The SAS Conference in Utrecht
No Time to Talk
A problem with conferences like this, is that because the organizers want to include as many papers as possible, time for discussions and participation from the audience is too short. Our Russian-American colleague Michael Gurevitch tried several times to raise philosophical topics to be discussed by the audience and the panels, but long sessions and time shortages usually put an end to that. Some papers did evoke both emotions and reactions though. This time, Richard Leskosky discussed "The Quest for Depth: Mechanics and Aesthetics of the American Cartoon," and there were obviously different ideas in the audience on how the multiplane camera actually worked. The young Americans Chandra Mukerji and Tarleton Gillespie got the audience going after their paper on "Recognizable Ambiguity: Cartoon Imagery and American Childhood in Animaniacs." Two other youngsters also provoked the audience. Dutch dramaturgs Arnoud Rijken and Bas Brinkman had, fresh from University, started their own animation dramaturgy consultant business offering to help filmmakers and other professional animation communicators to improve their scripts and focus their ideas. They presented quite a schematic method as background for the way they were working, and this obviously seemed too simple for the older scholars in the audience.
But the most provocative study was probably "It's About Time," presented by Dan McLaughlin (U.S.). With the help of a laser disc player and some statistical computer software, McLaughlin had coded and counted every shot in eight classic animation films. Among his results was the fact that the average length of the surveyed European film was 140 frames or 5.8 seconds while the length of the American films were 177 frames or 8.5 seconds. The professor was heavily attacked by the audience which claimed that his choice of films was not representative enough, the number of films was too small, etc. And how do you actually define a shot in an animated film? Not much came out of the discussion, but I believe that Dan McLaughlin got his point through: This kind of empirical study has no position in the field of animation studies today; this is not what modern scholars find interesting. But, I believe that on a bigger, more representative scale such material and empirical studies can give us basic knowledge for further research. Plus, Dan McLaughlin definitely managed to provoke us all.
Plus, Film Screenings
Fortunately, the 9th SAS Conference did not forget the film screenings! As always William Moritz (U.S.) was an inspiring lecturer. His thoroughly illustrated presentation of "Absolute Film: The Next Generation" included abstract films from filmmakers like Bärbel Neubauer, Michael Scroggins, Sara Petty and Robert Darroll. German film historian Jean Paul Goergen introduced a solid program of cartoons by the completely unknown filmmaker Paul Peroff. Peroff founded his own animation company Peroff Pictures Inc. in New York in 1927 and he worked both in the U.S. and in Germany until the early 1960's.
Unfortunately, I had to leave early on the last day of the conference. Therefore, I missed an exciting-looking film program from the Nederlands Film Museum and a Laterna Magica show at the Christiaan Huygens Theater. I'm sure this made a most successful end to an interesting and very well-organized event. The Utrecht conference managed in a most pleasant way to make us participants feel good, to inspire and provoke us, to give us the opportunity to meet old friends and introduce us to new colleagues. As an animation scholar from a small country, it is paradise to be able to discuss my subject with colleagues who have the same references and a similar background. I do hope I'll be able to attend again in California next year!
it the Society for Animation Studies web site in Animation World Network's Animation Village: http://www.awn.com/sas
Gunnar Strøm is Associate Professor at Volda College in Norway, where he is head of the animation department. He has published a number of books on animation and music videos. He is president of ASIFA Norway, and a board member and former secretary general of ASIFA International.
No Time to Talk