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The Animated Bestiary

The Animated Bestiary: Animals, Cartoons, and Culture

Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 236
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  • Book Info
    The Animated Bestiary
    Book Description:

    Cartoonists and animators have given animals human characteristics for so long that audiences are now accustomed to seeing Bugs Bunny singing opera and Mickey Mouse walking his dog Pluto.

    The Animated Bestiary critically evaluates the depiction of animals in cartoons and animation more generally. Paul Wells argues that artists use animals to engage with issues that would be more difficult to address directly because of political, religious, or social taboos. Consequently, and principally through anthropomorphism, animation uses animals to play out a performance of gender, sex and sexuality, racial and national traits, and shifting identity, often challenging how we think about ourselves.

    Wells draws on a wide range of examples, from the original King Kongto Nick Park's Chicken Run to Disney cartoonsùsuch as Tarzan, The Jungle Book, and Brother Bearùto reflect on people by looking at the ways in which they respond to animals in cartoons and films.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4643-8
    Subjects: Performing Arts, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction: The Kong Trick
    (pp. 1-25)

    Early in my academic career, I enjoyed an incredible naiveté and ignorance, awesome in its limits and simplistic premises. When first investigatingKing Kong(Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, USA, 1933), for example, I sought only to know how King Kong had been done; my scholarly intrigue piqued only by the stunning stop-motion animation of Willis O’Brien. There seemed no other question. It was beauty killed the beast, after all, and there seemed to be no other suspects. Similarly, if you weren’t interested in Kong himself, what was the point? All you were left with was a screaming...

  5. 1 The Bear Who Wasn’t: Bestial Ambivalence
    (pp. 26-59)

    In Chuck Jones’s adaptation of Frank Tashlin’s children’s bookThe Bear That Wasn’t(Chuck Jones, USA, 1967), a bear emerges out of hibernation into aMetropolis-style factory, where he is viewed as “a silly man, who needs a shave, and wears a fur overcoat.” Though he maintains he is a bear, his protestations are ignored and he is put to oppressive, repetitive work in the factory, until he too denies his own identity. Finally, reminded of his intrinsic place in the natural order by the passing of a flock of migrating geese and the onset of autumn, he escapes the...

  6. 2 Of Mice and Men: What Do Animals Mean?
    (pp. 60-92)

    The animal story has a rich tradition in art and literature. Animated film has embraced this tradition in a number of ways, both adapting narrative elements and design idioms. The animal story has proved attractive to animators and animation storytellers because it inevitably works as part of a surreal, supernatural, or revisionist reinvention of human experience, but perhaps even more importantly has reflected the ways in which social and cultural intervention in relation to animals has evolved and developed historically.

    Describing what he argues are the special conditions by which animal painting evolved in England, for example, Basil Taylor notes:...

  7. 3 “I Don’t Care What You Say, I’m Cold”: Anthropomorphism, Practice, Narrative
    (pp. 93-134)

    I have suggested that it is vital to see how the animal discourse functions both from the point of view of those who make animated films and those who seek to offer particular models of criticism. As I have tried to demonstrate, the animated animal fits within a paradigm of bestial ambivalence, informed by the particular oscillations and cycles by which the elision of human and animal works within animated film and the varying competing scenarios within the naturalcultural divide. This begins to offer a view of the ways in which animals are represented from the point of view of...

  8. 4 Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg? Performance, Philosophy, Tradition
    (pp. 135-174)

    In a tour-de-force examination of the role of the animal in philosophic enquiry, Akira Muzuta Lippit moves seamlessly from Descartes’s view of animals as unthinking machines to Leibniz’s conception of animal as a composition of immortal, soul-like protean parts to Schopenhauer’s view of consciousness being embedded across the whole animal world and thus shared by both humankind and beasts. He addresses Rousseau’s notion of animals as sensually intelligent machines lacking in self-awareness, looking also to Kant’s, Burke’s, and Hegel’s configuration of animals within language and through their articulation in a cry or sound, taking in Lyotard’s notion that there is...

  9. 5 Creature Comforted: Animal Politics, Animated Memory
    (pp. 175-202)

    As I have developed my discussion, I have sought to establish the idea of bestial ambivalence as a model by which the flux of animal discourses can be discussed within an infrastructural model of the naturalcultural, stressing that animated animals may be viewed as supernormal stimuli recalling primal animal knowledge. Animated animals can also be understood as anthropomorphic phenomena foregrounding the acute sensibility of the animator in prompting visions of animality, and advancing a view of phenomenological performance in animal animation as a model of philosophic inquiry. My concluding chapter is an evaluation of the social and cultural outcomes that...

    (pp. 203-206)
    (pp. 207-210)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 211-224)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 225-226)