Kornhaber, Donna. "Animating the War: The First World War and Children's Cartoons in America." The Lion and the Unicorn 31.2 (2007): 132-146.
Animators of the post-Great War period, usually with experience in the front or service of military firm service, cast the war as fantastical, even comic adventures. This medium presented a delicate balance between reality and fantasy. This change was pivotal in that generation of children and had effects into the second world war. In addition, animation became a more direct and more easily produced medium for training and technical reels. This new breed of animation did not shy away from "adult" themes such as death, but applied a new logic adapted for children. The plasmaticness of form depicted in Bosko the Doughboy shows how even inanimate objects can "die", but this fantastical death cancels the underlying carnage. The sheer amount of deaths, both of animate and inanimate objects, negates death as being scary.
This desensitization of the post-Great War generation through animation is the same generation that would fight in the next world war. The problem with live cinema was that it was not genuine and actively tried to portray to soldiers a reality too different from their own. With animation, the struggle had always been between reality and fantasy. In essence, it was not supposed to be real. Animation can portray and neutralize the terrors of war, since it was fantastical and realistic. It primed soldiers to accept animation as comic, even with the insidious propaganda.
During World War II, the American government, especially the military, turned to Hollywood to aide in the creation of animated instructional films. The entire industry had little precedents and guidelines. Walt Disney, as one of the industry giants in animation, had an immense task and was instrumental in the indoctrination of GIs. This book chronicles the works from Walt Disney's studio and the profound effects it had on viewers. The particular section is the author's brief discussion of propaganda and Disney's works, The New Spirit (1943) and its sequel The Spirit of '43 (1943).
Shale states that while it is difficult to define the term propaganda, activity is key to any definition. If propaganda leads to only heightened emotions, but no action to follow, it is considered a failure. According to Shale, propaganda arouses emotions that in turn elicits vital action. But outright blatant propaganda leads to rejection. As Disney put it, "outright propaganda is resented...molding [public] opinion is something else again." Animation is key to this molding process because it is not as "real" of a medium as newsreels or drama.
A real example of this molding process was Disney's first big wartime propaganda hit, The New Spirit. The Treasury Department reported it had been seen by 32,647,000 people and according to the Gallup Poll, an astonishing 37% of viewers felt it had affected their willingness to pay their taxes. Even the great Frank Capra whose Why We Fight series indoctrinated the GIs congratulated Walt Disney and conceded that animation is the only method that could achieve certain effects that conventional film could not. Animation was the ideal medium for imparting uniform concise instruction, but in the powerful bridging manner as not to appear as outright propaganda. As opinions are molded, soldiers become less sensitive to what they perceive as wrong or not ideal and internalize those opinions as their own.
This source provides a significant amount of information regarding the history of how the Disney Company became involved with World War II propaganda films. It is essential to look at these facts carefully to provide a context for my thesis. Also, this book is important because it provides specific examples of propaganda cartoons made by the Disney Company. By examining these films closely, one can see how audiences may have been affected.
This article details some of the technological and creational aspects of Reiniger's film. First it points out how Reiniger drew her ideas for films from fairy tales and legends, which is no different for Prince Achmed (from 1001 Arabian Nights). Furthermore its use of tinting allows there to be toned backgrounds for the black silhouettes. Furthermore, Reiniger had designed an early form of multi-plane camera, which gives a 3D-effect by separating foregrounds and backgrounds into different layers. Finally, for complex movements, they had to be built from 25 to 50 pieces, all joined together with fine lead wire, showing the amount of detail that was afforded to each scene.
The article is relevant to the thesis because these techniques, each in their own way, were later used by other filmmakers both in Hollywood and in Europe. Reiniger in particular went on to work on several other puppet shows or shadow plays. The influence of Reiniger's film is particularly noted in the use of the multi-plane camera. Furthermore, the movement is fluid, and the sense of near and far is simply achieved by bringing the many transparent backdrops closer or further from the lens and the light source. As seen in class, Disney used this to create the three-dimensional animation as seen in Bambi.
Rahman, Zora. "German silhouette film meets Indonesian 'wayang'," JAKARTA POST. December 20, 2002.
The article opens with the note that it is easy to forget that Walt Disney "was once celebrated as a great artist" for his innovations in the field of animation as well as his creative abilities. However, by the late 1940s the filmmaker's critical acclaim began to wane. Critics began to see Disney as having sold out his talent to pander to popular tastes. The author argues that Walt Disney's aesthetic evolved to reflect the contradictory intersection of Victorian sentimentalism and modernism, creating a hybrid style that helped mediate an important cultural shift in the United States during the 20th Century. The author goes as far as referring to Disney as "a kind of popular Picasso" to reflect his hybrid style that combined commercial entertainment and elements of surrealism (such as fantastic imaginary settings). In response to Disney's early modernist aesthetic, Sergei Eisenstein is quoted as having said in the early 1940s that the animator's work constituted "the greatest contribution of the American people to art." However, as Disney's efforts grew increasingly dedicated to enhancing realism in animation, his style onscreen became firmly rooted in a sunny aesthetic that reflected the sentimental idealism of the Victorian tradition. Disney was working at a time when other cartoonists had already developed a modernist aesthetic (often dark and surreal), and he curbed their style with his own anthropomorphic, fantastic-yet-optimistc idealism. The author argues that Fantasia represents the embodiment of this hybrid agenda. Abstract shapes and bizarre images set to classical music form the modernist component (especially through the juxtaposition of "high" and "low" images), while the idealistic nature scenes that form the imagery for several sequences form the counterpoint of Victorian sentimentalism. Many critics of the early 1940s likened Disney's appeals to the unconscious to the trickery and even drugging of audiences.
This article provides a retrospective analysis of Walt Disney's unique artistic style at the time leading up to and including the creation of Fantasia. It is important to note the temporal distance between the realm of the article's subject (the 1930s and 1940s) and that of its author (1995). The hindsight of this 60-year lapse enables the author to draw clear distinctions between different artistic movements in history, namely Victorian sentimentalism and modernism. While Disney's work was criticized at the time for being too "cutesy" and commercially exploitative, this modern author re-defines Disney's style as an innovative hybrid of two conflicting artistic movements. Thus it is in the context of these historical paradigm shifts that the author resurrects Disney as an artist. This article relates to my thesis because the author uses historical/retrospective insight to read Fantasia as the prime example of Disney's hybrid artistic style. While many music critics of the time condemned Fantasia for destroying the classical music at the film's center, this author uses the more than 50 years since the film was made to develop an analysis that sees the "bigger picture" of how the film fit into various definitions of art.
Watts, Steven. "Walt Disney: Art and Politics in the American Century." The Journal of American History june 82 (1995): 84-96. JSTOR. University of Pennsylvania Library, Philadelphia. 24 Nov. 2008 .
This article focuses on the animated depictions of the First World War, and examines the changes in these depictions of the conflict with time. Before America joined, the cartoons showed the conflict as a setting for adventure and larger-than-life characters. After the US joined, cartoons attempted to present sanitized views of the war, often going without references to actual events at all, or instead acted as documentaries aimed at adult audiences. It was after the war, however, when animation provided the perfect medium for "recasting" the events of the war in imaginative ways which stretched reality. These changes from a real to fantastical and magical view of the world are what fueled the view, and eventual marketing, of cartoons as entertainment specifically for children.
Many of Warner Brothers' series launched around the time of the Silly Symphonies, possibly to compete with the series' success, were among the realistic depictions of the war. They included Felix Turns the Tide and Bosko the Doughboy. In the former, grim battle scenes and relatively graphic imagery conveyed the "damage, confusion, and carnage" of the conflict. In the latter, while Bosko has a relatively elastic body, this fantasy element cannot save him from injury, as compared to other, earlier cartoons that show war as "consequence-free.
This article could be useful in my thesis in supporting the view of the Silly Symphonies as moral, simple, and dream-like, as compared to the brashness of Warner Brothers animated shorts where the humor lay in obviousness and reality. It also provides extensive fuel for comparison of the Disney works of the time to those of Warner Brothers and other studios, and puts all of these films in the context of wartime media, examining the differing morals and tones with which these underlying messages were presented.
This New York Times article was written in response to the announcement of Disney's recent (2006) strategy to reintroduce animated shorts to its lineup of cinematic productions. These short programs will appear before Disney feature films in theaters. The author mentions that nearly half a century has passed since the company regularly produced short cartoons, a hiatus initially brought on by soaring production costs after World War II. According to the article, the short format is making a comeback not with the hopes of turning a profit in the short run but instead as a long-term investment. These shorts represent a relatively low-risk way of "trying out" new talent (directors, animators, especially women). A key distinction is made between the recent animated shorts that Disney has made as a "purely artistic exercise" and the new cartoons that will be more commercial in nature. The author notes that Warner Brothers tried a similar resurrection of an old commercial form (Looney Toons shorts), but they did not succeed in their attempt. According to leaders within the Disney company, this new endeavor is meant to grow the studio in the same way the shorts program grew Walt's original studio more than 70 years ago.
The article is important because it highlights the resurgence of an older form of entertainment/cultural production in modern times first as art form, then as commercial product/commodity. When the "artistic" animated shorts (''Destino,'' ''Lorenzo'' and ''The Little Match Girl'') were introduced, they utilized an antiquated format (short cartoon) to experiment with new artistic and methodological techniques. This "new wave" of shorts provided a space for the introduction of new art forms, as opposed to the upcoming variety of short cartoons that are meant to be exercises in proficiency at conventional techniques for "new talent." While the first wave of new shorts was intended to be an artistic experiment, some of the films even winning Oscars, the newer variety of shorts is designed purely as a cost-effective training ground for Disney animators. This vocational transformation supports the idea that nostalgia for old commercial formats lends them an aura of art, while the familiarity of a form in current use (even one that has recently been resurrected from an older time) makes it a prime candidate for mass commercial use. The notion that old=art and current=commodity is supported by the distinction made between the commercial plan for these two types of recent Disney shorts.
Solomon, Charles. "For Disney, Something Old (and Short) Is New Again." The New York Times 3 Dec. 2006: 22-22.
Birdwell, Michael. Technical Fairy First Class? Is this any way to Run an Army?: Private Snafu and World War II. Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television Vol. 25, 2 (2005): 203-212.
This article explains how Private Snafu was brought about and why he was brought about. Snafu was the anti-soldier: he kept idle, left weapons in disrepair, skipped training, and so forth. He "died--again, and again and again--so that many GIs might live". Snafu was a tool of indoctrination that the military believed was necessary for the average GI. The lack of censorship for crass behavior catered to the soldier's need for humor and escape from the mundane training videos and dramas.
Chuck Jones used the voice of Bugs Bunny for Private Snafu's voice, creating a dissonance. Soldiers associated Bugs Bunny with wit, doing the right thing; Snafu, on the other hand, does the wrong thing, but still preserves two essential traits of Bugs Bunny: disrespect for authority and a knack for smart-aleck remarks. This dissonance leads soldiers to distance themselves from Snafu and unite against his blunders. The message is clear: every GI could be snafu. As mentioned in the article, the Private Snafu series was an antidote to the tedious training videos and reinforced what they had learned from those training videos. Additionally, the parody of Jiminy Cricket, the Technical Fairy First Class, served to represent the shortcuts in the military that always backfires. In end, Snafu is bi-polar: on one hand, we have the normal non-career solider that the GIs related to and on the other, we have the anti-soldier that GIs had to alienate against. This enforces obedient behavior--the "if I follow orders, I will be fine" mentality. It desensitizes them against reality, in hopes of staying alive.
The article exclusively discusses the technological aspects of animation, particularly in Disney. Chadwell argues that technology drives illusion, which is the "foundation of animation." Disney was interested in the technological aspects of animation; the entire team that worked on a film was essentially an assembly line, with each member contributing their little part to the whole. In the end it is the complete product that viewers are interested in; therefore, the credit too went to the company or a major figurehead rather than the individual animators. Furthermore, he points out that the multiplane camera's primary role was to create the illusion of depth to make the film more realistic. Essentially, Disney's investment in Snow White was predicated on the use of new technology, which eventually led to the success of this film and future ones, as well.
The article is relevant to the thesis, albeit in a limited fashion, because it deals with Disney's use of the multiplane camera in the making of his first feature film. Reiniger established a similar technique a decade earlier. By lighting a background image less, the main action and characters are brought to the forefront while detail of the backdrop still remains, thus creating an illusion of depth. Obviously Snow White was a technologically superior film given the decade to perfect this piece of technology, yet Reiniger's influence on Disney is once again apparent. The misshapen evil characters of many Disney films are also influenced by Reiniger's jagged, stylized demons and sorcerers. All together, Reiniger's influence was derived not only from her work on Prince Achmed, but the experimental nature and abundance of her work.
Chadwell, Sean. "Technological Determinism and the Poisoned Apple: The Case of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Reconstruction 8.2, 2008.
This detailed press kit includes an excerpt from Lotte Reiniger's own article "Scissors make films," discussing her work with silhouette animation, a synopsis of the film and a plethora of detail regarding the technology and experimental techniques employed in the film. The kit notes the expressive movement of Reiniger's silhouettes, probably learned at Reinhardt's school and through her work in silent film. Also of note was the selection of the piece as Expressionist. Fairy tales and fables would inspire Disney, too. The Arabian Nights were so fantastic, with flying horses, demons and mutable forms, that animation would be an appropriate medium, particularly aided by Expressionism. The kit also documents some social aspects relevant to the film. Post-WWI inflation deflated the value of German currency so making a film was not very expensive and such an epic project was not as great a burden.
The document is relevant to the thesis because it details the technology and Expressionist styles that would later become associated with other Hollywood (particularly Disney) films. The experimental techniques are now commonplace, but back then, working on animating waves or twinkling stars as Bertold Bartosch did was a technological feat. A decade later, Disney would employ these techniques in their animated films. Reiniger's film was certainly more abstract than the features Disney would make, but the ideological context of the film was consistent with Expressionism. Furthermore, the use of Zeller's score created rhythmic, surreal movement- another hallmark of German Expressionism.
Pidhajny, Carl. "The Adventures of Prince Achmed Press Kit." Milestone Film, 2001.
This article reviews the techniques and Expressionist plot devices used to create the characters' emotions and stylized sets. Of note is the detail about the characters and the silhouettes. The silhouettes are intricate and include specific corporal detail about the hands and eyes. Even an imaginary camera is created as Reiniger uses panoramic shots, long shots, close-ups, different camera angles, and even special effects. She would later make other films such as Carmen, Papageno, Dr. Dolittle and His Animal. The article particularly discusses the Island of Wak Wak; it is as exotic, or perhaps more so, as the main city, with shots including a great amount of fantastical detail. The tropical rain forest on Wak Wak has twisted trees and outspread fronds that resemble the twisted limbs and outspread fingers of the characters. Finally, the climactic battle is filled with complex action and jagged-shaped, fantastical monsters being diced by Prince Achmed. Even the scene where Aladdin and the witch are summoning the genie, the lighting is innovative and unique for a shadow play.
The article is relevant to the thesis in its detail of the Expressionist devices and the techniques used in the film. The mid-1920s, when Reiniger made her film, were in the heart of the German Expressionist movement. Reiniger had learned from and with some of the influential Expressionist directors, so it was no surprise that Prince Achmed would have so many Expressionist techniques. Expressionism was appropriate for the plot as well since it dealt with an exotic Middle Eastern tale filled with magic and fantasy.
Kemnitz, Thomas M. "The Cartoon as a Historical Source." Journal of Interdisciplinary History Vol. 4, No. 1 (1973): 81-93.
Cartoons often capture the seriously formed judgment, usually representative of the prevailing national sentiment, of a prominent idea, situation, or event, though in humorous terms. The key of these sources is how the current national opinion of that time differs (or not) from the current opinion of the viewer. The power of cartoons lies in how it conveys its message quickly and pungently. The rest of the article describes the six specific interrelated areas for investigation, which include artists and method by which cartoon reaches people, but this is less relevant to my thesis.
This is a guiding framework for this paper. It is crucial in watching the propagandistic animation to consider how the expressed views reflected public opinion and how the views tried to shape public opinion. It suggests that there are two types of cartoons: the joke cartoon and the cartoon of opinion. The propaganda falls under the second type, which are cartoons that try to advance a particular agenda of sentiment, as opposed to the joke cartoon, which tries to capture a sentiment in one moment. In particular, I tried to look at the medium, in this case film, to transmit the opinion to the target audience, the soldiers. In Spies (1943, Private Snafu series), there are the buck-teeth Japanese spies and objectification of the German female spy, which is funny as an animation, but underscores the point that no one is to be trusted. I propose that the blend of joke cartoon (such as the objectification of the Nazi woman's breasts as a transmitter) and the cartoon of opinion ( the point that everyone can be a spy) associates a serious message with humor and makes acceptance easier, leading to desensitization.
This book is an enormous print compilation of Disney sketches and animated stills accompanied by text discussing early animation, its principles and appeal, the procedure of putting animation on the screen, character development, animating expressions and dialogue, acting, and other aspects of the technical and nitty-gritty details of how animation works. On page 292, in the Music and Sound section, it devotes an entire page to an example of how composed music and sound effects were synched with the animation. The example is from Three Little Pigs, and includes a sketch of the pig who built with straw running towards his home to take refuge from the wolf.
Beside the sketch are two strips, or "exposure sheets," which show how the pig's movements and actions change with time using little thumbnail sketches along paper with divisions representing time on screen. The main accents of the scene, such as going through the door, slamming the door, opening the door, pulling in the Welcome mat, and closing the door once more are shown along the strips, placed according to which frame contains the action. Where each measure of music falls is notated along the strips as well, and the swelling or dropping off of the line of action through the frames must resonate with the music synched with the film. This is a perfect example of the meticulous detail and effort put in by Disney animators that imparted quality to the resulting films and gave the studio a competitive edge.
The document is a primary source, and a perfect example of the care and extra work put in by Disney employees that is discussed in other sources. It gets into the detail of exactly how the amazing feats Disney studios was able to achieve were performed, and Three Little Pigs is a great example of the effective use of synchronized sound. This illustration, and the accompanying discussion, helps me prove that sound effects and music were part of what made Three Little Pigs so astounding. In addition, this book is almost a bible, filled with details of the animating process which would help me gather background information to discuss other aspects of my argument such as illustration and other animation methods which helped in characterization, as well as color and photography methods.
This article analyzes the use of silhouettes and shadows in plays and film and the relevant history regarding Chinese shadow plays. The article primarily references Shadows (1922), a film that features the "familiar visual patterns, performance styles, and chiaroscuro lighting effects associated with German Expressionist films." Once again it is noted how the shadow play techniques were used to reveal hidden fears and desires and heighten the supernatural elements of their films. In China, some of the earliest films featuring Chinese figures focused on the "mutable, strange body and featured tricks that defied physical limitations" much like the Expressionists and animators were trying to achieve with their fantasy realms.
The article is relevant to the thesis because Reiniger's use of silhouette animation was vital to future films. She would go on to collaborate with other directors to make scenes of shadow plays for other films. The lighting and detail of her silhouettes conveyed the sense of fantasy in the film. The article also points out how the "emphasis on shadow plays and silhouettes is important for a film stressing faith in images." The body language of all the characters, for example in the scene where Achmed is kissing the five servant girls and they begin fighting, is so detailed that the shadows seem to take a life of their own.
Maurice, Alice. "What the Shadow Knows: Race, Image, and Meaning in Shadows (1922)" Cinema Journal. 47, Number 3, Spring 2008.