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N° 18 | Animation as Cultural Industry? Designing and Making Cartoons

Special Issue Editors: Sébastien François and Marie Pruvost-Delaspre | December 2019

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1Even though academic interest for the animated medium remains on the fringe of media studies, it seems to have gained much importance during in the last few decades (Crafton, 1982; Pilling, 1997; Lamarre, 2008; Wells, 2012). Following the impetus of the thriving “animation studies” in the English-speaking context and the pioneering work of the Society for Animation Studies (SAS) founded in 1987, scientific research on animation has started to spread across different linguistic areas and countries. Nevertheless, animation as a field of research still appears in a state of dispersal and fragmentation, marked by recurrent tropisms. Indeed, due to their dependence to related scientific projects or events, the works conducted on animation and its multiple formats and techniques have been developed within different disciplinary fields, such as film and media studies, communication studies, history or sociology, but in a certain state of unawareness of one another (Pilling, 1998; Denis, 2011). They also have been mainly focused on aesthetics and contents –and to some extent on reception–, putting aside the practical conditions of the making of animation.

2A growing number of books, documentaries or DVD-bonuses may have already offered some insights into what happens “behind-the-scene”, as did so –more seriously– some general historical and theoretical works on animation (Furniss, 2016), studies devoted to major studios like Disney or Pixar (Wasko, 2001), or others focused on specialized television channels (Hendershot, 2004). Nevertheless, the design and production process of animated programs have rarely been systematically tackled by social sciences, and socio-economical approaches of the animation market appears almost non-existent. Those blind spots left by academia are related the periodic illegitimacy of animation, which is clearly linked to its reduction both to television programs and children products. In this context, ethnographical studies like Ian Condry’s work on anime studios (Condry, 2013) or Dana Lemish’s on gender in animated cartoons (Lemish, 2010), can be considered as pioneering. More recently, the one-day symposium “La fabrique de l’animation” (“The making of animation”), organized in June 2017 in Paris, which sought to raise visibility on this type of research and to develop dialogue between researchers, has rather been a first step than culmination. From the perspective of countries, like France, where animation remains, despite everything, a flourishing industry, with animation schools and young professionals with international appeal (Mérijeau & Roffat, 2015), this state of the art seems nothing but paradoxical.

3This special issue consequently aims at highlighting the processes through which animation projects are designed and put into production, by bringing together contributions and researchers that engage with such questions. Thus, an essential task is still to better document the working conditions of animation professionals, whose occupations and situations are so diverse. But how can we report the organization of such production systems, in which many projects stop at their early stages while the lucky ones take years to be completed? How to describe and classify the multiple and complex “chains of cooperation” (Becker, 1982) of each one? Benefitting from the input of previous works previously undertaken in diverse academic fields, the purpose of this issue is indeed to discuss the potential approaches (theoretical and empirical) that could be useful to comprehend the production of animation, taken in its broadest sense, i.e. from the first steps of the creation to the practical manufacturing and broadcasting moments. The collection’s goal is therefore to question the specificity of animation and its qualification as a cultural industry.

4So as to initiate the discussions at stake, we invite contributors to address the following (but not exhaustive) research directions:

Animation and its modes of cooperation

5Following decisive works on cultural industries (Hesmondhalgh, 2012; Johnson & al., 2014) and the recent rise of production studies (Mayer & al., 2009; Arsenault & Perren, 2016), the work of animation professionals and their daily practices should appear as a central issue. Indeed, how can research follow up and document the multiple stages of the animation production? How to analyze the diversity of artistic professions (authors, animators, filmmakers, story-boarders, voice actors…) as well as their skills and crafts, while some of them remain particularly understudied? Existing research on the collective nature of creation in the cinema industry (Caldwell, 2008; Rot & de Verdalle, 2013) or on the role of cultural intermediaries (Maguire & Matthews, 2014; Jeanpierre & Roueff, 2014) should be helpful to understand how those professionals cooperate (Holian, 2015). In particular, articles addressing the question of the existing tensions within the animation industry –regarding gender, generations, schools of thought, etc.– or technical antagonisms –craftsmanship vs. industry, analogic vs. digital technology (Noesser, 2016)– are expected.

The animation industry: organizing, financing and broadcasting

6The production of animated series and feature films deeply relies on specific financing and economic models (Creton, 2014) which comprehension requires to conduct studies among animation producers. Analyzing the specificity of animation production, in comparison to the situation in the film or in other cultural industries, might also shed some light on this subject. Thereby, papers dealing with the institutional and political contexts, as well as the financing of animation projects, will be highly appreciated: for instance, such works could explain why the French and European animation have continued to develop despite the powerful Japanese anime and American cartoons (Mousseau, 1982), but any other international perspective will be considered. Moreover, it is essential to scientifically include animation broadcasting, be it the film circulation through festivals, the work done by cinema distributors, and of course the role played by television channels which are indispensable in the financing and production processes (Stabile & Harrison, 2003; Jost & Chambat-Houillon, 2003), since they have their own problematics. Finally, the moral and regulation constraints which apply to audiovisual material may be also examined. The institutions (e.g. the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel in France), associations (e.g. the “Parents-Teachers Associations” in Japan) or other entities (e.g. the “Standards and Practices” departments in American television channels; see Cohen, 2004), which directly affect professionals’ working conditions and attitudes could inspire very interesting studies.

Animation and media circulations

7Looking more broadly into cultural industries and their boundaries (Bouquillon & al., 2013), article proposals focusing on the circulation of animated contents are expected. Animation often plays a central part in contemporary media circulations and one can wonder to what extent the industry has (or had) to adapt its production routines due to licensing or cross/transmedia strategies (Johnson, 2013; Kinder, 1991; Steinberg, 2012). How then has been animation associated to other “new” media (video games, Internet, apps) and what are the implications for animation professionals? Interrogating such aspects of animation circulation should contribute to the understanding of the interactions between cultural industries, as well as the building of contemporary fictional worlds (Brougère, 2008; Condry, 2013; Besson, 2015).

Submission Information

8Submitted papers, of a maximum of 40,000 characters including spaces, should be sent before July 15th 2019 to the coordinators: sebastien.francois@rocketmail.com and marie.pruvost-delaspre@univ-paris8.fr

9They will then be peer-reviewed in a double-blind process by the scientific committee. Instructions on format and citations may be found at: https://journals.openedition.org/​rfsic/​401

10The issue #18 is expected to be published by the end of 2019.

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Bibliographie

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BESSON Anne, 2015, Constellations : Des mondes fictionnels dans l’imaginaire contemporain, Paris, CNRS, 560 p.

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« N° 18 | Animation as Cultural Industry? Designing and Making Cartoons », Revue française des sciences de l’information et de la communication [En ligne], 16 | 2019, mis en ligne le 01 janvier 2019, consulté le 22 août 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/rfsic/5806 ; DOI : 10.4000/rfsic.5806

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