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6ABLCF01 From Innovation to Illusion - Topics in Animation


Module convenor: Dr Christopher Holliday
Credits: 15
Pre-requisites: none
Teaching pattern: TBC

Module description:

What can animation as a medium tell us about the shifting cultures and societies we live in? Why does the specific formal vocabulary of animation as both an industrial art form and as a unique set of visual styles allow for the transformation and mediation of cultural norms? What conclusions can we draw regarding animation’s problematic place between popular culture and high art? This opportunity module will respond to these questions by introducing students to key topics that have supported the critical consideration of animation as a dynamic and highly popular form of visual expression. We will examine the scope of animation through a range of core concepts, such as the fundamental role of movement and motion in defining animated media; the problem of realism against forms of stylistic experimentation and abstraction; animation’s ideological function as a stage for political commentary; animated intersections with race and ethnicity; and how discourses of gender, sexuality and queer identity might be understood within a cartoon context. Our exploration of these topics will allow us to examine a range of animated examples that fully represent the medium’s diversity of styles, techniques and technologies, as well as the variant national and industrial systems from which animation has emerged throughout the twentieth-century. The case studies covered in this module will therefore invite the opportunity to explore broader social, political, historical and aesthetic paradigms as they are illustrated, articulated and negotiated across complementary axes of animated style and representation.

Module aims:

This modules aims to:

  • Explore the definition and scope of animation as a broad and inclusive medium that traverses a multiplicity of forms, modes, practices, image-making materials and technologies.
  • Provide students with the tools to critically examine the distinctive formal language of animation, and to understand its identity as an interdisciplinary art and craft.
  • Encourage students to reflect upon the ideological implications of popular animated media within the context of historical and cultural change.
  • Investigate scholarship that is interdisciplinary in scope as a way of locating animated media within a range of cultural, political and aesthetic frameworks.

Learning outcomes:

At the end of the module, a successful student will:

  • Gain a knowledge and critical understanding of a range of animated media from the early 1910s to the post-millennial period.
  • Be able to mobilise and apply historical, theoretical and aesthetic approaches to different types of animation produced by individual artists and studios.
  • Develop a greater understanding of the interplay between aesthetic choices and technological innovation that has given animation its distinctive presence across moving image culture.
  • Critically evaluate the ideological and political significance of animation as a popular medium.
  • Understand significant methods of enquiry and key academic writing, and able to effectively reflect on the suitability and relevance of this interdisciplinary scholarship to animation as an art form, a technology and an industry.

Core reading:



Assessment pattern: 2,000-word essay (35%), group e-portfolio (35%), 1,500 word annotated bibliography (30%) 

 The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.

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