoiled in fear as the train moved from deep background toward the foreground and eventually off the frame, as if expecting the mechanism to emerge from the screen and enter into their ...

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3. The Stereoscopic Mickey

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pp. 61-78

If most film histories have conveniently located animation’s origins in the work of McCay and the appearance of his dinosaur Gertie, they have also tended to link its emergence as a mature form and a fundamental component of the American film industry to the work of the Fleischer brothers and Walt Disney, especially with the introduction of ...

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4. The Double Space of the Fleischer Films

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pp. 79-112

As we noted at the start of chapter 3, the Fleischer brothers, Max and Dave, are certainly among the most significant figures in the history of animation. Between the late 1910s and the early 1940s, they created a number of enduring cartoon characters, such as KoKo the Clown and Betty Boop, pioneered the use of sound with their Talkertoons, and ...

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5. Ub Iwerks's (Multi)Plain Cinema

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pp. 113-129

In his history of the American cartoon, Leonard Maltin assesses as mediocre the contributions of Ub Iwerks, a figure who has become almost legendary in the field. He describes Iwerks as “a second-echelon cartoon producer” and the products of his own studio, the various Flip the Frog, Willie Whopper, and ComiColor fairy-tale films, as ...

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6. Looking In on Life: Disney's Real Spaces

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pp. 131-155

Both the Fleischers and Ub Iwerks, throughout their studios’ productions, veered from a flatland aesthetic, with its attendant emphasis on amazing transformations, to an approach to animating space that seemed to aim at reproducing a conventional three-dimensional realm. Save in a few scattered instances, though, neither ever truly explored or developed ...

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7. What's Up--and Down--Doc?: Warner Bros., Chuck Jones, and Abstract Space

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pp. 157-178

Though for many people in the 1930s and 1940s Disney was the standard by which animation was judged, Warner Bros., with its Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons, would increasingly challenge that preeminence in the post–World War II era. In fact, as Timothy White chronicles, the widespread praise of Disney animation, largely for its ...

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8. Toontown Spaces and the New Hybrid World

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pp. 179-201

The postmodern world, as we have previously noted, seems to confront us with a bewildering array of appearances, of false fronts, of illusive dimensions. As Paul Virilio and others describe this situation, we often feel that we have reached a state where a “reality effect” has replaced “immediate reality,” and consequently we increasingly feel “cinematized” ...

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9. The Pixar Reality: Digital Space and Beyond

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pp. 203-221

The groundbreaking Pixar animated film Toy Story (1995) opens on a curious note of what I have elsewhere termed “surface play” (Mouse 168). As the narrative begins we see a pattern of very white clouds set against a bright blue background, the clouds all evenly spaced and stylized, the blue “sky” far too consistent and bright to be real, and the ...

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10. Digital Effects Animation and the New Hybrid Cinema

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pp. 223-251

In reacting to the sudden flowering of another sort of heavily designed film, the German expressionist cinema of the post–World War I era, the art critic Herman G. Scheffauer praised its potential influence on cinematic representation. As we note in our discussion of Mickey Mouse, he felt that it heralded the dawn of a new “stereoscopic universe” in film ...

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pp. 253-260

One of the underlying assumptions driving this study, this history-that-is- not-quite-a-history, is that we have generally neglected to recognize the extent to which animation is a spatial art. It occurs in a special sort of space that is not quite the human world but that seems to aspire to that status—thus animation’s historical efforts at adding depth and ...


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pp. 261-272


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pp. 273-279


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pp. 281-296

Back cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813133713
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813125862

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2010