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14th Annual Society for
Animation Studies Conference

Last year, I heavily promoted the 14th Annual Society for Animation Studies, in Glendale, California, which I had the honor of chairing. Doing this, among other things, was responsible for suspending my regular commentaries for the last half of 2002. However, I would like to take this opportunity to present a brief report in words and pictures of this important event.

The 14th Annual Society for Animation Studies conference was held last year at the Brand Libary & Art Center, in Glendale, California, September 26-29. DreamWorks hosted the keynote address by animation historian Donald Crafton, chair of the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre at the University of Notre Dame, and author of such pioneering books as Before Mickey: the Animated Film, 1898-1928 and Emile Cohl, Caricature and Film. In addition to the conference proper, there was the opening reception at the Cartoon Network Studios hosted by

In addition, there were receptions hosted by the Cartoon Network Studios, in Burbank, the Glendale Arts and Culture Commission, which provided critical support for the conference itself, and DreamWorks.


Donald Crafton giving keynote address
Donald Crafton giving his keynote address.

Crafton's address, “Performance in and of Animation,” was easily one of the conference highlights. His largely speculative presentation examined the newly emerging field of performance theory viz-à-viz animation. It provided much food for thought, especially in the way he examined the influence of such theatrical forms as vaudeville on Hollywood animation.

Harvey Deneroff, Susan Ohmer and Frank Gladstone
Harvey Deneroff, Susan Ohmer and Frank Gladstone at Friday night reception put on by the Glendale Arts and Culture Commission. Ohmer teaches at Notre Dame along with her husband Donald Crafton; Gladstone is a member of the Commission and helped get funding from DreamWorks, where he works.

His talk nicely complimented a number of other presentations, including papers by Michael Frierson, of the University of North Carolina,Greensboro, who talked about the carnivalesque aspects of Eric Fogel’s Celebrity Death Match, and Mark Langer, of Carleton University in Ottawa, who talked about “Rotoscoping and Freakery” in Fleischer cartoons.

Richard Leskosky and Michael Frierson
Past SAS President Richard Leskosky of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and current treasurer Michael Frierson chat before the conference began on Friday. From left to right: ESREIB's Pierre Floquet, Mark Langer, Richard Leskosky, Trinity University's Suzanne Williams and Donald Crafton talk at picnic.

The most popular topic, though, proved to be anime, with two panels and several other papers devoted to the topic. Among the most interesting was one by Takao Hagiwara, of Case Western Reserve University, whose talk on Princess Mononoke went against conventional wisdom by arguing that Hayao Miyazaki is more Western than Japanese in his films.

Mark Langer and Gene Walz
The Canadian contingent included Fleischer expert Mark Lange of Carleton University and Gene Walz of the University of Manitoba.

Filmmaker Paul Vester and husband of Irene Kotlarz chats with USC's Christine Panushka at DreamWorks reception.

John Lent, of Temple University, whose name is usually synonymous with Asian cinema studies, presented a fascinating look at Juan Padrón and Cuban Animation. Karin Wehn, of the University of Leipzig and the University of Fine Arts, Berlin, discussed the now almost neglected topic of “Animation on the World Wide Web,” which she clearly demonstrated to still be a vital arena for new work. Joanna Bouldin, of the University of California, Irvine, gave one of several papers dealing with the “animated body” — hers was about “Laying Down the Law On Virtual Porn.”

Pixar's Doug Nichols holds impromptu seminar at picnic. CalArts' Bill Moritz, who is another past SAS president on the conference's final day.

As is customary at SAS conferences, several filmmakers provided some balance to the more academic presentations. For instance, Sharon Wu, of CalArts, talked about “The Impact of Digital Animation Productions on the Feature Animation Industry,” Tom Klein, of CD-ROM producer Knowledge Adventure and Loyola Marymount University, talked about the changing uses of computers in 2-D animation; and Wendy Jackson Hall, from Seattle (seen above with Yale's Mariano Prunes), reported on her findings on how young children comprehend animation based on her experience teaching school kids. In contrast, Pixar's Doug Nichols did a straightforward historical presentation in his “History of Computer Animation at Walt Disney Feature Animation.”

SAS President Ton Crone, of the Netherlands Institute of Animation Film (on left), announced that next year's conference would be in Annecy, in late May, during the weekend leading up the Annecy Festival. However, arrangements were not yet firm and there was some concern about the fact a call for papers had not been sent out yet. In the end, the conference was cancelled; instead, the Society will help to organize the Animated Worlds Conference, July 9-11, 2003, being put on by the Animation Research Centre (ARC) at the Surrey Institute of Art & Design, University College, Farnham, England. (This was the site of the 1993 SAS conference.)

In 2004, the Society will hold its first conference in Asia, in conjunction with the Hiroshima Animation Festival and and the Japanese Society for Animation Studies. SAS will return to the U.S. in 2005, when the conference will be held in San Antonio, Texas, and be co-hosted by Trinity University.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who helped make the Glendale conference a huge success. Critical to its success was the work on the conference committee headed by Irene Kotlarz, ex-director of the Cambridge and Bristol Animation Festivals, and Tom Knott, Warner Bros. recruiter and ex-director of the Ottawa Animation Festival, along with Mark Langer , Joanna Bouldin , Christine Panushka (head of the USC animation program), Jerry Beck ( and Brian Oakes (USC). I would also like to thank Brian Miller of Cartoon Network Studios, and Frank Gladstone of DreamWorks. But above all, I would like to thank Dr. Earl Sherburn, of Sherburn-Flores Associates, for providing the conference's organizational backbone.

— Harvey Deneroff
February 23, 2003

2003 by Harvey Deneroff


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