The SAS Conference in Utrecht
The papers presented a broad spectrum of animation studies. The central subjects to be addressed were: "The Influence of the European Animated Film," and "Animation and New Media." Papers on other topics were accepted as usual. Also as usual, papers on American animation history were very present representing 10 out of 28 papers. Sybil DelGaudio (U.S.) presented "Animation and Anonymity: The Uncredited Work of John and Faith Hubley," and Maureen Furniss (U.S.) spoke about "Stars and Stripes: Animation in American Advertising," focusing on Leonard Glasser and the quite unknown American animation production company Stars and Stripes Forever Productions. Mark Langer (Canada) analyzed the Disney telefilm Man in Space (1955) and related it to the Cold War, the Swede Gunilla Muhr discussed "Modernist Traits in the Silly Symphonies" and Kevin Sandler (U.S.) looked in detail at "Looney Tunes and Merry Metonyms: Disneyfication, Identity Politics, and the Corporatizing of Bugs Bunny" where he compared the old Bugs Bunny films with Space Jam. As usual the U.K. SAS veterans Robin Allen and David Williams were among the highlights of the conference. This time Robin Allen presented his main argument about European artists influence on the Disney films through the animation art collection of Disney engineer and puppeteer Bob Jones. Through a new video lecture, David Williams presented "Sons of the Drawing Board: Laurel and Hardy as Cartoon Characters."
Because of the European focus of the conference and the large presence of European scholars, different national animation cinemas were discussed. Philippe Moins' paper was on Belgian animation and its relationship to the strong comic strip tradition in Belgium. Mette Peters (The Netherlands) spoke about and showed the Dutch silhouette film De Moord van Raamsdonk (Murder in Raamsdonk, 1933-36), Boris Pavlov (Russia) presented Russian animation from the 1920s and `30s and I, Gunnar Strøm (Norway), discussed Norwegian cinema commercials from the 1930s made by European producers Desider Gross and Gaspar Color. Nikolai Izvolov (Russia) discussed "The Idea of Artificial Sound in Russian Animation," while Sergiy Trymbach (Ukraine) presented the animation of his country. All of us were concerned with animation history in our respective countries. A special mention goes to Marty McNamara (U.S.) who looked at "Patterns of Social Metaphor in New German Animation." Japanese anime was discussed in a Jungian perspective by Edward Gamarra (U.S.), while veteran John Lent (U.S.), and a young Turkish doctorate student Asli Tunc, took us through the history of Turkish animation, an experience new to all of us.
New Theoretical Angles
A more theoretical approach was taken by Anatoly Prokhorov (Russia) in his "Space as a Screen, Perception as an Illusion, Culture as Sorcery" and by Suzanne Buchan (Switzerland). She discussed the influence of James Joyce on modernist cinema and related that to Betty Boop and Felix the Cat, as well as to animated films by Cathy Joritz, Emile Cohl, Caroline Leaf, Giannluigi Toccafondo and the Brothers Quay. A quite unusual study for SAS conferences was Masao Yokota's empirical paper on "Face Preference of Animation Characters by Japanese University Students."
To me perhaps the two most interesting approaches to the study of animated film were presented by Edwin Carels (Belgium) and Bernadette Kester (The Netherlands). Priit Pärn's homage to 100 years of cinema, 1895 (Estonia, 1995), had been screened at the conference cinema on the conference's second day. In the morning the day after, Edwin Carels presented a very solid lecture called "1895: Animation, History and the Metafilm" where he discussed Priit Pärn's film in relation to Godard and other modernist filmmakers, and to new historiography in the tradition of Hayden White and Robert A. Rosenstone. In the same panel Bernadette Kester presented her newly started research on "Emancipating from Realism?: Historical Representation in Animation Film." Her starting point was an animated historical film from World War I, On les aura!. Her summary states: "The fact that the filmmakers used animation instead of constructing realistic looking fakes, brought me to the question if perhaps animation films are aptly suited to grasp certain historical events which are beyond mere realistic representations. From this the idea naturally followed that animation film might be also an intellectual inspiring and stimulating medium for developing a critical view on the constructed images of the past." Bernadette Kester apologized to the audience for being new to animation and asked the audience for help to find relevant film titles for her further research. The audience was glad she asked. Obviously her research in this field is just beginning, but I found her and Edwin Carels' historiographical approach to be a new way of thinking in the field of animation studies, and I suggest that for a coming SAS conference this should be one of the subjects asked for in the call for papers.