September theme: Early, Silent and Pre-cinematic Animation

Guest curated by: Malcolm Cook

Deadline: August 27th, 2018


As Donald Crafton’s ground-breaking book made clear in 1982, the period Before Mickey was a fertile one for animation. Early trick films demonstrated the key techniques of stop-camera and frame-by-frame capture, while exhibiting the intermedial origins of animation and cinema. Pioneers from McCay to Bray produced celebrated masterpieces or developed labour-saving techniques. Animation went from a cottage industry to a lucrative business. Arguably, animation even pre-existed the technology of cinema, with optical toys and stage entertainments exhibiting ‘animated’ qualities.

Yet, there remain many unanswered questions about this nascent period, with new archival discoveries and academic methods yet to be explored. What has been left out of canonical animation histories? What place does animation have in the histories and theories of early film that have developed since the influential 1978 FIAF meeting in Brighton?  What role did women play in the development of animation? What does it mean to describe something as ‘animation’ in periods and countries where that term was not in use? What relevance do films over a century old have in the present day? Animation Studies 2.0 invites new research, reflections and provocations on these themes.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • The early development and adoption of animation around the world;
  • Studies of lesser known early animation pioneers (e.g. Helena Smith Dayton, Segundo de Chomón, Walter Booth, or Margaret Winkler);
  • Silent-era animated stars and stardom (e.g. Felix the Cat, Mutt and Jeff, or Bonzo);
  • Representation in early animation of race, gender, sexuality;
  • The aesthetics of pre-sound animation: lightning sketches, rubber-hose, straight-ahead animation;
  • Music, sound and ‘silent’ animation: accompaniment practices and singalongs;
  • Optical and philosophical toys and their relationship to animation (e.g. zoetropes, phenakistascopes, or praxinoscopes);
  • Magic lantern presentations, mechanical slides, and early moving projected images;
  • Performance and its role in the development of animation: magicians, lighting cartoonists, vaudeville and minstrelsy;
  • Intermedial connections in early animation (e.g. print cartooning, avant-garde artists and movements, or puppetry);
  • The present-day reception of early animation: archives, reissues, fan culture;
  • The relationship between animation and the ‘cinema of attractions’;
  • Labour, craft and the early industrialisation and rationalisation of animation production;
  • Debates about the historical specificity of animation or its theoretical pervasiveness.

Posts of between 600 and 900 words, which discuss any aspect of the above topic are welcome. Contributors are encouraged to include clips and at least one image to support their posts. Please also include a short bio and 3 keywords. All permissions are the responsibility of the contributor. Please contact the guest curator Malcolm Cook ( and the editors Nichola Dobson ( and Cristina Formenti ( with submissions or questions.