Letters to the Editor
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The Kitsch-Meister of Burbank
Embedded within R.O. Blechman's spirited, high culture philippic against
Disney ["Transfixed and Goggle-Eyed," June 1996] is a revealing
slip. He describes how UPA's graphic invention took the wind out of Disney's
sails in the 50's, causing the Kitsch-Meister of Burbank to overcome his
own vulgar literalism and turn out a modernistic cartoon of suitable stylization
and reduction (Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom). He then adds "If
animation is the sincerest form of flattery, it is also the surest sign
of artistic bankruptcy." Of course Blechman means "imitation,"
not "animation," and yet there may be a more sinister truth unconsciously
buried within this grammatical archeology.
Let's assume that Disney is animation. Forget about Lotte Reiniger, Bill
Plympton, Brothers Quay, and the other subjects of the "Independent
Spirit" issue. He (not any one person, but the media Golem that Walt
built and Eisner continues to aggrandize) has colonized our imagination
and embodies all that is pernicious in our art. Not just because he has
no taste. Not just because he is a monopolistic capitalist who will use
every scheme to maintain market share. Not justbecause he is socially conservative.
I think his biggest crime is flattery, the sincerest form of pandering.
The Disney product is designed to reassure its audience that everything
is OK: sit back, relax, and have a good time. Yes, we are goggle-eyed at
marvelous visions of virtuoso animation and, having checked our brains at
the door, we truly believe that someday our prince will come, and in the
meantime we can congratulate ourselves for empathizing with a lovable little
While I concur with Blechman's esthetic critique, Disney's chief offense
is his non-controversial, vanilla disposition, which can be summed up in
one word: "nice." If independent animators are to reclaim any
measure of respect in this eternal, Oedipal conflict, we can certainly do
worse that follow the recipe offered by Tina Turner in "Proud Mary"
when she sneered, "We never do anything nice 'n easy; we do it nice
New York City
The author is an independent filmmaker.
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