In episode 21, Chris and Alex are joined by Steve Henderson - Editor of the Skwigly Online Animation Magazine and Co-Director of the Manchester Animation Festival, and Senior Lecturer in Animation at the Manchester School of Art - to discuss the Disney animated musical Aladdin (Ron Clements and John Musker, 1992). With the live-action/CG remake soon to hit cinema screens, this episode provides the perfect opportunity to revisit what has made this popular cel-animated fantasy so enduring among audiences. Expect all your wishes granted as the conversation turns to reflexivity and narration, the Disney Renaissance, star voices and vocal artistry, the film’s use of digital visual effects, Orientalist discourse and the representation of ‘Otherness,’ and even the Gulf War. You’ve never had a friend like this podcast!
Episode 20 welcomes Professor Richard Dyer (Emeritus Professor of Film Studies, King's College London and Professorial Fellow in Film Studies, University of St Andrews) to the podcast, joining Chris and Alex to discuss the popular British animated television series Peppa Pig (Neville Astley and Mark Baker, 2014-). Comparing the programme to the work of modernist painter Henri Matisse and filmmaker Béla Tarr, they examine questions of episodic seriality, simplicity and realism in character design, and the politics of niceness, as well as the idea of children as a social construct via the inscription of ‘the child’ into the animated media text. We also talk about Daddy Pig’s big tummy and the joy of jumping in muddy puddles.
For episode 19, Chris and Alex revisit the Walt Disney Studio and its adaptation of Victor Hugo’s nineteenth-century Gothic novel for its cel-animated musical The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, 1996). A melodrama set against the backdrop of medieval Paris, the film reworks its classic source material and gives it the Mouse House treatment, bringing Hugo’s mature literary Gothicism together with Disney’s ‘cartoon’ principles. Discussion ranges from the film’s evocation of the ‘topsy turvy’ carnivalesque to specific elements of its character design, as Chris and Alex consider how Hunchback’s broader thematic concerns of suppressed sexuality and obsession, damnation, and grotesque horror reconfigure Disney’s (fairy) tale ‘as old as time’ formula.
Episode 18 comes to you live from the 2019 Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference, held in Seattle, Washington, USA! Hear Chris and Alex report on the ins and outs of attending the largest academic media conference in the world, providing you with insights into the various panels, delegates and procedures of the event through a series of interviews with the best and brightest from the worlds of fantasy and animation. Part 2 continues the discussion with Tim Jones (Robert Morris University), Christina Kowalski and Suzanne Richardson (Routledge), Eric Smoodin (University of California, Davis) and Leon Gurevitch (Victoria University of Wellington).
Episode 17 comes to you live from the 2019 Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference, held in Seattle, Washington, USA! Hear Chris and Alex report on the ins and outs of attending the largest academic media conference in the world, providing you with insights into the various panels, delegates and procedures of the event through a series of interviews with the best and brightest from the worlds of fantasy and animation. Part 1 includes interviews with Kristen Moana Thompson (Seattle University), Susan Ohmer (University of Notre Dame), Cristina Formenti (University of Milan) and Murray Leeder (University of Calgary), as well as highlights from Chris and Alex's own panel at the conference titled “Animation, Technology and Identity”, also featuring as speakers Cristina and Mihaela Mihailova (University of Michigan).
Episode 16 heralds the first Fantasy/Animation crossover instalment, with Chris and Alex joined by Michael Glass and José Arroyo, also known as the Eavesdropping at the Movies team. The focus of their discussions is Pixar’s feature film Coco (Lee Unkrich, 2017), a computer-animated fantasy inspired by the Mexican ‘Día de los Muertos’ (Day of the Dead) holiday. Seizing their moment, the foursome touch on issues of cultural specificity, authenticity and appropriation; its expressive use of luminescent lighting to illuminate its styles and details; and the themes of grief, ancestry, history and heritage that support the structures of a film whose two interconnected worlds of life and death are powered by the vitality of memory.
In episode 15, Chris and Alex log on to Tron (Steven Lisberger, 1982), a watershed moment in the history of computer animation and one that taps into the early electronic spectacle of digital visual effects within a Hollywood context. Representing the wonder of - if not the cultural anxieties surrounding - the newness of computers and virtual reality (as well as the growing popularity of videogames), the film reframes cyberspace as a complex three-dimensional fantasy world. Tron invites spectators into the labyrinthine geographies of hardware and software, asking us to marvel at a series of magical mainframes but also to speculate over what digital technology might look like, and how it could be represented onscreen.
Recorded live at the London Anime & Gaming Con during a special “Fantasy in Anime” panel on Saturday 16th February 2019, this bonus episode of the Fantasy/Animation podcast has Chris and Alex joined by an audience of passionate Japanese anime fans brought together through the Animeleague community. Tune in to hear an energetic discussion of anime authorship, the role of fantasy and imagination in cartoon narratives, and the creative compatibility between characterisation and design.
Far from being unlucky, episode 13 offers listeners a bumper line-up as Chris and Alex are joined by special guest Jez Stewart - curator at the BFI National Archive and expert on British animation history - to talk about Animal Farm (John Halas and Joy Batchelor, 1954). Taking on this celebrated animated adaptation of George Orwell’s popular novel, they discuss the production history of Britain’s first animated feature film and the vital role of archival material, alongside broader questions of cartoonal allegory via the narrative’s heavy politicised visions of anthropomorphic left-wing uprising.
Episode 12 takes Chris and Alex to feudal Japan as they get to grips with Laika studio’s stop-motion feature film, Kubo and the Two Strings (Travis Knight, 2016). The thorny question of animation’s inherently self-reflexive identity and status as anti-illusionist art; the magic of fantasy storytelling and spectatorship; and the medium specificity of object animation provide just some of the topics involved in their own critical battle with this popular fantasy/animated samurai epic.