Shadow of a Mouse: Performance, Belief, and World-Making in Animation

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9780520261044: Shadow of a Mouse: Performance, Belief, and World-Making in Animation
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Animation variously entertains, enchants, and offends, yet there have been no convincing explanations of how these films do so. Shadow of a Mouse proposes performance as the common touchstone for understanding the principles underlying the construction, execution, and reception of cartoons. Donald Crafton’s interdisciplinary methods draw on film and theater studies, art history, aesthetics, cultural studies, and performance studies to outline a personal view of animated cinema that illuminates its systems of belief and world making. He wryly asks: Are animated characters actors and stars, just like humans? Why do their performances seem live and present, despite our knowing that they are drawings? Why is animation obsessed with distressing the body? Why were California regional artists and Stanislavsky so influential on Disney? Why are the histories of animation and popular theater performance inseparable? How was pictorial space constructed to accommodate embodied acting? Do cartoon performances stimulate positive or negative behaviors in audiences? Why is there so much extreme eating? And why are seemingly insignificant shadows vitally important? Ranging from classics like The Three Little Pigs to contemporary works by Švankmajer and Plympton, these essays will engage the reader’s imagination as much as the subject of animation performance itself.

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From the Inside Flap:

“Donald Crafton, our lively guide, shows us around a Tooniverse populated by performers, not just images, who engage us in all the ways their flesh-and-blood counterparts do, and then some. Taking classical animation as his terrain, Crafton nevertheless pushes ongoing discussions of performance, liveness, and corporeality in the directions in which they need to go if they are to help us describe and navigate our increasingly virtual worlds.”

Philip Auslander, author of Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture
"Every once in a while a book comes along that marks a transformational point in its discipline. Such a book is Donald Crafton's Shadow of a Mouse. Crafton skillfully draws together theoretical sources, animation history, technological development, and social analysis, deftly weaving together thinkers from Disney to Deleuze and Sito to Stanislavsky. The result is a substantial rethinking of animation that will reshape traditional approaches to the medium. Crafton's magisterial grasp of theory and history is livened by a true fan's passion for the subject and a keen sense of humor. Shadow of a Mouse is a must-read for anyone with an interest in performance, embodiment, popular culture, race, or reception."

Mark Langer, Associate Professor of Film Studies, Carleton University

About the Author:

Donald Crafton is The Joseph and Elizabeth Robbie Professor of Film, Television, and Theatre at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of The Talkies and Before Mickey.

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