Notes on Animation Evolution

Helen Jackson, Harvey Deneroff and Colleen Montgomery at Animation Evolution

That’s me in the middle, after my wife Vickie and I gave our paper at the SAS Conference at the Edinburgh College of Art, sitting between Binary Fable’s Helen Jackson (panel moderator on left) and fellow panelist Colleen Montgomery from the University of British Columbia. (This and other photos are by Van Norris, of the University of Portsmouth, who generously allowed me to download them from his Facebook page for use here.)

Victoria Deneroff and Brian Fagence at Animation EvolutionEarly last month, my wife Vickie and I attended Animation Evolution, the 22nd Annual Society for Animation Studies conference, where we presented a paper, “Crossing Boundaries: Communities of Practice in Animation and Live-Action Filmmaking.” This was our first collaboration, something which came as a surprise to both of us, as after 23 years of marriage we belatedly discovered that our professional interests actually overlapped. Basically, we used social theory to take a look at the ways animation and live-action filmmakers  see themselves and each other, and how technology in the form of motion capture has affected things. (Vickie is pictured above along with fellow panelist Brian Fagence, of the University of Glamorgan.)

It was a somewhat strange and wonderful experience for me, as Vickie had witnessed the birth of SAS when I started it in 1987 and even brought our new-born daughter, Allegra, to the first conference at UCLA in 1989. Over the years, she helped me edit my writings, including my Animation Report newsletter. However, it was an offhand comment she made regarding my posting about Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox that led to our collaboration, which I hope we will be able to repeat more than once.

This year’s conference was probably the largest, at least in terms of papers presented and the quality certainly did not suffer because of that. If there was any trend evident it was in regards to the increasing use of motion capture (which included the paper Vickie and I gave). But I did not and could not properly sample the wide variety of presentations, so I can only provide some random thoughts, observations and photo captions.

Clare Kitson giving the opening keynote address at Animation EvolutionClare Kitson gave the opening keynote address. She is the author of Yuri Norstein and Tale of Tales: An Animator’s Journey and British Animation: The Channel 4 Factor; the latter deals with her stint at Channel 4 commissioning animated shorts and series which sparked a golden age of British animation; it was also the topic of her talk. One thing that struck me was her observation that she noticed a number of the experimental filmmakers she worked with have shown up with prominent credits on films from the likes of Pixar and DreamWorks; this only goes to show that if your ambition is to work for a major Hollywood studio, it doesn’t hurt to do your own thing.

Jessica Hemmings and Jonathan Murray at Animation EvolutionOne of most unusual papers was by Jessica Hemmings (seen here with Edinburgh College of Art colleague Jonathan Murray) whose talk on “Textile & Animation Theory: Who Needs It?” stirred an unusual amount of interest among conference goers.

Heather Holian at Animation Evolution

Heather Holian, of the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, who talked about “Art, Animation and the Collaborative Process,” whose interest in the collaborative nature of studio animation is not unlike my interests regarding animation labor.Pierre Floquet at Animation Evolution

Pierre Floquet, of  Bordeaux University, gave one of a number of talks touching on the digital revolution that has affected both live-action and animation in recent years. Specifically, his paper, “Actors in Sin City’s Animated Fantasy: Avatars, Aliens, or Cinematic Dead-ends?, discussed what happens to actors in an animated environment.

Harvey Deneroff and Tony Tarantini at Animation EvolutionHarvey Deneroff and Van Norris at Animation Evolution

With Vickie taking a quick side trip on Saturday, I went out to dinner with Tony Tarantini, of Sheridan College (left), and Van Norris (right). I previously blogged (here) about Tony’s comments about the motivations behind James Cameron’s assertion that motion capture is not animation.

Nichola Dobson and Otto Alder at Animation Evolution

Here’s conference organizer extraordinaire Nichola Dobson at the Saturday Conference party. Otto Alder is on the right. As someone who has helped organize several past SAS conferences, I cannot say enough about what a terrific job she did.

Paul Wells at Animation Evolution

Prolific author Paul Wells, of Loughborough University, who gave the closing keynote speech, “Another Fine Messi: Animation, Sport and Theorising Fascination,” is seen here at the conference party. Paul is certainly one of the more charismatic personalities in animation studies and his closing address did nothing to dispel this myth.

 Alan Cholondenko at Animation Evolution

Australia’s Alan Cholondenko speaking on “(The) Death (of) the Animator, or: The Felicity of Felix, Part III: Death and the Death of Death.”

Charles daCosta at Animation Evolution

Charles daCosta, my colleague from the Savannah campus of the Savannah College of Art and Design; his paper, “Who’s Out There: Halas, the Relevance of Oral Traditions and the Animated Documentary.” Charles not only ably assisted me in organizing the 2009 Atlanta conference, he took over my job when I had to go in for surgery, for which I cannot thank him enough.

Finally, many, many thanks to Nichola Dobson and the wonderful people at the Edinburgh College of Art for organizing and hosting a wonderful conference, and to Van Norris for allowing me to reprint his photos.

Last update: January 29, 2017.