Conducting Animation Research

Art In Motion – Animation Aesthetics.jpg
Art in Motion – Animation Aesthetics Revised Edition by Maureen Furniss

The goal of the book is not only to cover basic concepts of animation aesthetics but also to encourage subsequent research and to equip readers with basic animation research techniques.

Maureen Furniss strongly advocates a contextual approach to study of aesthetics through historical research. To understand the aesthetics of a single art work or group of works, it is necessary to be aware about the production context – historical, economic, social, technological, industrial, other influences upon any work during the time of its making.

It is advisable to extend an analysis to at least the 10 years before the period during which a context or film was becoming established. E.g. WWII, the devastating effects of the Depression during 1930s, the lasting repercussions on the attitudes and working practices of the people during 1940s.

Furniss also asks to consider how the content of animation might be affected due to different political backgrounds; e.g. during the period Germany during WWII and the USA in 1970s. How the depiction of racial groups might be affected by differences in social attitudes between animation produced in USA during 1910s and 1980s. How the techniques used in animated works affect the economic situations of an independent, self-funded animator and a director at a large Hollywood studio.

In the realm of Animation Studies, the beginning researcher must carefully scrutinize the content of any so-called history of animation. The warning is to be aware not to quote out of date information as though it were true in the current day – when people change opinion, companies go out of business, new technologies developed etc. There must be a standard of the level of objectivity, and sensitivity to more conceptual subjective topics.

Another consideration is that any one production can exist in many different versions. Levels of censorship, changing attitudes towards a subject are occurring as the years go by, due to several factors such as generation, assimilation of cultures, and methods of viewing content through different devices that aid the transition of the changing attitudes.

Furniss has discussed important considerations that motivate the reader to delve into research in animation. It is important to have this as a foundation for reviewing and instigating further research.

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