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Animation as a way of portraying inner states. Any hints?

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Animation as a way of portraying inner states. Any hints?

As part of my Master's degree in Animation, I am currently in the process of researching for a thesis in which I want to look at animation and whether it has any inherent qualities which allow for a privileged way of portraying inner mental states, when compared to live-action film.

At this point I am looking for any kind of academic or other writing on animation (especially more experimental, "independent" animation) and inner states, madness, psychoanalysis, subconsciousness, surrealism etc. Also any writing comparing live-action film and animation, and looking at differences between the two media. If you know of any such writing, or if you have written about or researched into something related, please get in touch. Any hints greatly appreciated.

The idea originally started by looking at British independent animation and how so many of the "classic" short animation films of the last two decades deal with mental disorders or interiority/subjectivity, themes less often dealt with in live-action cinema (i.e. Tim Webb's A is for Autism; Jonathan Hodgson's Camouflage; Vivienne Jones' The House; Molly Okell's Asperger and Proud etc). Another strand of animation films to look at would be films which don't deal with interiority in terms of its narrative object but which try to express (rather than narrate) inner life through its images, i.e. films of the Brothers Quay or Larry Jordan. As yet, I am not sure yet which route to follow, and I am happy about viewing as well as reading tips in both directions.

Thank you,



I don't remember who the animator was, but about 25 years ago, I saw an animation called T.O.U.C.H.I.N.G. As I understand it the animation was supposed to portray what it feels like to be paranoid schitzophrenic. I couldn't watch the whole thing straight through (had to close my eyes part of the time).

- Marla

Max, I'm writing a masters thesis too, and the movies I'm doing for my project right now have a lot to do with this. Drop me an e-mail so we can talk more about it without us flooding the forum with our rambling theories :)

please make clutter

Max and Dan -

Talk online. It's an interesting topic and I'm sure others (me) will be interested. They don't have to read the thread if they aren't interested.

- Marla :D

Well, alright! hehe

I have a list of films I want to make until the end of the year, and one of them has a mere abstract concept: to grab an abstract idea or feeling and make a movie out of it. Pretty much like Woody Allen when he made that episode from "Tales of New York", where his mother appears in the sky and starts telling the whole city everything about his private life. I think it was brilliant, he picked up his neurosis and turned it into a visual living thing that could be shot to film. He made "real" something that is usually only in our minds.

I'm trying to make something like this, and I think oil painting animation would be perfect for it. But I'm still thinking.


By the way, has anyone seen that new short called "Ryan"? The one about Ryan Larkin? I'd heard about it in an Animation Pimp article, and after seeing this excerpt:

I can say I'm desperate to see it entirely!

Kinda cool theories...

Hey, Daniel, I wanna read more of your rambling theories, you seem to know a lot about these things... I'm beggining to think about the all 'animation as a way of portraying inner states', thing, I think it's interesting.

Well, it´s not much of a theory, really. It´s just that people are not used to these kinds of animation. I mean, you´ll never see german abstract animation of the 20´s on MTV or Cartoon Network :) It takes a lot of research to actually get to know some different kinds of animation.

For example, the only time I could see the early films of the great pioneer Émile Cohl, was a bootleg copy with no audio that was a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a VHS tape someone made out with some library´s film prints. It was a horrible copy from a destroyed film print, and yet it was magical to see those eraly animation films.

So I guess it´s only a matter of everybody figuring out that animation is not a way to make animals walk and talk. its limits are as wide as any other art form, and it can be used to create anything. We can create any kind of movie that live action movies can portrait, and even more: we can be abstract, expressionist, anything we want! Animation is like all fine arts multiplied with cinema. There´s absolutely no limits to what we can do with it!

Except, of course, our own human limitations... :)

"the only limitation in animation is the person doing it. Otherwise there is no limit to what you can do. And why shouldn't you do it?"

--Emery Hawkins

animating inner states

Daniel -

You might consider going to one of the international animation festivals sponsored by ASIFA. I don't remember where you are located, but the Ottawa International Animation Festival is coming up in late Sept/early Oct. You'll see a lot more animation there that sounds like what would interest you. Check and

- Marla

Hey Bunny, nice quote. Sounds like a good signature.

Hey Marla, thanks for the tip. I'd like to attend to ASIFA's screenings, but I live too far, in Brazil :) I even tried to open a brazilian branch of ASIFA once, but I didn't have the necessary money to get it started. I heard some people in Rio were doing it, but never saw anything coming out from them.

Someday I'll be a sucessfull indie animator and will have my expenses paid to attend to this kind of event, but until there, I'll just have to count on what you have to say about them :)

Thanks anyway!


Daniel -

I was involved with ASIFA Central. We didn't have any money to speak of. We had monthly meetings for a long time at a free space, where we just got together and shared. Then we started having a yearly conference instead as some people had to travel so far to the meetings. We met for a weekend at a state park that had a lodge (centrally located and not to expensive) and everyone brought their reels and war stories and shared. It was great. It's still going, although now I live in New York State so I'm no longer involved. Deanna Morse is the chair. You could get in touch with her if you want to know how things are running now. That chapter sometimes puts a reel together that they will share with other chapters and I know that ASIFA East (NYC) does the same. You might have to cover shipping, but that's about it and it would be an opportunity for you and other animators near to you see some of the work being done else where. I don't know what the current rules are for setting up a chapter, but I think they are on

- Marla