The Fantasy/Animation podcast examines the relationship between fantasy storytelling and the medium of animation. Each episode, "doctor of fantasy" Alexander Sergeant (University of Portsmouth) and "doctor of animation" Christopher Holliday (King's College London) discuss a different example of fantasy/animation, considering how it fits within both the history, theory and industry of the two medias, mediums and genres. Joined by expert guests, including animators, historians, archivists and fans of both fantasy and animation, the podcast is the number one authority of all things drawn, imagined, sculpted, shaped and created.
Episode 59 - Sherlock Jr. (1924) (with Peter Adamson)
the dreams and psychology of a movie theatre projectionist. Joining them as the lights go down is Peter Adamson, Professor of Late Ancient and Arabic Philosophy at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) in Münich and King's College London, and host of the successful History of Philosophy without any gaps podcast that examines the “ideas, lives and historical context” of both major philosophers and more lesser-known figures. From Buster Keaton’s gag structures to the unruliness and absurdity of early nickelodeon audiences, this episode of the Fantasy/Animation podcast covers distinctions between theatrical vaudeville performance and the ‘staging’ of action afforded by the film medium; how Sherlock Jr. relates to classical film theory’s post-romantic emphasis on dreams and psychology to explain the emotion and aesthetic experience of moviegoing; experiments with editing and the power of the ’cut’ in Keaton’s comedy; the cyclical arrangement of comic narrative structures; Keaton’s expressive relationship to both silent-era animation stars (such as Felix the Cat) and the sentimentality of contemporaries like Charlie Chaplin; and how Sherlock Jr. offers the potential to think through the division between ‘film philosophy’ and ‘philosophical cinema.’
Episode 58 - Roobarb (and Custard) (1974) (with Birgitta Hosea)
The anarchy and artistry of British television animation provides the springboard for Episode 58 of the Fantasy/Animation podcast, which welcomes London-based media artist, animator and curator Professor Birgitta Hosea (who is also the Director of the Animation Research Centre at the University for the Creative Arts) to talk about Roobarb (Grange Calveley, 1974) directed by English animator Bob Godfrey. Godfrey’s particular connections to the UCA (he established the Animation course at the university back in 1969) were the subject of the recent Cartoon Animation - Satire and Subversion event earlier this year that examined the animated medium’s more radical histories through Godfrey’s surrealistic and pointed creations. For this episode, listen as Chris and Alex join with Birgitta to identify Godfrey’s particular relationship to political cartoons in Britain, notwithstanding his marginal and underrated status within animation history. Other topics include the honesty and transformative energy of cel-animation embodied in the programme’s streaky, “boiling” aesthetic; the importance of white cartoon space within the visual style of Roobarb, and how this connects to traditions of overdetermining/underdetermining with fantasy storytelling; questions of imperfection in relation to the very technology of drawing; the power of Richard Briers’ voiceover and anthropomorphic characterisation; and what Calveley’s cartoon tells us about the way self-reflexivity can - and does - operate in the animated fantasy.
***To donate to The Bob Godfrey Collection, please click here***
Episode 57 - Rango (2011) (with Neil Brand)
Performer, composer, silent film accompanist and television presenter Neil Brand is the special guest joining Chris and Alex for Episode 57 of the podcast, which celebrates the musical beats and Mariachi owls of Rango (Gore Verbinski, 2011). Listen as they discuss how this curious 2011 computer-animated film revels in the power of telling tales alongside its broader relationship to folk ballads; Rango’s cinephilic evocation of canonical Hollywood Westerns and U.S. cinema history; themes of ambition, isolation, and aimlessness, and how this ties into a film whose existentialist narrative is predicated on the question of inevitability; Rango’s musical score that functions as a bridge between landscape and character; and what Gore Verbinski’s film tells us about what audiences might want from contemporary fantasy/animation (namely highly sophisticated anarchy rather than structures that organise, and a fantasy better realised onscreen that we can ever imagine!).
Episode 56 - Bright (David Ayer, 2017)
The latest Listeners’ Choice episode sees Chris and Alex turn to Netflix and the much-maligned yet curiously provocative feature film Bright (David Ayer, 2017), whose narrative of racism, police corruption and latent magical forces is set against the backdrop of an alternate fantasy vision of contemporary Los Angeles. With a budget of $90 million, Ayer’s social discourse via fantasy (the script was written by Max Landis) was critically-derided despite being Netflix’s most downloaded feature within its first week of release. There is certainly much to say about Bright’s heavy use of metaphor that points a number of fingers at systemic violence and racial hegemony through themes of respect, tolerance and acceptance. Listen as the discussion in Episode 56 takes in Bright’s evocation of Hollywood buddy movie story structures and the popular police procedural; categories of the fantastic, the allegoric and the parodic, and how allegory functions as a deconstructive impulse against fantasy’s pursuit of reconstruction; the depiction of Elftown and the film’s portrayal of whiteness; Orc clan politics, Will Smith’s racial coding and the role of the Other; and how Bright offers a complicated - and, at times, highly uneven - possible world that presents its modern urban fantasy setting as a social class commentary.
Episode 55 - Hugo (2011) (with Eric Smoodin)
Chris and Alex dust off their knowledge of early film history for Episode 55 as they examine Martin Scorsese’s adventure Hugo (2011), a playful mystery set in 1930s Paris that takes audiences through the special effects and spectacular stagecraft of pioneering filmmaker Georges Méliès. Joining Chris and Alex amid the architecture of the Gare Montparnasse is Eric Smoodin, Professor of American Studies and Cinema and Technocultural Studies at the University of California, who has published monographs and edited collections on Walt Disney, Frank Capra and Hollywood film history, as well as a new book Paris in the Dark: Going to the Movies in the City of Light, 1930–1950 (Duke University Press, 2020) that sketches a picture of French film culture of the 1930s and 1940s. Listen as they situate Hugo within the history of cine-clubs, cinéphile subcultures and local exhibition practices of early twentieth-century Paris; the significance of Méliès as a filmmaker within the entwined genealogies of fantasy and animation; the pleasures of digital artificiality and VFX fakery in Scorsese’s historical depiction of the French capital; the intertextual invitations made by the film to the spectatorial experience; the interrelationship between cinema as a machine, animation, and the automaton; and how Hugo offers a lavish - if highly imagined and typically conservative - 3D vision of early filmgoing as a powerful unifying force.
Episode 54 - Watchmen (2009) (with Drew Morton)
In an alternate 1985, Chris and Alex sit down to watch the recent comic book feature film Watchmen (Zach Snyder, 2009), a neo-noir/superhero blockbuster that adapts the popular DC Comics series for the big screen. They are joined in this Cold War-era tale of Soviet Union-United States relations by Drew Morton, Associate Professor of Mass Communication at Texas A&M University, Texarkana, and author of Panel to the Screen: Style, American Film, and Comic Books During the Blockbuster Era (University Press of Mississippi, 2016), as well as a number of articles and chapters on motion comics, media convergence and comic book adaptation. Topics up for discussion in Episode 54 include Watchmen’s pivotal place within Hollywood comic book feature films of the 2000s; formal issues in adaptation and the graphic decompression of time and space; digital technology and the spectacle of Baroque aesthetics (including director Zach Snyder’s balletic slow-motion visual style); the film’s depiction of psychologically repressed superheroes and noir-esque vigilantism; and how Watchmen presents a crucial case study for thinking about the movement of media products within a broader transmedia flow