Animation: A World History
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Animation: A World History

Volume II: The Birth of a Style - The Three Markets

Giannalberto Bendazzi

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eBook - ePub

Animation: A World History

Volume II: The Birth of a Style - The Three Markets

Giannalberto Bendazzi

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About This Book

A continuation of 1994's groundbreaking Cartoons, Giannalberto Bendazzi's Animation: A World History is the largest, deepest, most comprehensive text of its kind, based on the idea that animation is an art form that deserves its own place in scholarship. Bendazzi delves beyond just Disney, offering readers glimpses into the animation of Russia, Africa, Latin America, and other often-neglected areas and introducing over fifty previously undiscovered artists. Full of first-hand, never before investigated, and elsewhere unavailable information, Animation: A World History encompasses the history of animation production on every continent over the span of three centuries.

Volume II delves into the decades following the Golden Age, an uncertain time when television series were overshadowing feature films, art was heavily influenced by the Cold War, and new technologies began to emerge that threatened the traditional methods of animation. Take part in the turmoil of the 1950s through 90s as American animation began to lose its momentum and the advent of television created a global interest in the art form. With a wealth of new research, hundreds of photographs and film stills, and an easy-to-navigate organization, this book is essential reading for all serious students of animation history.

Key Features

  • Over 200 high quality head shots and film stills to add visual reference to your research


  • Detailed information on hundreds of never-before researched animators and films


  • Coverage of animation from more than 90 countries and every major region of the world


  • Chronological and geographical organization for quick access to the information you're looking for

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Information

Publisher
Routledge
Year
2015
ISBN
9781317519904
Edition
1

1 America

DOI: 10.4324/9781315720753-2

After the Long Telegram

On 2 September 1945, Japan signed the official surrender to the United States and the Second World War was over. Almost immediately (although both the USA and the USSR heavily demobilized), the Cold War started.
In February 1946, the US State Department carefully read the ‘long telegram’ of the American chargé d’affaires in Moscow, George F. Kennan. The Soviets, Kennan said, were aiming at eroding the capitalist nations and imposing their ideological rule on the world, and they were doing so in order to justify their internal power in the face of their population’s sacrifices. On 12 March 1947, President Harry Truman addressed a speech to the Congress, declaring that the USA, as the leader of the Free World, would support everywhere democracy against communism (Truman Doctrine).
In 1948, Czechoslovakia fell last into the group of the ‘satellite’ European states of the Soviet Union, along with Poland, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Albania, Yugoslavia and the eastern section of Germany. The continent was politically split into two different areas, separated by the so-called Iron Curtain. In 1949, the communist People’s Republic of China was proclaimed, under Mao Zedong’s leadership.
In the same year, the Soviet Union showed that it, too, was equipped with atomic bombs. This meant that the Cold War could not become a hot one, but at the high price of the end of humankind. The two superpowers would always carefully handle any regional crisis (the main ones being the Korean War, 1950–53, the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 and the Vietnam War, which involved the US in the 1960s and early 1970s) in order to avoid the triggering of an atomic confrontation.
Former US enemies such as Japan, Germany and Italy were hurriedly backed up and pushed to recovery and reconstruction (although not rearmed), in order to serve as anti-communist allies.
In February 1945, at the Yalta conference, Winston Churchill had snarled: ‘While there is life in my body, no transfer of British sovereignty will be permitted’.1 Six months later, on 26 July 1945, the electorate voted him out of his Prime Minister’s chair. His Labour Party successor, Clement Attlee, did all he could to decolonize. India became independent in 1947, and India was the hub around which the British Empire revolved. In a couple of decades, most of the former colonies became independent states.
1 Entry in Admiral William D . Leahy’s diary, quoted in Terry H. Anderson, The United States, Great Britain and the Cold War 1944–1947, Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press, 1981.
Not the British colonies only. The Netherlands tried to resist, but had to let her own empire go. France resisted strongly and fought in Indochina and northern Africa, but was defeated. By the early 1960s, residual colonies were small and few, with the exception of some Portuguese territories that would become independent ten years later.
On 5 March 1953, Joseph Stalin suddenly died in Moscow. Most of his compatriots both worshipped him and were terror-stricken by him, so his demise left in the Soviet Union an immense empty space, which lasted for three years, until the very different figure of Nikita Khrushchev took over.
On 18–24 April 1955, about twenty-five representatives of newly independent states from Asia and Africa gathered in Bandung, Indonesia. Indonesia’s Sukarno, China’s Zhou Enlai, India’s Nehru, Egypt’s Nasser, Cambodia’s Sihanouk, Ghana’s Nkrumah and Cyprus archbishop Makarios were among the participants.
The policy and myth of the Third World2 were actually born there, along with the practice of nonalignment. Young, tolerant, pacific, purged of the White nations’ vice, the Third World countries shone. The Third Worldism pleased the young intellectuals of various nations just as, in the nineteenth century, the proletariat had been seen as the example of moral excellence.
2 The First World being the capitalist West , and the Second the totalitarian, communist East.
Actual events would prove less romantic. Many out of those young nations became dictatorships, and the Third World as a whole played an ambiguous and complex international role of stratagems, alliances/reversals of alliances with the Superpowers. Often it was the battlefield in case of tiny, hot ‘wars by proxy’ that the Cold War allowed itself.

Culture

World War II shocked the world culture no less than the world politics and the world economy. In Western Europe the main problem, for some decades, was ‘should an intellectual be committed?’ ‘Committed’ meant ‘working within the actual political situation’ and forgetting the ivory tower. In most cases it meant to be a leftist, which meant to be a full-fledged communist or (in political jargon) a ‘fellow traveller’ or a ‘useful idiot’. Mountains of pages and billions of neurons were spent on this theme and this practice, on the ground that communism was the only real alternative to Fascism/Nazism.
Actually, writers, artists, musicians and philosophers didn’t produce anything meant to be stable. They were rebellious and uncertain.
In 1945, Jean-Paul Sartre founded in Paris the journal Les Temps modernes, starting to build his role as Europe’s cultural and political leading opinion maker, and Jean Dubuffet opened his first one-man exhibition. In 1946, 1948, 1949, 1951 and 1958, William Carlos Williams published the five volumes of Paterson. In 1946, Jackson Pollock abandoned the brush and inaugurated the technique of squeezing, pouring, dribbling paint on canvas that would lead to the Action Painting. In 1947, Albert Camus’s The Plague, Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus, Anna Frank’s Diary and Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire were published. In 1949, Jorge Luis Borges published The Aleph, George Orwell 1984, Arthur Miller Death of a Salesman, Konrad Lorenz King Solomon’s Ring and Margaret Mead Male and Female. In 1950, Kurosawa Akira directed Rashomon. In 1951, Julian Beck and Judith Malina founded the Living Theatre. In 1952, Ernest Hemingway published The Old Man and the Sea and John Steinbeck East of Eden, architect Le Corbusier completed in Marseilles the building of the Cité Radieuse. On 5 January 1953, in Paris, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot premiered; in the same year sculptor Henry Moore created King and Queen, Jacques Tati directed Les vacances de M. Hulot and Mizoguchi Kenji Ugetsu Monogatari (Ugetsu); and James D. Watson and Francis H. Crick discovered the double helix of DNA. In 1954, Ilya Ehrenburg published The Thaw. In 1955, J.R.R. Tolkien completed the publication of The Lord of the Rings, Vladimir Nabokov Lolita (in Paris), Claude Lévi-Strauss Sad Tropics, Satyajit Ray directed Aparajito (The Unvanquished). In 1956, John Osborne published Look Back in Anger, Allen Ginsberg Howl and Other Poems, Tanizaki Junichiro The Key; the Free Cinema movement was born in London, Ingmar Bergman directed The Seventh Seal and Ichikawa Kon The Burma Harp. In 1957, Boris Pasternak published (in Italy) Doctor Zhivago, Jack Kerouac On the Road, Vance Packard The Hidden Persuaders and the Nouvelle Vague took shape in Paris. In 1959, Raymond Queneau published Zazie in the Metro, Eugène Ionesco Rhinoceros; Charles P. Snow gave the controversial lecture The Two Cultures; Frank Lloyd Wright built the Guggenheim Museum in New York; Alain Resnais directed Hiroshima mon amour and Federico Fellini La dolce vita. In 1960, the New American Cinema was born and American Pop Art took shape.
For the United States, and for the many nations that imitated her, a novel of 1951 was indelible: J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. It told, with adolescent language, adolescent alienation, confusion, rebellion. Independently from its literary value, it depicted the themes and the times of a whole generation that was supposed to be happy, and became synonymous with it.

Almighty and Suspicious

The fifteen years from 1945 to 1960 were a contradictory time for the United States. Victory in the war, together with an extraordinary economic expansion and the simultaneous collapse of the traditional world powers (UK, France, The Netherlands, Japan), gave the US a position of planet leadership. To the rest of the world, America presented a picture of prosperity, generosity and optimism – an image reinforced by American financial aid, particularly to Europe.
Such splendour, however, was not faultless. The Cold War against the Soviet Union hid psychological disquiet and phobia, which materialized in the ‘McCarthyist’ persecution of the Left. Cinema replaced the portrayal of the bold American – naïve, perhaps, but always inexhaustible – with new characters and new actors (from Montgomery Clift to Marlon Brando, James Dean and Anthony Perkins) who expressed anxiety, uneasiness and neurosis. Juvenile crime increased, and the large American middle class gradually became aware of its sociocultural fragmentation. Beatnik communities arose to propose an autonomous counterculture. The consumer age broke out with the popularization of television and modified decades-old patterns of thought and behaviour.
It was precisely television that helped precipitate the crisis of cinema. Starting in 1946, the sale of television sets increased dramatically; shortly afterward, the networks began broadcasting in colour. This new kind of home entertainment kept huge numbers of spectators away from the theatres. Then, in 1948, with a decision which ended years of litigation, the Supreme Court upheld the ruling in the United States vs. Paramount et al. trial, involving all major California movie companies, pursuant to the antitrust law. From that time on, the three components of production, distribution and exhibition were to be separated. The verdict terminated the companies’ monopoly over the audience and ended the lifestyle and work methods that had characterized the entertainment field. In short, it marked the end of legendary Hollywood.
Comedy evolved. Deprived of artists such as Capra, Lubitsch and Stevens, it survived through the work of craftspeople and through the caustic films of Billy Wilder.
In the late 1950s, causticity became a rule outside cinema, with the ‘sick comedians’ – educated entertainers, well versed in quick political gags and dirty words, who addressed students and intellectuals in the thousands of night clubs which spread like mushrooms after the war. Their favourite topic: the American malaise. The group, which included Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl and Dick Gregory, exerted its influence for years, spawning artists such as Woody Allen. In contrast, the old slapstick comedy, with its absurd pyrotechnics, was dismissed as being definitively naïve, as the inheritance of a ‘childish’ age; Jerry Lewis and Bob Hope, who partially hearken back to it, became isolated phenomena.
In music, alongside the concert-hall experiments of the likes of John Cage, bebop reigned; a form of jazz born in the black ghetto, it was, by its own definition, the expression of an ‘alternative’ culture. Artists such as jazz musician Charlie Parker, writer Jack Kerouac, poet Allen Ginsberg and painter Jackson Pollock were all heralds of a marginal world and the bearers of stylistically overflowing, rebellious ideas. Initially, what they all wanted was to detach themselves from the mainstream of American culture; inevitably, they were absorbed and embraced by the market (especially Pollock and his colleagues of Action Painting).
Hollywood animation shared the fate of the film industry in general; as its most frail branch, it was the first to dry out. Animated shorts, which had always been regarded as fillers, were eliminated without being really missed as costs rose. Studios shrank and gradually closed. Very few young artists joined studio staffs. Disney was the first to reduce the production of shorts, concentrating on feature films and, later on, other projects such as live-action features for children, documentaries on the wonders of nature and the very successful amusement parks. In the meanwhile, avant-garde groups collected the spiritual inheritance of Mary Ellen Bute and Oskar Fischinger and gave rise to new, rich productions of abstract animation, which perfectly complemented the stylistic and linguistic research of off-Hollywood filmmakers.
Traditional, round-shaped drawings (‘O-style’) could no longer compare with the drawings of comic-strip artists, fashionable cartoonists and advertisers. American animation was born from popular comics and their inevitably poor drawings had flourished in the caricature/children’s book style of Walt Disney; now, for the first time, it would join the group of the major commercial arts. Animators found themselves looking with awe at the style of artists, such as the New Yorker cartoonists James Thurber and Saul Steinberg, and at the subversive humour of the corrosive New York magazine, Mad. For the first time, American animation would follow the national and international trend, and would even contribute to set it. This was a vital boost, if also a temporary one: after some years, that approach, too, would fall irremediably out of fashion. In other words, for animation this was a time of indecision, incertitude and even opacity in the USA and the rest of the world as well.

Gerald McBoing Boing

Released on 25 January 1951 and winner of the first UPA Academy Award on 29 March 1951, Gerald McBoing Boing was the epitome of the stylistic gospel that would change again, and forever, the accepted approach to animated films.
Cahiers du cinéma commented from Paris: ‘The work of Mr Bosustow and Mr Cannon contains such a blasting charge that we can’t but compare it to the one that long ago exploded the silent cinema and gave birth to the sound film’.3
3 Francois Chalais , ‘Le fil à couper Disney’, Cahiers du cinéma, No. 6, Octobre–Novembre 1951, Paris.
Based on a story by Dr Seuss,4 written by Bill Scott and Phil Eastman and directed by Bobe Cannon, Gerald McBoing Boing tells the story of a child who can’t speak words, but speaks in sound effects instead. Rejected by the school, spurned by other children and even rebuffed by his father, Gerald runs away from home and sets about becoming a tramp; but just as he’s trying to catch a departing train, a radio producer hires him. In a very happy ending, he becomes famous coast-to-coast as a one-man sound-effects department.
4 Pseudonym of children’s writer and cartoonist Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904–1991) .
Although strictly traditional in its values, the scenario itself has something new: no gags. Gerald McBoing Boing is a little moral play about a handicapped person who can, nonetheless, climb the ladder of success. Funny, of course, but not in the traditional, slapstick way.
Second: the drawings. Sharp, angular outlines around the distinctly bidimensional characters and objects: an ‘I’ style instead of the volumetric ‘O’ style championed by Disney.
Third: the colours. Casually th...

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