TOON VS ACTOR – project IV


Some film-making rules and shots:

In the updated brief we find out that Jemma wants us to use the information from the lectures. I decided to put them all in here just for clarity.

I’ve found two pages with examples of different types of film shots. I find them very useful since I don’t feel like a boss in this mater, yet.

camera shots types 1   camera shots types 2

Here is a complex explanation/reminder of the 180 degree rule.

And here we have an alternative example and explenation of the Kuleshov effect.

Additional materials from Jemma:

I asked Jemma for the additional research content that she could recommend, I admit that most of it was difficult to read (it took some concentration and self motivation to try and read it with understanding) but I feel like now I have broader view on the brief matter and not only.

Crossing Borders and Opening Boxes: Disney and Hybrid Animation


This article is analysing the process of making and the outcome of Disney’s animation/live action hybrid “The Three Caballeros”(1945).

“The Tree Caballeros” was a coldly welcomed attempt to support America’s “good neighbour” policy. Even thought Disney send the crew to Mexico in order to gather inspirations for a film and collect information about the culture it turned out to be a cliché.

“It may simply be, as Burton-Carvajal offers, that Disney “felt
the need to reassure” our South American neighbors “that they need feel no threat from this North American neighbor” (143). But if so it is a rather one-sided reassurance, suggesting that crossing the border—stylistic, cultural, or sexual—has it’s pleasures and it’s perils, leaving us in a realm where the one certainty, as Foucault offers, is that all “certainties. . . are immediately upset,” and where even images of joy and harmony come to seem strained and constructed.” – Ref. 1

I do agree with most of the things I found in this article but there is something that really annoys me. I believe the author over analysed the film.

Take a look at this –  “Carmen Molina appears in a stylized Mexican cowboy costume, brandishing a riding crop as she dances. When she beckons to Donald, he rushes to join her but is almost immediately crowded out by several lines of animated cactuses. They then take his place in the dance, their emphatically phallic shapes mocking his apparent desire and again suggesting his irrelevance here.” – Ref. 2 – I’m sorry but I really don’t think this was the concept. I mean yeah the whole film is sexist and full of cheap things of this sort but that has gone to far. Show me the proof or it’s an absurd (btw it was always about making fun of Donald and about making him angry).

Now lets ignore the ‘finding a hole in all’ and take a look at what Telotte says about hybrid animation.

“One of the initial reasons for adopting the hybrid approach was that it allowed the studio to reduce the amount of animation that was needed. And given the simple lack of animation talent available when Walt and Roy Disney began their company and their need for speedy production to meet the distributor’s demands, it was a logical response. Incorporating live-action footage meant fewer animators were needed, simple backgrounds could be used for the live action, the live actors provided useful scaling and timing measures for the animated figures, and, very simply, films could be produced more rapidly. These economies, as well as various stylistic options to which this approach lent itself, also explain why several other early animators employed it, including such pioneers as Winsor McCay and Earl Hurd. (…) Yet that approach had its drawbacks, both for an increasingly sophisticated audience that began to recognize when short-cuts were being taken, and for animators, particularly those at Disney, who were being guided by a realist aesthetic that came to be known as “illusion of life”.4 Properly synchronizing the actions of the live actors with the animated figures was, of course, always difficult, and the three-dimensional presence of live actors cast the two dimensionality of their animated counterparts and contexts into unflattering relief.5 As animation became more realistic, that three dimensionality also necessitated a greater concern with composition, since live actors operating primarily on a two-dimensional axis only underscored the cartoon’s artifice. As a result, perspective had to receive more attention and action had to be depicted in depth. Additionally, any contact between the live actors and the animated figures proved difficult and increasingly unconvincing. As veteran animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston note, they found it “difficult to know how the final pieces would all fit together and to judge how anyone should act” (525). In fact, the Alice cartoons at times only accomplished this effect by emphasizing those “pieces,” posing cut-out photographs of Alice and animating them along with the drawn characters on the frame’s horizontal axis. This approach, however, only reinforced her two-dimensionality and thus the very constructed nature of the image. In general, this inability to get away from a two-dimensional, constructed look and to fashion a convincing level of interaction proved consistently troublesome and resulted in the most successful animators eventually abandoning this approach as audiences and the industry alike came to expect more realistic cartooning, in keeping with that “illusion of life”.” – Ref. 3

“But there was something inevitably frustrating about the hybrid films: how they troubled both that “illusion of life” and our sense of the real, especially as they situated the human in a world of uncertainty where all borders are clearly arbitrary and constructed to serve an effect or narrative end, and as they rendered interaction not as natural but as a pivot-point of curiosity. This sensibility was basically foreign to Disney, whose narratives firmly adhered to classical conventions and their certainties.” – Ref. 4

“There is nothing sensual, no hybrid animation, not even a suggestion of a real South
America to which North American viewers might be brought closer. Opening that first box only produces an amusing take on south-of-the-border folklore, done in the familiar Disney manner, with just a hint that the ensuing narrative will bring us closer to these sorts of strange birds.” – Ref. 5

“Like animation intruded into live action, it only reminds us of the depth-less nature of the film world, the unreality of its visions—a confrontation, as I have implied, that seems implicit in the hybrid style itself.” – Ref. 6

Walt Disney’s Song of the South and the Politics of Animation

by M. Thomas Inge

This article is analysing the process of making and the outcome of Disney’s animation/live action hybrid “Song of the South”(1946).

Making “Song of the South” at that time was very dangerous. The film is moving the subject of cultural differences and harsh reaction to it, is a perfect example that sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you try. If someone wants to find a problem, it’s not a problem at all…  Public reaction was bad partially because it wasn’t the best time for a story like this (or maybe it was, in the end it was James Baskett who played the main role and he received Academy Honorary Award for it, I’d say it was worth it) and in my opinion the research on the audience was insufficient. I myself don’t see the film as racist also I’ve seen many people commenting on the internet that they are confused how could anybody think of this as a racist feature and that they love the film (most of the people were from the U.S.).

racist.png– Ref. 7

“In its press release, the Roundtable reported that “The film depicts blacks as happy-go-lucky, submissive, storytelling, servants and helpmates” (Hutchinson 2007). That is not exactly an accurate description of the sins of the film. Its sins were in equivocating about and finally not deciding whether the film portrayed the South before or after the war and not understanding the consequences of that nondecision. The result looked too much lie the “moonlight and magnolia” myth of the Old South. Remus may indeed be a storyteller, but he is also responsible, assertive, and independent in his actions. He is no more or less an Uncle Tom than Joel Chandler Harris’s original, and neither Remus was a one-dimensional character meant to demean or denigrate African Americans.” (…) “In the final scene of Song of the South Uncle Remus takes the hand of a white child on one side and the hand of a black on the other as they pass over the hill together. That was the symbol of racial harmony intended, but not the racial dilemma that resulted.” – Ref. 8

Disney had little knowledge of the South and it’s history, that’s why he was trying to find out as much as possible about it. In order to make the script fair he had 3 different people working on it, and he send it to different people he trusted as well as some ‘human rights’ leaders asking for their opinion. Disney put a lot of effort in to breaking stereotypes – “(…) omitted terms like “negro boy” and “negro girl”, deleted lines like one that said a boy ran “like a black streak” and made a Reconstruction context clear by reducing the white family to poverty so that blacks were not perceived as deferring to white masters (…) suggesting that any “cheap, stereotypical humor” about blacks be avoided, especially portrayals of “the eye-rolling, hysterical, easily frightened, stupid sort of Negro”.” – Ref. 9

– Ref. 10

“In the fall of 1942 Disney sent Blair to Atlanta and rural Georgia for a week to draw and paint what she saw. Her stylized “paintings of Georgia cotton and corn fields, dusty red roads, wooden shacks, plantation mansions, and burning sunsets” provided inspiration for many of the backgrounds found in the special effects sequences of Song of the South. (…) To have the film framed most effectively, Disney hired as the cinematographer for the live action portions Gregg Toland, who had achieved distinction for his stunning camera work on Citizen Kane, Grapes of Wrath, and Wuthering Heights.” – Ref. 11 (I find these concept art paintings beautiful, Mary Blair is my new favourite artist).

Unfortunately film can’t only look nice, the story must bee good as well.

“Despite all this good advice, much of which Disney tried to follow, and the use of some of the best talents available, when the film was released on 1 Nov. 1946, it met with a lukewarm response from critics and reviewers, but an overwhelming storm of protest from the black political community. The animated sequences generally brought praise for their usual Disney energy, engaging humor, and technical virtuosity, and the musical numbers were greatly admired, especially “Zip-a-dee Do-Dah” which won an Academy Award as the best movie song of 1946. However, the main plot was considered too sentimental and contrived in its obvious emphasis on family values. The 30% of the film that was beautifully animated could not make up for the 70% that was conventional melodrama.” – Ref. 12

While reading next fragment please note that Mr Walter White was invited by Disney to consult about the film, but he declined (don’t you think that people who refused the help should have no right to say anything about in the matter? Just how rude.)

“On the day the film opened in New York, 27 Nov. 1946, Walter White on behalf of the NAACP, sent a telegram to the press that both praised the film and found it offensive: “The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People recognises in Song of the South remarkable artistic merit in the music and in the combination of live actors and the cartoon technique. It regrets, however, that in an effort neither to offend audiences in the north or south, the production helps to perpetuate a dangerously glorified posture of slavery. Making use or the beautiful Uncle Remus folklore, Song of the South unfortunately gives the impression of an idyllic master-slave relationship which is a distortion of the facts” (Cohen [Forbidden Animation: Censored Cartoons and Blacklisted Animators in America] 60-61).” – Ref. 13

What happened afterwards where people calling Uncle Remus – UNCLE TOM, and a lot of aggressiveness towards the feature. Not many people were talking about the hybrid side of the film cause they were too busy being offended… The hybrid side is on the same level as The Three Caballeros, but with the change that I actually liked this film (I find The Three Caballeros boring, and the songs…. lets just say I’m not a big fan), the medium was chosen because of the shortage of animators and money, so again the same reason as in The Three Caballeros, for all this responsible – II World War.

Shadow of a mouse

by D. Crafton

– Ref. 14

As we can read in the description of the book, Crafton is trying to find the answer for the following questions: “Are animated characters actors and stars, just like humans? Why do their performances seem live and present, despite our knowing that they are drawings? Why is animation obsessed with distressing the body? Why were California regional artists and Stanislavsky so influential on Disney? Why are the histories of animation and popular theater performance inseparable? How was pictorial space constructed to accommodate embodied acting? Do cartoon performances stimulate positive or negative behaviors in audiences? Why is there so much extreme eating? And why are seemingly insignificant shadows vitally important?” – Ref. 15 

For this project we are interested in the chapter 2. Live and in Person: Toons! (chapter is split in to 5 subsections) and this particular one is focusing on the questions: are animated characters actors & stars and why the performances seem live. I am going to try and focus on the animation parts of this chapter.

Subsection I – AGENCY

First, the meaning of the word “agency” used in this chapter – “I am mainly interested in the complicated agency that the viewers and the animators devise for the cartoon bodies. The great conundrum here is why do viewers understand these performers to be present and independent, and the performances to be as live as those in non-animated movies?” – Ref. 16

“It appears at first that the animators have all the agency because everything that happens in the performance derives from them. Brad Bird, Don Graham, and others have insisted that everything in a cartoon is motivated, put there on a purpose. As one Pixar animator expressed it, “You can do anything in animation, performance-wise. . . . You can capture something, manufacture a performance sometimes with more control than even an actor would.”2 This means that even if the toons seem to have free agency on-screen, that perception was constructed by the cartoonists and therefore is not physical agency but a re-performance of it. Expressed another way, from Bird’s point of view, the toons’ agency is a figuration of the animator’s control.

          However, as you should suspect by now, this explanation is too simple. Agency isn’t just a manufactured extension of a cultural object, nor is it an innate property. It’s generated by the total experience of a performance as an ironic doubling of bodies, where the one in is perceived differently from the bodies of the performance. In Western drama, as well as in popular culture generally, performing beings such as actors traditionally have been regarded as entities separate from the beings that they perform, which are characters. Analogously, cartoon character agency plays with setting up aesthetic distances between the on-screen beings, the human animators allegedly in control, and the audience which often is assumed to be a collection of passive spectators bu isn’t. The performativity of toons is comparable to that of participants in other theatrical forms, such as puppets and trained animals that exploit ambivalent agency as entertainment.” – Ref. 17

“Toons, like filmed animals, are mediatized figures that are designed and received ironically. They exploit, as Burt says, “the ambiguity that acting is both a form of agency and something done under the direction of somebody else.”13 He continues, “If one is to consider what it means of an animal [and, I claim, a cartoon character] to act then one has to take into account not just the mechanics of training, but the whole network of interactions between animal and humans including the general effects sought by the filmmakers and their impact on an audience.”14 Similar to animal actors, toons act an have agency because we grant it to them as part of the performance of animation and then we deem it to be authentic.” – Ref. 18

Technologies such as motion capture produce “digital puppetry” without the benefit of preexisting filmed puppets. 34 They populate “animated” and “live-action” films alike, confounding the distinctions historically implied by those labels. These puppets are often undetectable as constructed beings. Perhaps, then, they are the quintessence of the longed for embodiment without a human body or the “appearance of life without having life” for those who saw their ideal actors in fantoches and über-marionettes.” – Ref. 19 – (term ‘über-marionettes’ – explained in the next quote)

Fantoche puppets

– Ref. 20

“English theater personage Edward Gordon Craig (1872 – 1966) campaigned for an actorless stage where the text would be delivered by “über-marionettes” transmitting the thoughts of the playwright-puppeteer.19 He too was antiembodiment. “Do away with the actor,” he cried, “and you do away with the means by which a debased stage-realism is produced and flourishes. No longer would there be a living figure to confuse us into connecting actuality and art; no longer living figure in which the weakness and tremors of the flesh were perceptible. . . . The über-marionette will not compete with life–rather will it go beyond it. Its ideal will not be the flesh and blood but rather the body in trance–it will aim to clothe itself with a death-like beauty while exhaling a living spirit.”20”  Ref. 21

This made me realise that in a way 3D build/animated and mocap characters are kind of like puppets. So Craig’s dream came true but did it really? When the 3D film is made there is more than one animator so every piece is made by a different animator and so it will be different. So we did create über-marionette but in order to make a normal length play or a film on your own it would take you a life time or soo….

“Toons resisting their control-freak creators thrived as a cartoon motif. Betty, not Max, stage-manages the show in Rise to Fame. She decides when to dance topless and when to duck behind her dressing screen to change costumes. She is the agent controlling the performance, the one who inks the voyeuristic reporter at the end. Maria Lorenzo Hernandez calls such situations examples of equivocal identity: “The narrative pretext lies on the audience’s initial mistake regarding the situation, eventually mitigated by the sudden emergence of the character’s authentic nature, making the animated short film an elongated gad.”36 We accept that Betty has agency, but it proves to be inauthentic when she reverts to ink. The villains nearly eradicate the animator in A Cartoonist’s Nightmare. Porky Pig (You Ought to Be in Pictures, Friz Freleng/Schlesinger, 1940) and Elmer Fudd (The Big Snooze, Robert Clampett/Warner Bros.,1946) petulantly tear up their studio contracts. The tradition continues in modern independent animation, as when the “bookling” drawings get uppity with the animator who appears as a rotoscoped actor in Pencil Booklings (Kathy Rose, 1978) or as do the filmmaker’s avatars in Animator vs. Animation (Alan Becker, 2006). The conclusions of the stories reestablish (although not quite exactly) the narrative stability of the opening, a situation that is perhaps best symbolized by KO-KO reentering the metonymic inkwell. This type of ending establishes the toons as equivocal identities and suggests, as Bird insists, that the animators are in command of toon agency because they are the filmmakers and are in charge of everything, thus explaining why toon rebellions are doomed to fail. Although toons may appear to rebel against their creators, they cannot. Nor ca the animators grant physical agency to their toons, setting them free, as it were.37 Perhaps it’s the case that toons have agency in the world they share with the viewers, the animators have agency in the world they share with the toons, and audiences have agency in both worlds.” – Ref. 22


“(…) it should be clear that only the childishly naive or delusional would perceive toons as living, flesh-and-blood, corporeal,physical, lived bodies (a fine string of euphemisms for “real beings”). Nevertheless, as works of fiction, as cinema, and as preformative events, the actors of animation, as inhabitants of and agents in their cinema worlds, intersect with our living world. I encounter their bodies with my intelligence, my belief, and my experience as I watch them in real time in a real place, whether in a picture palace, in a classroom or living room, or on my handheld device. The filmmakers have exploited this over the years, inviting viewers to embrace their constructed beings and their environments just as viewers would the other actors and locales on the movie program. Steven Shaviro notes of cinema in general that “images themselves are immaterial, but their effect is all the more physical and corporeal.”38 Film-making conceits such as the one that cartoons are filmed recordings of “live” toons show the effort to draw the viewer into the Tooniverse. Such films construct the action as live, sensory, and immediate. They postulate the toons as corporeal performers.” – Ref. 23

“Our belief in the existence of ghosts (or, more likely, our imagining that we believe in them) provides the rational template to explain the irrational. Robert Spadoni describes this consciousness as arising from “inanimate objects that momentarily appear to be alive and, conversely, animate ones that appear not to be alive.”64 Similarly, toons too are both present and missing; they are palpably acting on the screen, yet they are absent inasmuch as they are images without physical bodies off-screen.” – Ref. 24

“Brown concludes with an observation that is critical for understanding how animation–and non-animated cinema, for that matter–may be live: “‘Liveliness’ and ‘presence’ must be understood as qualities experienced by an audience of a performance. A performer does not necessarily need to be ‘alive’ in order to convince an audience member that their performance is ‘live’. A performer does not necessarily need to be ‘present’ in order to demonstrate ‘presence’. Instead, the performer performs presence and performs liveness. Therefore, presence and liveness, viewed in this way, are beliefs held by the audience.”69” – Ref. 25

“Animated characters often have appeared onscreen with filmed humans, and humans have often performed as toons. Most of Cohl’s films use hybrid or alternating scenes of human actors and animated action. Animation’s early association with vaudeville also anchored the form in the framework of liveness.” – Ref. 26

“After McCay would put Gertie through her paces during his stage version, and he had entered the frame to have her carry him off for the finale, live McCay returned for his curtain call and brought out “live” on-screen Gertie for hers. Although the sequence was not included in the 1914 film version, the stage performance (for which some of the original drawings exist) had Gertie returning for her curtain call. She bows to the audience and acknowledges their applause (Figure 7).71 Another early example is from Alice’s Wonderland (Ub Iwerks/Disney, 1923). An animated mouse on a drawing board pokes a “live” cat in the ear, essentially engaging it as though it were a fellow toon (Figure 8). Alice enters the animated world by camera tricks and performs toonally (for example, by graphically signalling her emotions as punctuation marks). In Rudy Vallee Melodies (Dave Fleischer, 1932) Betty “brings to life” the most popular crooner of her day by inviting him to join her party. She conjures Vallee’s portrait from a sheet music cover into the live-action filmed singer. The “human” animator in The Cartoonist’s Nightmare is made to experience what it’s like to be a toon. (It’s not pleasant._ There cartoons “work” because on film the live-animated relationship is transposable. This explains how Betty can act as a “live” character and have a conversation with “live” Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Viewers are content in their belief that they’re both movie actors. And, more generally, the predilection for animated films to adapt fairy tales or to make original narratives with fairytale-like stories shows a pantheistic belief in the continuity and interchangeability of living and inanimate beings.

– Ref. 27


– Ref. 28

When Disney pushed his animators to innovate embodied acting, personality animation, and toon behaviour based on human emotions, he was attempting to reduce the live-real gap of proximal liveness. “Life” became on of his favourite metaphors. He repeatedly exhorted his staff to provide audiences with “a caricature of life and action.”72 In some revealing remarks on Snow White, he professed a Stanislavskian belief in the ability of animation to provide individuation, emotion, and personality that of passe Mickey Mouse–as “just shadows”: “Our most important aim is to develop definite personalities in our cartoon characters. We don’t want them to be just shadows, for merely as moving figures they would provoke no emotional response from the public. Nor do we want them to parallel or assume to aspects of human beings or human actions. We invest them with life by endowing them with human weaknesses which we exaggerate in a humorous way. Rather than a caricature of individuals, our work is a caricature of life.”73
          Disney, despite a bit of obfuscation, honed in on a crucial attribute of animation performance. In non-animated film performance, representation relies on photographic traces of human actors. Cartoon Performance, however, with its manufactured bodies and environments, allows more control over the degree of liveness than does non-animated film. Disney’s experiments focused on the animators, whom he charged with drawing the characters in moving and expressive ways to “invest them with life,” that is, to make it easier for viewers to experience them as individualized actors a participate in world-making as they would in ordinary cinema. At the same time, he implies that an excessively mimetic style (for instance, rotoscoping) would paradoxically deprive the beings of some of their liveness if their properties as toons diminished too much.74
Animators from most of the studios developed a penchant for simulating the optical conditions of photography in the animation drawings.75 Incorporating animated “accidents” into the film (breaks in projection, out-of-focus shots, hair in the picture, peeks at Betty’s bra) exploited neatly the conundrum of cartoon liveness. In Mickey’s Fire Brigade (Ben Sharpsteen/Disney, 1935), a fire hose sprays the “lens” of the “camera” and the water sheets down, distorting the image for a second. There are layers of liveness here: first, it’s implied that the scene is being acted out in front of us, as if it were a filmed movie with “live” action. (If that had really been the case, the cartoon might have been a token, not a performance.) Second, although the performance is occurring in the real time of projection for the theater audience, it’s obvious that the plot is set in another time and place, and that the cartoon has been executed in the past. Furthermore, we have no expectations that the hose will get us wet. Then the exaggerated, vertiginous point-of-view shots exploit somatic immersion in the scene (the famous rollercoaster effect). That Mickey careening on his ladder can make us woozy suggests that the experience is as live as real life.” – Ref. 29

Subsection III – A STAR IS DRAWN

“Caricatures of powerful Hollywood personalities also demonstrate how toons acquire agency through parody. Drawing movie czar Will Hays as the crowned “king” of Hollywood in Mickey’s Gala Premier (Burt Gillett/Disney, 1933), or smudging the line between human and animated existence and venturing into the uncanny valley by having toon Betty address human Chevalier too intimately as “Chevy”, are animators’ ways of mixing bouquets and brickbats: flattering by inclusion, while mocking or demanding in the social agency of Hays and the megastar cred of Chevalier. The filmmakers imported these non-animated movie-star trappings to reperform the artifice of stardom.” – Ref. 30

“Star identities are created and function in the same way for toon and human performers because this process is a function of the animate performance, external to the films. Certainly, studios, animators, and commercial sponsors would like their characters to be idolized at home, at the box office, and in the toy store and supermarkets, but these volatile meanings are not something they can tonrol.
Toon and human stars share the bond of both being highly constructed identities that develop over time, a performativity that extends beyond their acting in any particular film. 87″ – Ref. 31

“When we learn about Betty’s professional history and private life from her films and the visit of the fan magazine reporter, it is comparable to what the public understood about the private lives of their human stars.” – Ref. 32

“Graver has challenged Stanislavsky’s embodiment model that posits twinned actors, one “living” and another being who is the character represented on stage. In fact, he claims that members of theatrical audiences scarcely attend to the actor: “We do not really see the character in a drama in addition to the actor representing that character; rather we see the actor as a character withing drama’s universe of discourse.”99 For animation performance, we might rewrite this as: We don’t regard toons as additions to the animators (acting); rather, we see the animators’ conditional performance and the toons’ performance unified as one in the Tooniverse.” – Ref. 33


“What we consider actin in cartoons is really no different from other acting, whether on or off the movie screen. In the age of artificial intelligence ans the convergence of humans and computers in the arts, entertainment, and everyday life, it’s increasingly likely that performativity will become a crucial issue.” – Ref. 34

“Naremore introduced his foundational text on screen acting by observing, “The most interesting figures on the screen often look ‘natural,’ as if they were merely lending themselves to the manipulations of script, camera, and editing.” It’s unlikely that he had animated actors in mind, but his words are pertinent. We sense a strong performing presence, even in those toons that are simple figurations, as thought they’re at home in their worlds. Characters in the embodied more are capable of poignant or comic engagement by viewers. Naremore concludes, “Clearly films depend on a form of communication whereby meanings are acted out; the experience of watching them involves not only a pleasure in storytelling but also a delight in bodies and expressive movement, an enjoyment o familiar performing skills, and an interest in players as ‘real persons.'”110 Cartoons give us real movement, real acting, real-time performances. They convey liveness. That the actors don’t possess real bodies is irrelevant because the animators, as the mainstream filmmakers did, have provided them in the form of implied bodies and made-up biographies. What the cartoonists don’t supply, fans do.
(…) Not only may toons be constituted as personages and accepted as stars, but it is entirely possible that certain animated performers and performances will be more effective than those in mainstream movies. This might be the case, for example, with the child actors in Grave of the Fireflies (Isao Takahata, 1988) or the animated autobiographical protagonist of Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman, 2008), As for favourite performers, assuredly there are those who will prefer Betty to Ginger, Mickey to John Wayne, or Homer Simpson to… well, to anyone.” – Ref. 35

Shortly saying – even though toons exist thanks to the animators we believe they are independent and like actors they can be stars. If the animator did a good job, toon will be “alive” and the audience will feel it, therfore they will make it even more real than it actually is.

The Mark of Postmodernism: Reading Roger Rabbit

by Hugh J. Silverman

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (Zemeckis, 1988) bears the traces of a postmodernity. Behind this simple animation film and its spectacular technology, behind these drawings of a cute little alcoholic rabbit anxious about the intentions of his voluptuous wife, lurks an “epistemological rupture.” The author demonstrates how the film is caught up in a game of boundaries, conventions and genres transgressed, in multiple folds of codes looping back on themselves, in reiterations of ironic quotes. He shows how Roger Rabbit might be considered an obsolete figure transformed into a postmodern hero.” – Ref. 36

“Hoskins goes to the night club where she (Jessica Rabbit) works only to learn that she is a beautiful, sensuous, night-club singer. Humans, mostly men, are sitting at their tables waiting for her to come on stage. They are served by penguins — the penguins are of course cartoons. We have become accustomed by this point of dissonance (or catacresis?) produced by both humans and cartoon figures at the same time. Fortunately humans are from another era which keeps us from immediate identification and also maintains the juxtaposition. Then Jessica comes on the stage: but she is not an animal cartoon; she is a human cartoon. So Roger Rabbit is married to a human cartoon. We have to keep our categories straight. Sorting them out, we find 1940’s humans, cartoon animals who talk, and cartoon humans. They all now occupy the same spaces in Toontown.” – Ref. 37

“Roger is an anachronism. Thoroughly “of the modern,” yet without a place in the new Olympus of cartoon heroes. Roger could hardly count as a Superhero, an Extraterrestrial, an inventive sleuth. Roger is too ordinary a cartoon figure. He is not really even funny. He is more pathetic than anything else — not to be admired, not to be extolled, not even to be pitied. Roger is an unmistakably ordinary cartoon character. If not careful, he could be mistaken for the Easter Bunny. And in the light of his drinking problem, if he is not careful, he might not make it out of Mr. MacGreggor’s garden. In a way, Roger belongs more in a Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neil, or Arthur Miller play than in some high-powered Whodunit. And yet Roger is not out of place in the film. He is “unpresentable in the presentation” because he operates difference in the ordinary abounds. But it is not because Roger is ordinary that the film is modern. It would have been ordinary in 1947 perhaps — but the anachronistic elements comprise the present of the film. And Roger traces out the modern — puts it in quotes — and thereby articulates — or better: marks — the postmodern in the modern.” – Ref. 38

As a character itself Roger is very special. He is as old as he is new – he is modern as he is postmodern – he follows the rules as he breaks the rules.  (I’ll talk of it’s hybrid aspects later)

The ILM Version: Recent Digital Effects and the Aesthetics of 1970s Cinematography
by Julie Turnock

     “How is it that when watching films like the recent
Star Trek (2009) or X-Men Origins: Wolverine
(2009), wecan generally state with confidence
that the effects were good, or not? A common
notion of realism in special effects involves an appeal
to the sense that “it just looks right”. But this notion
has been surprisingly unexamined. Is realism to be
understood as perceptual realism, an aesthetic that
replicates what the eye sees “in real life?” How do
recent special effects-driven films, such as Star Trek,
the Transformers films (2007, 2009, 2011), or the Iron
Man films (2008, 2010) suggest realism, and how
does this concept of realism extend to non-fantasy
based films such as Munich (2005) or Zodiac (2007)?
     On closer examination, it is clear that in contemporary
special effects, digital imaging does not
simply try to imitate a common sense notion of
perceptual realism, but instead, replicates an accepted
aesthetic photorealistically: rather than modeling
its look on the “real” or phenomenal world,
special effects’ digital techniques imitate the look of
photography.1 More specifically, contemporary effects
aesthetics allude to a specific time period – the
look of certain aspects of 1970s cinematography.” – Ref. 39

Badlands (1973)

Ref. 55

Star Wars: New Hope (1977)

– Ref. 56

“Special effects have always easily exploited cinema’s
ability to massage a reality effect through
blatantly artificialmeans (sometimes embarrassingly
so), such as the use of mattes, miniatures, traveling
mattes, rotoscoping and various other kinds of composites.
7 Furthermore, given the preponderance of
visual effects and animation in so much recent cinematic
production, any theory of cinematic realism
that excludes computer generated images (CGI)
cannot productively illuminate the cinema’s relationship
to the illusion of reality.” – Ref. 40

“Recent theorists of digital and computer generated
imaging, such as David Rodowick and
Stephen Prince, have explored the ways digital technology
attempts to reconstruct what they call the
effect of “perceptual realism” with digital tools to
design visibly plausible worlds.17 Perceptual realism,
however, is a realism that is based on what the eye
sees “in real life”. Cinematographic realism, on the
other hand, is a photographic realism: it is based on
what the camera sees, not on what the eye sees and
implies the impossible attainment of an “ultimate”
realism. Cinematic realism is not a matter of perceptual
realism but of photorealism.” – Ref. 41

“The commonly held special effects industrial formula for
photorealism seems obvious: If x existed in our world
(an alien spacecraft, a Gollum, a fairy-tale castle)
and were photographed, how would it look, and how
would it move? Common sense suggests that special
effects objects should look the way they do when
our eyes behold things in the real world. The most
important component of that formula is “if it were
photographed”. (…) 

Confusion between photorealism and perceptual
realism is not surprising, since in technical,
popular and academic discourse, photorealism is
nearly always conflated with an unexamined notion
of “it looks right to my eye”. For example, Harrison
Ellenshaw, matte painter on The Empire Strikes Back
(1980), typifies the attitude in 1979:
All that matters is if the audience will believe it
on the screen. The fact is that people who
know nothing about how these things are done
can still tell us whether the effect is good or
bad … . We say, “What do they know?” But
they know. They’ve used their eyes all their
lives and they know when something doesn’t
look exactly right.19″ – Ref. 42

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

– Ref. 57

Making of – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

– Ref. 58

“Another important consequence of ILM’s photoreal
aesthetic is that the dominance of special
effects production eventually meant that it effectively
reversed the design priority in blockbuster filmmaking.
Instead of requiring special effects to match the
live-action cinematography, as was the case with
Star Wars, the priority eventually reversed. With the
greater economic importance of the special effects
driven blockbuster, the live action cinematography is
now conceived and executed (and in many cases
also animated) to match the special effects considerations
– as was certainly the case at ILM with the
Star Wars prequels.” – Ref. 43

Making of – Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

– Ref. 59

“Munich’s rhetorical strategy only works due to
decades of visual conditioning brought about by
ILM’s photoreal special effects aesthetic.30 Taking
the nighttime climactic faceoff between Tony Stark
(Robert Downey Jr.) and Obadiah Stain (Jeff
Bridges) in Iron Man as another example, much the
same lighting effects, focus tricks and low contrast
colors are used. With each battling the other in
metallic suits, the strategy of the cinematography
and camera work is to move the eye around by
playing light over the chrome and metal of the hardware
in order to keep the eye busy, so as not to look
too closely at the wholly artificial effects objects.
Also, the low light and the post-production “color
timing” provided by the digital intermediate give a
textured look to the entire negative, leveling and
homogenizing the principal photography and the
hard edges of the CGI element. In Iron Man, the very
confusion or slippage between what is live action
photography and what is computer generated, and
the smooth transition between them, is exactly what
tricks the eye into cuing what it sees as “perceptual
– Ref. 44

   “Given the vague “does it look real” definition
of good special effects, identifying, historicizing, and
most importantly, deconstructing the aesthetic of
photorealism – in particular ILM’s photorealism –
should be a central project for film studies today.
Certainly, no area of cinematic production clings so
obviously to the “photo” in photorealist aesthetic as
the special effects business. It is easy to call this
impulse a smoke screen, designed to sooth our
anxieties about digital representation, but I believe it
is motivated beyond what we might call a simple
remediation impulse. The particular photoreal aesthetic
in special effects persists, I believe, exactly
because of the emotional associations with the photographic
veracity of the original model of 1970s
documentary-style photorealism. This aesthetic almost
literally builds in visual integrity and provides
credibility on a number of levels. We can be comfortable
believing what we see.
     Finally, the perceptual world building of the
photoreal effect is not the world viewed of Stanley
Cavell, with photography’s privileged relationship to
the “world” as we think we experience it, but instead
reveals what has always been latent in cinema, the
ability to create diegetic environments wholesale
with a combination of animation and photography.
Intensified but not created by digital technology,
cinema can construct from scratch a fully imaginary
fantasy world, an historical period, or a seemingly
naturalistic contemporary world. Deconstructing the
ILM version of photorealism reveals the central role
of special effects in forming a contemporary notion
of photorealism over the course of cinema history,
and not just as a recently important phenomenon. It
also means we cannot dismiss special effects practice
as exceptional. Lastly, it should give us pause
that the marks of 1970s cinematography meant to
disrupt a classical sense of seamless realism are
entirely absorbed into a mental schema invoking
photorealism, and moreover, signaling the truth. – Ref. 45

Making of – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

– Ref. 60

Making of – Alice in Wonderland (2010)

– Ref. 61

Intensified Continuity: Visual Style in Contemporary American Film

by David Bordwell

“Scholars who have analyzed a range of films have argued persuasively that in important respects, Hollywood storytelling hasn’t fundamentally altered since the studio days.3 If we examine visual style over the last 40 years, I think we’re compelled to much the same conclusion. In representing space, time, and narrative relations (such as casual connections and parallels), today’s films generally adhere to the principles of classical filmmaking. Exposition and character development are handled in much the ways they would have been before 1960. Flashbacks and ellipses continue to be momentarily teasing and retrospectively coherent. Credit sequences, openings, and montage sequences can display flashy, self-conscious technique. In particular, the ways in which today’s films represent space overwhelmingly adhere to the premises of “classical continuity.” Establishing and reestablishing shots situate the actors in the locale. An axis of action governs the actors’ orientations and eyelines, and the shots, however different in angle, are taken from one side of that axis. The actors’ movements are matched across cuts, and as the scene develops the shots get closer to the performers, carrying us to the heart of the drama.4″ – Ref. 45

     “Today, most films are cut more rapidly than at any other time in U.S. studio filmmaking. Indeed, editing rates may soon hit a wall; it’s hard to imagine a feature length narrative movie averaging less than 1.5 seconds per shot. Has rapid cutting therefore led to a “post-classical” breakdown of spatial continuity? Certainly, some action sequences are cut so fast (and staged so gracelessly) as to be incomprehensible.9 Nonetheless, many fast-cut sequences do remain spatially coherent, as in the Die Hard, Speed, and Lethal Weapon movies. (…)

     More important, no film is one long action sequence. Most scenes present conversations, and here fast cutting is applied principally to shot/reverse-shot exchanges. (…) Editors tend to cut at every line and insert more reaction shots than we would find in the period 1930-1960.

    Admittedly, by building dialogue scenes out of brief shots, the new style has become slightly more elliptical, utilizing fewer establishing shots and long-held two-shots. A Kuleshov and Pudovkin pointed out, classical continuity contains built-in redundancies: shot/reverse shot reiterate the information about character position given in the establishing shot, and so do eyelines and body orientation. For the sake of intensifying the dialogue exchange, filmmakers have omitted some of the redundancies provided by establishing shots. At the same time, though, fast-cut dialogue has reinforced premises of the 180-degree staging system. When shots are so short, when establishing shots are brief or postponed or nonexistent, the eyelines and angles in a dialogue must be even more unambiguous, and the axis of action must be strictly respected.” – Ref. 46

“From the 1960s onward, exploiting the extremes of lens lengths became a hallmark of intensified continuity. For Bonnie and Clyde, Arthur Penn used lenses from 9.8mm to 400mm (1967).14 Several movie-brat directors appreciated the advantages of long lenses but also wanted to maintain the 1940s tradition of deep-space shooting. So Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma, and Steven Spielberg freely mixed long-focus and wide-angle lenses within a single film.15 Robert Richardson, interviewing for the job of cinematographer on Oliver Stone’s Salvador (1986), recalls Stone asking, “I have only one question for you. Can you cut a long lens with a wide-angle lens?” Richardson thought, “Are you kidding? Of course you can. No problem.”16” – Ref. 47

“(…) Singles allow the director to vary the scene’s pace in editing and to pick the best bits of each actor’s performance.17

     If a scene relies on rapidly cut singles, the filmmaker must find fresh way to emphasize certain lines or facial reactions. The standard tactic is to differentiate shot scales, bu again, post-1960s filmmakers faced a compressed range of options. The 1940s filmmaker could treat a single figure in plan americain, medium shot (waist-up_, medium close-up (chest-up), standard close-up (full face), and extreme close-up (part of the face). As plans americains and ensemble framings became less common, the norms were re-weighted; in many films te baseline framing for a dialogue became a roomy over-the-shoulder medium shot. So the filmmakes began to work along a narrower scale, from medium two-shot to extreme close-up single.

(…) Indeed, the wide format gives close singles a real advantage: the tendency to place the actor’s face off-center leaves a fair amount of the scene’s locale visible which lessens the need for establishing and reestablishing shots. When actors change position, a reestablishing shot may not be needed: with tight framings, performer movement is often a matter of “clearing” a medium shot.” – Ref. 48

     “Today’s camera prowls even if nothing else budges.23 Slowly or swiftly, the camera will track up to a player’s face (the “push-in”). Push-ins not only underscore a moment of realization but also build continuous tension, as when a shot/reverse-shot passage is handled by intercutting two push-ins. The masted shot will often be an inching track forward or sidewise, the “moving master”. Or the camera may arc slowly around a single actor or a couple.24 A common variant is to start a sequence with an arcing or sidelong movement past a foreground element, a building or car or tree, with the camera revealing the subject.” – Ref. 49

“Cinematograpgher Phil Meheux remarks:
It’s a shame that most films rely so much on tight close-ups all the time, filling the screen with an actor’s head like you might for television, when there is so much more than you can show. The style is really just a result of what producers want for video release.32″ – Ref. 50

“Walter Murch notes that editors must gauge how faces will look on a small monitor:

The determining factor for selecting a particular shot is frequently, “Can you register the expression in the actor’s eyes?” If you can’t, you will tend to use the next closer shot, even though the wider shot may be more than adequate when seen on the big screen.40″ – Ref. 51

“Shot scale, lens length, and editing pace were also probably affected by the demand for multiple-camera filming. (…) During the 1980s, the B camera was frequently a Steadicam, roaming the set for coverage, and the fluidity of its movements around static actors may have made circling shots and push-ins good candidates for inclusion in the final cut. By the time Gladiator (2000) was made, a dialogue would be filmed by as many as seven cameras, some of them Steadicams. “I was thinking,” the director of photography explained, “‘someone has got to be getting something good.'”54 The search for “something good” at each instant, from a wide range of angles, will predispose filmmakers to cut often.” – Ref. 52

“Rapid editing obligates the viewer to assemble discrete pieces of information, and it sets a commanding pace: look away and you might miss a key point. (…) Here is another reason to call in intensified continuity: even ordinary scenes are heightened to compel attention and sharpen emotional resonance.” – Ref. 53

“(…) The triumph of intensified continuity reminds us that as styles change so do viewing skills.” – Ref. 54

XXI century is all about breaking rules so thankfully we can still admire some cool long shots.

Film art: an introduction

by D. Bordwell and Kristin Thompson

“Of all the techniques of cinema, mise-en-scene is the one with which we are
most familiar. After seeing a film, we may not recall the cutting or the camera
movements, the dissolves or the offscreen sound. But we do remember
the costumes in Gone with the Wind and the bleak, chilly lighting in Charles Foster
Kane ‘s Xanadu . We retain vivid impres sions of the mi sty streets in The Big Sleep
and the labyrinthine, fluorescent-lit lair of Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs.
We recall Harpo Marx clambering over Edgar Kennedy ‘ s peanut wagon (Duck
Soup), Katharine Hepburn defiantly splintering Cary Grant ‘s golf clubs ( The
Philadelphia Story), and Michael J . Fox escaping high-school bullies on an improvised
skateboard (Back to the Future ) . In short, many of our most sharply etched
memories of the cinema turn out to center on mise-en-scene.

What Is Mise-en-Scene ?
In the original French, mise en scene (pronounced meez-ahn-sen) means “putting
into the scene,” and it was first applied to the practice of directing play s . Film scholars, extending the term to film direction, use the term to signify the director’s control
over what appears in the film frame. As you would expect, mise-en-scene
includes those aspects of film that overlap with the art of the theater: setting, lighting,
costume, and the behavior of the figures. In controlling the mise-en-scene, the
director stages the event for the camera.” – Ref. 54

Examples from the brief and not only:

Mary Poppins

2D, stop-motion and real live action hybrid movie directed by Robert Stevenson.

First of all let me say that Pamela Lyndon Travers wasn’t keen on animation appearing in the film (apparently she cried at the premiere because she hated the penguins soo much) and she was also very difficult to work with on the script (anyone interested in the film version revealing difficulties of the task, should watch Saving Mr. Banks). Leaving the fact that Travers was no 100% satisfied with a film, everyone else loved it. Mary Poppins is a great film. It’s pretty and it’s fun, but the hybrid side of it is not that perfect. Although everything looks fabulous and fits together perfectly, we are a little bit disturbed when the interaction between two mediums seems not to actually have a connection in between.

Why is “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” so much better than “Cool World”

2D and real live action hybrid movie directed by Ralph Bakshi.

Looking at Cool World we can definitely say it’s cool. We are surrounded by a quirky environment and animated characters, plus there is Brad Pitt, but… But the film is just not amazing. It seems there is even less 2D/live action interactions in it than in Mary Poppins and this just ruins the whole thing (aside from the story which is not exciting either [apparently the original Bakshi’s script has been rewritten in secret from him…. Just how rude] ). (It breaks my heart not seeing proper 2D/live action interactions, cause I kind of like this film)

2D and real live action hybrid movie directed by Robert Zemeckis and Richard Williams (author of “The Animator’s Survival Kit”).

Who Framed Roger Rabbit is just a great film. The story is good, the setting is good, interaction between 2D and live action is just the best. Is there anything bad you could say about this film? Probably, but I’m not gonna try.

Action/interaction chain between toons and live characters/environment in the film is amazing. The crew tried really hard to make a convincing hybrid, there are objects interaction which are not stiff, there are shadows, eye lines are perfect. I’m pretty sure there is no better one of those (yet).

Interesting videos


These two films prove that in this century, just putting the things together is not good enough. Public won’t be fooled. Public has been watching special effects their whole lives and they know what looks good and what is just not right. You just have to put more work.


CGI and real live action hybrid movie directed by Michael Bay.

Film Transformers is a great example of the XXI century hybrid where you don’t make animation which will fit the style of the film, but the other way around. Everything is a green screen ( I sometimes wonder if anything is real in the film), everything has been made in thee virtual environment and it’s soo good, it fools you and you forget (unless it’s something what definitely does not exist, like a live car/robot creature xD but it’s still so convincing that in the end it doesn’t matter).


After all this research I feel like I will know what I am writing about and it shouldn’t be difficult I hope.

I am glad I read all of these articles, I feel much more aware of what I am doing and where should I go with my future work.


Ref. 1, Ref. 2, Ref. 3, Ref. 4, Ref. 5, Ref. 6 – Telotte, J. (2007). Crossing Borders and Opening Boxes: Disney and Hybrid Animation. Quarterly Review of Film and Video, 24(2), pp.107-116.

Ref. 7 – YouTube. (2017). Is This Racist? Song of the South Clip. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Apr. 2017].

Ref. 8, Ref. 9, Ref. 11, Ref. 12, Ref. 13 – Thomas Inge, M. (2012). Walt Disney’s Song of the South and the Politics of Animation. The Journal of American Culture, 35(3), pp.219-230.

Ref. 10 – (2017). Mélodie du Sud – The Art of Disney. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Apr. 2017].

Ref. 14 – (2017). Cite a Website – Cite This For Me. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Apr. 2017].

Ref. 15 – University of California Press. (2017). Shadow of a Mouse. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Apr. 2017].

Ref. 16, Ref. 17, Ref. 18, Ref. 19, Ref. 21, Ref. 22, Ref. 23, Ref. 24, Ref. 25, Ref. 26, Ref. 27, Ref. 28, Ref. 29, Ref. 30, Ref. 31, Ref. 32, Ref. 33, Ref. 34, Ref. 35 – Crafton, D. (2012). Shadow of a mouse. 1st ed. pp.58-95.

Ref. 20 – (2017). Cite a Website – Cite This For Me. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Apr. 2017].

Ref. 36, Ref. 37, Ref. 38 – Silverman, H. (1995). The Mark of Postmodernism: Reading Roger Rabbit. Cinémas: Revue d’études cinématographiques, 5(3), p.151.

Ref. 39, Ref. 40, Ref. 41, Ref. 42, Ref. 43, Ref. 44, Ref. 45 – Turnock, J. (2012). The ILM Version: Recent Digital Effects and the Aesthetics of 1970s Cinematography. Film History, 24(2), pp.158-168.

Ref. 46, Ref. 47, Ref. 48, Ref. 49, Ref. 50, Ref. 51, Ref. 52, Ref. 53 – Bordwell, D. (2002). Intensified Continuity Visual Style in Contemporary American Film. Film Quarterly, 55(3), pp.16-28.

Ref. 54 – Bordwell, D. & Thompson, K. (n.d.). Film art: an introduction. 8th ed.

Ref. 55 – (2017). Cite a Website – Cite This For Me. [online] Available at:×576.png [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

Ref. 56 – (2017). Cite a Website – Cite This For Me. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

Ref. 57 – (2017). Cite a Website – Cite This For Me. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

Ref. 58 – (2017). Cite a Website – Cite This For Me. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

Ref. 59 – (2017). Cite a Website – Cite This For Me. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

Ref. 60 – (2017). Cite a Website – Cite This For Me. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

Ref. 61 – (2017). Cite a Website – Cite This For Me. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].

Ref. 62 – GIPHY. (2017). Happy GIF – Find & Share on GIPHY. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Apr. 2017].


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