Monday, January 8, 2007


20th Century Visual Culture

Modernism & Post Modernism


Animation From The Last 50 Years Has Often Been Discussed In Relation To Its Fusion Of High Art And Popular Culture ‑ As Well As Its Use Of Appropriation, Pastiche And Parody, Its Ambivalence To New Technology And Mass Media And Its Avoidance Of The Narrative 'Closure'. Argue That These Characteristics of Post modernity can be applied To Three (3) Animated Titles. (Use Examples from Commercial/ Independent And / Or Web ­based Forms and Pop‑Video Clips)

Animation from the last 50 years has often been discussed in relation to its fusion of high art and popular culture, appropriation, pastiche and parody, its ambivalence to new technology and mass media and its avoidance of the narrative 'closure'.

This paper will argue that these characteristics of post modernity can be applied to the three following animated titles; The Maxx, Shrek, and Fantasia 2000. Firstly, this paper will identify characteristics of the fusion of high art and popular, as in Fantasia 2000, with its combination of Disney cartoons with classical music. Secondly, this paper will show that there is use of parody, pastiche and appropriation, as in Shrek’s irreverent treatment of the fairy tale genre and, thirdly that there is an ambivalence to new technologies and the mass media, and an avoidance of the narrative closure, as in the animated adaptation of Sam Keith’s psycho-analytical comic book, The Maxx.

Post Modernity is itself a slippery concept and there is not one undisputed description of this contemporary cultural phenomenon. It can be said that an artifact or activity is post modern if it exhibits a number of the traits that are generally associated with postmodernism (Batorowicz B. 2003). It is apparent that post modern characteristics are being identified and applied to animation discourse when we consider a statement by Lindvall and Melton;

“Animated film serves as a site for exploring certain aspects of postmodernism, particularly the realms of double-coding, intertextuality, and carnival comedy. It’s use of pastiche and parody, of extended quotation, and of multiple perspectives – of heteroglossia within one small discourse – situate it as a prime property for post modern analysis.”

It can be viewed that animation is an area that is being understood and discussed in a post modern context and we can also further identify some of the significant characteristics of post modernity.

In looking into one characteristic of post modernism, that being the fusion of high art and popular culture, it must be understood that animation has generally been considered a low art form of popular culture entertainment. It is associated with cartoons, comics and the mass marketing and merchandising of trade marked characters and properties. Recently there has been a revival in interest and academic study of the medium and there is a movement to acknowledge certain key animation artists and the art in general at higher level in the continuum of high and low art. (Wells 2002)

Although Shrek, The Maxx, and Fantasia 2000 can be considered as popular culture artifacts given there production within the entertainment industry, there is a significant fusion of high art ideals, concerns, and references into the production process that both informs and affects the final product or outcome. This fusion of high art sensibilities and concerns within popular culture context is seen to be a significant characteristic of the postmodernism era (Benshoff H.1992).

The basis of Disney’s Fantasia 2000, which is the sequel to the original Fantasia of 1940, is the combination of classical music with a variety of figurative and experimental animated segments. Although “this mixing of high and popular cultures doesn’t raise the eyebrows that it did in 1940” (Turan K. 1999), it is nonetheless important to note as it further indicates the continued shifting of sensibilities towards a more post modern discourse.

In Shrek the 3D animated blockbuster film about “a grumpy, slime-loving, bug eating ogre” (Fordham J. 2002) there is a significant fusion of high art ideals, concerns, and references. “DreamWorks upside down fairy tale” (Kaufmann D. 2001) references the impressionist color palettes of illustrators N.C. Wyeth (Fig 1), and Grant Wood. In impressionist paintings such as Monet’s, ’Wheat stacks’ (Fig. 2) the colors are pushed and combined to create an imagined reality of heightened chroma. To achieve the “other worldly’ fairy tale look in Shrek, DreamWorks developed complex 3D rendering programs to add a cooler chromatic spectrum to shadows and a warmer spectrum to the light and to minimize the use of black (Fordham J. 2002). This use of a sophisticated impressionistic colour palette in a popular culture animated feature film can be considered a fusion of high and low.

There are visual references in the design of Prince Farquaad’s fascist theme park castle, ‘Duloc’, that are sourced from “the pre-world war II architecture of Albert Speer, the architect for Hitler” (Joe Fordham 2002). Albert Speer’s impressive architectural monuments to fascism are considered to rest in the culture of the high arts.

Also, a significant high visual art and scientific concern is about creating a spatially realistic pictorial image within a flat two dimensional format, i.e.; a canvas or a screen (Manovich L.1997). Manovich sees this concern to be ancestrally related to the significant moment in the history of high western art when Giotto achieved for the first time the effect of being able to produce 3D form on a two dimensional canvas. This was the significant moment when the practice of visual art changed from symbolic 2D medieval imagery to the 3D perspective awareness and ability of the renaissance painters (Manovich L.1997). Perspective and form is achieved in 3D computer generated imagery by the use of recognizable ‘depth cues’ that correspond to the human visual experience of how we see and understand the real world (Moszkowicz J.2002). The visual depth cues that are used in computer generated imagery today can be seen to be the distant visual legacy of Giotto and the painters of the renaissance period that pioneered the language of perspective, form and realistic pictorial representation. This relationship between the high art and science concerns of creating spatially realistic images within a popular culture animated film can be understood within the framework of post modernity.

Parody, Pastiche and appropriation are considered characteristics of post modernity (Batorowicz B. 2003), and there are significant elements of each in each of the three animated titles.

Fantasia 2000 contains a variety of segments, rather, a pastiche of various Disney animation styles which have been used in previous projects. It has appropriated an entire segment from the first Fantasia of 1940 and there are strong areas of parody within the film. One of the strongest parodies is the segment with pink flamingos and a yo-yo which can be seen as a parody of the ballet (Fig. 3). This segment is set to the fragment of the classical music of ‘Saint Saines’, “carnival of animals” (Turan, K. 1999)

In Shrek, the blockbuster 3D animated feature film, there are numerous characteristics of post modernity. It is an irreverent parody and pastiche of the entire western fairytale genre, appropriated and translated from the children’s book by the same name written by William Steig (Kaufman D. 2001)(Fig. 4). In the movie Shrek, DreamWorks takes well known fairy tale characters and recontextualizes them, putting them all in one new story. Their primary and independent roles are subjugated and they become secondary characters to a new anti hero, the ogre, Shrek (Fig.5).

DreamWorks draws on a number of fairy tales to populate its story and the use of such material could be seen as pastiche, yet the use of this material extends into the realm of parody. The Fairy tale stories used include - The Ginger Bread Man, Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs, Peter Pan and Tinker Bell, Little Red Riding Hood, Three Blind Mice, and The Pied Piper. It also uses the classic fairy tale element of the prince’s quest to the castle protected by a fire breathing dragon to rescue the princess.

In Shrek there are references to popular entertainment such as the movies Matrix, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Gladiator and Star Wars and, there are also parodies of popular television wrestling, ice hockey and a television game show presentation (Adamson A. 2001)

Often a scene or sequence parodies more than one source, in the scene where Fiona fights Robin Hood and his merry men there are humorous references and parodies. These include a contemporary post modern treatment of Robin Hood and his merry men re contextualizing them into musical number that parodies the dance production ‘River Dance’ (Adamson A. 2001) There is a further parody in the usage of the effect called ‘bullet time’ popularized by the movie Matrix in the sequence where Fiona is fighting Robin Hood and his merry men;

“In a parody of the ‘bullet-time’ effect from the Matrix, Fiona freezes in midair as the camera rotates around her during a fight with Robin Hood’s merry men.”

(Fordham J. 2002)

MTV’s, The Maxx is a comic book adaptation of the first 11 issues of Sam Kieth’s cult comic book by the same name (published by Image Comics). The Maxx is complex multi layered story that rests firmly in the soil of psycho analysis (Smith G. 1999). The Maxx parodies the genre of the super hero giving us a large muscle bound super-hero-looking man in a purple suit and mask who lives in two different dimensional worlds. One world is the city and he is homeless, lives in a box and is under the care of a social worker named Julie. In the other world, which is a fantastic variation of the Australian outback, he is the jungle king and mighty protector of the leopard queen. The Maxx is often confused and personally out of control. This is a parody of the hero archetype of intelligence, strength and power (Smith G. 1999).

There is also a self-reflexive parody of cartoons within the film where the Maxx enters into a dream of him as a Saturday morning cartoon character. His character modeling becomes simpler and all dialogue has elements of rhyme.

It becomes evident that we can discuss each of these animated titles in regards to the post modern characteristics of parody, pastiche and appropriation as they are significant elements within the films.

Ambivalence to new technology and mass media, and an avoidance of the narrative 'closure' are post modern characteristics (Batorowicz B. 2003) which directly relate to the three animated titles in discussion.

Fantasia 2000 is a mixture of different animation styles but there maintains ambivalence to new technologies, in that there is a number of hand drawn two dimensional sections within the film. “Mickey’s misadventures with water and a broom still have the kind of magic that modern technology can’t always manage”. (Turan K. 1999). This statement suggests that there is ambivalence to new technologies within at least a few sections of the film.

Fantasia was originally intended as an ongoing project that would have new segments continually added to it. This denies it the authority of a singular traditional narrative and although some elements may constitute a complete storyline or narrative, seen altogether it must be considered in its patchwork and segmented nature.

Ambivalence to new technology and mass media can reveal itself in a number of ways. In Shrek it primarily reveals itself through the use of traditional live action filmic considerations. The inclusion of “camera” moves and angles specific to live action film making, like dollying, panning, film focus techniques and the addition of lens flare effects become an aesthetic choice rather than an actual necessity (Fordman J 2001). Fordman propounds that these are incorporated as if to inform the viewer that this is indeed a live action movie. Given that in the production of 3D animation there is no actual physical camera there is an ability to create any viewing angle or sequence that could be imagined. This effectively renders obsolete the ‘need’ to consider camera based filmic devices (Fordman J. 2001).

The Maxx stands out in its ambivalence to new technologies and in it’s avoidance of the traditional narrative closure. The Maxx as a comic book adaptation has retained significant elements and aspects of the comic book format (Fig. 6). The Maxx uses, to a large degree, radical framing techniques to communicate its comic book origin. The picture frame often changes from the standard film dimension and incorporates long tall frames, frames that are cropped, either horizontally and or vertically, and other framing devices such as frames within frames, and decorated frames indicating changes of scenes. There is also a significant ambivalence to new technologies in that often the animation is limited particularly in regards to the lack of movement of characters hair.

In addition, The Maxx’s storyline is more a psycho analytical investigation into the complex subconscious workings in relation to the repression of trauma other than a traditional narrative. This multifaceted story line does not come to a traditional narrative ‘closure’ in that not all questions are answered and not all plots are completely resolved.

In conclusion it can be said that characteristics of post modernism can be applied to the animated feature films; Shrek, Fantasia 2000, and the Maxx. It has been identified that there exists the characteristics of the fusion of high and low art as in the combination of Disney cartoons with classical music in ‘Fantasia 2000’. Parody, pastiche and appropriation are used to a large extent in ‘Shrek’s’ irreverent treatment of the fairy tale genre, and there is an ambivalence to new technologies and mass media and an avoidance of the narrative closure in the animated adaptation of Sam Keith’s comic book, ‘The Maxx’. Looking at these titles it is apparent that animation is a medium that can be discussed within a post modern context.

  • Beata Batorowicz, (2003), Classroom Tutorial, 20th century visual culture, modernism and post modernism

  • Terry Lindvall and Matthew Melton (1994), ‘Toward a postmodern animated discourse: Bakhtin, intertextuality and the cartoon carnival’, in Animation Journal, Fall 1994, vol. 8, no.1, pp. 44 - 63

  • Paul Wells (2002), ‘the animation auteur’, in ‘Animation, Genre & Authorship’, Wallflower Press, London, pp. 72-111

  • Harry Benshoff (1992),’Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, Is Disney High or Low? From Silly Cartoons to Postmodern Politics’, in ‘Animation Journal’, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 62-83

  • Kenneth Turan (1999), film review, in Los Angeles Times, in fantasia 2000, in Film review annual, year 2000, pp 510 - 515

  • Joe Fordham (2002), ‘Jowly Green Giant’, in Cinefex, no.88, pp. 47 – 64

  • Debra Kaufman (2001), ‘Shrek, DreamWorks’ upside down Fairy Tale’, in Animation Magazine, June 2001, pp 30 – 34

  • Lev manovich (1997), ‘Reality’ effects in computer animation, in A Reader in Animation Studies, John Libbey, Sydney, Australia, pp 5 – 15

  • Julia Moszkowicz (2002), To infinity and beyond: assessing the technological imperative in computer animation, in Screen, 43.3 Autumn 2002, pp. 293 - 314

  • Erin Warner, Vicki Jensen, Andrew Adamson (2001), Filmmakers commentary, in Special Features, in Shrek DVD, DreamWorks Home Entertainment.

  • Greg M. Smith (1999), ‘Shaping the Maxx: Adapting the comic book frame to television’, in Animation Journal, Fall 1999, vol. 8, no.1, pp. 32 -53


“The Oregon Trail Illustrations”

by N. C. Wyeth

Fig. 2

Monet, Wheatstacks (End of Summer)

1890-91 (190 Kb); Oil on canvas, 60 x 100 cm (23 5/8 x 39 3/8 in); The Art Institute of Chicago

online gallery

Fig. 3

A flamboyant yo-yo-playing flamingo stands apart from the flock in this interpretation of Camille Saint-Saƫns' "Carnival of the Animals, Finale."

(© Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Fig. 4

“cover of the original children’s book ‘Shrek’”

William Steig

Fig. 5

“Still from the animated feature ‘Shrek’”,

in Online Gallery at,

Fig. 6

“Scanned Cover, VHS, ‘The Maxx’”

Saturday, January 6, 2007



This essay will explore the question of wether there is a typically Australian animated image that can be identified and wether it is necessary to develop a distinctly Australian identity for animation produced in this country (Australia).

By identifying uniquely Australian cultural references within locally produced animation it will be argued that there is a typically Australian animated image. “Cane Toad” (2002) by Andrew Silke and Dave Clayton is an animation that draws on a distinctly Australian vocabulary. Alan Froud (2003), Director of the National Gallery of Australia states “Australian culture and identity is often defined by its counterpoints. Things are either very Australian or un-Australian and people generally know what is meant by either.”

This paper will also make the argument that it is not necessary to develop a distinctly Australian identity for all animation produced in this country” so much as as to provide an environment that supports the realization of animation with a uniquely Australian vocabulary.

This paper acknowledges that although one of the oldest indigenous populations on the planet had been inhabiting the continent for over 50,000 years (some argue that it could be more like 150,000 years) they were not officially recognised and the principle of “Terra Nullius”, a 17th century European Legal concept was enforced so as to claim possession of the continent that would become Australia. To this day no treaty has been signed with the indiginous people. It can be said that the lack of a civil treaty with the indigenous people of the Australian continent severely undermines the validity of a complete concept of Australian identity. For the purpose of this essay the Australian identity will be treated as it is prescribed by the mainstream Australian media sources.

Animated texts that can be read as Typically Australian draw upon and utilize a broad range of signs, stereo types, codes and conventions that form the visual language of the nebulous Australian national identity which is rooted in both the real and mythic history of Australia and its people. It is an ever evolving amorphous complex relationship of images, cultural nuisances, personalities, and government policy. It is under pinned by key historical events and forever set against a backdrop of the Australian landscape with its unique flora and fauna.

One animation that can be read as typically Australian is Cane Toad (2003), an award winning Australian short Film starring cane toads. It is an interesting text as it utilizes numerous typically Australian references to create a comedic look at some aspects of Australian culture. The world that the toads inhabit is depicted as typically Australian and the toads as stereo typical Australian personalities with distinct Australian accents.

The animation opens with a text description of the cane toad; “Poisonous pest introduced to Australia, now in plague proportions”. From the out set of the film the audience is made aware that the animation is located in Australia through one of the most potent symbols of Australia, the word itself.

immediately after the opening titles the audience is introduced to a cane toad character ’Daza’, relaxing in a dog bowl with a bottle of beer, He is talking about his mate ‘Baza’ (fig. 1) who is wearing a blue shearers Singlet and stubbies shorts, this is a depiction of a certain stereotype of Australian male.

The use of iconic Australian language idioms is used throughout the text, beginning when ‘Daza’ addresses the audience “G’day mate”. This use of language continues throughout the animation with such expressions as; “Pickle me Grandmother”, “The silly old bugger”, “Seeing the bludger still owes me a six – pack”, “I’m happy to blow the froth of a few coldies”, He’d only have the time it takes to shot gun a tinny”, and “his ass is grass”. These expressions help define the characters as uniquely Australian as they are representative of unique National attitudes that have developed within the culture since the arrival of the first fleet.

There is also a use of iconic landscapes such as the ‘Aussie backyard’, and the dessert landscape of the outback (fig. 2), There is a classic Australian souvenir shop with a corrugated tin roof (fig. 3), Australian flags, didgeridoos, a stuffed koala and boomerangs. There are other key signs that firmly place this animation in the realm of being typically Australian such as the images of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera house. There is also a Reference to the black stump, a famous Australian icon of historical relevance.

Another significant sign that this is an Australian animation is the “product placement’ of an iconic Australian commercial product, the Victa lawnmower (fig.2). Victa is a brand of local origin that's still ‘proudly made in Australia’.

Andrew Silke (2003), one of the co-creators of Cane toad States “Cane-Toad is certainly an Australian film and the Australian audiences connect with the humour. And whilst Cane-Toad is doing well in the overseas festivals the reaction hasn't been quite the same as it is here in Oz.” This highlights the issue, that animations of a uniquely Australian vocabulary may not be well understood or well received by an international audience. Australian films then must operate within limited markets which in turn limits the profit that is able to be generated, which in turn negatively impacts the viability of actually producing Australian animation that may reach only a limited audience.

There has, since the earliest days of animation in Australia, been a relationship between the development of the art of animation, and commercial interests. Both, the first cinema animations of Harry Julius and the first animated series for Australian TV, ‘Freddo Frog’ (fig. 4) (Winkler 2002) where commercially motivated. The medium can be seen to be significantly informed by commercial interests.

Australia has a relatively small population of consumers in terms of world screen markets, 20,100,000 people compared with the USA which has 294,390,000 (US census beurea). Due to economies of scale, the notion of wether it is necessary to develop a distinctly Australian identity for animation produced in this country is a question of cultural and political importance as the outcome is largely bound to the idealogical forces within the government that determine implementation of government policy. As Australia is a democracy this question can only be answered to the extent that the Australian population of voting citizens value access to a sovereign Australian screen Culture. One that is created by a local Australian industry and that reflects themes and issues of National origin that tell Australian stories.

Recently the Australian government attempted unsuccessfully to include Australia’s cultural industry into a long standing Free Trade agreement with the USA. The proposed agreement would have limited the jurisdiction of Australian Legal system to impose media content legislation within Australia. The issue of wether it is necessary to develop a distinctly Australian identity for animation produced in this country is complex as there are essentially two opposing forces. Coporate, cultural and economic Globalisation versus proponents of Soverign cultural identity directed and supported by the government.

On Monday 21 June 2004, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications, Information Technology and the Arts tabled its report entitled ‘From reel to unreal’, Future opportunities for Australia's film, animation, special effects and electronic games industries. This report suggests film funding should be based more on market demands and less on cultural imperatives, that is, to tell Australian stories (Martin 2004).

It becomes apparent that there is a complex relationship of opposing forces that are currently shaping the international media environment and that although there is a typically Australian animated image that can be identified, that may be relevant locally there are serious economic questions that need to be addressed about a projects viability if it does not succeed in the international marketplace. It is not reasonable to force Australian content onto animation producers in Australia but it is resonable to support Ausralian production through financial assistance, tax benefits, and the maintenance of the already existing Australian content quota. There is the potential within animation in Australia for a significant cultural dialogue to occur. It is a medium ideally suited to contributing contemporary myths and stories that could positively inform the evolving Australian identity.


Andrew Silke (2003), retrospective, one year later,

Wendy Keys, (1999), Childrens television: A Barometer of the Australian Media Policy Climate, Children’s Television Policy:International Perspectives, Media International Australia, Australian Key centre for cultural and media policy, faculty of arts, Giffith University, Nathan

Alan Froud - Director, National Gallery of Australia (2003) Culture and Identity, Business Council of Australia,

Lauren Martin, (September 22 2004) Film, Sydney Morning Herald, Fairfax Digital

Michael Winkler (June 13 2002) Hopping back in time, The AGE

Prime Time Animation


Parliamentary Inquiry into the future opportunities for Australia's film, animation, special effects and electronic games industries

Australian Government culture and recreation portal

US Census Beureau

Official site of Cane Toad animation

Business Council of Australia


Fig. 1

Baz, the cane toad can be seen wearing a classic Aussie ‘Shearers singlet’ with a Victa Lawnmower in the background.

Fig. 2

Baz, lost ‘out past the Black Stump’ in an iconic Australian landscape

Fig. 3

An Aussie Souvenir shop complete with stereo typical iconic Australian imagery. Gum leaves in the foreground further enforce the Australianess of the scene


An original image of the character Freddo frog who became the star of the first animated series on Australian television. A precedent of how commercial intersests have shaped Australian animation.



Dance Party or ‘Rave’ animation is a contemporary international animation art form that occurs just below the radar of the mainstream. Rave animation occurs within the underground ‘rave’ dance party sub-culture that started in England’s so called “Summer of Love in1988” (Jordan 2000).

This essay will explore the question of whether the phenomenon of Rave animation is a unique form of animation. Firstly, there will be an investigation of some key themes and sensibilities of the subculture of the Rave Dance party. These themes and sensibilities can be seen to significantly inform the visual language of the animation .There will also be an investigation of precedents and /or traditions of this type of animation that can account for aesthetic and theoretical concerns. Lastly, there will also be an identification of the unique aspects of Rave animation as they differ from the Disney model of orthodox animation.

The ‘rave’ sub-culture embodies a variety of non mainstream values, activities, and aesthetic codes, and expresses a complex mix of philosophies and sensibilities that has often put it at odds with mainstream institutions. Due to anti-establishment sentimentalities and the use of legal and illegal perception altering substances such as MDMA, LSD, and Mushrooms, the history of the rave party sub-culture, both overseas and in Australia, has been followed closely by law reforms that specifically target the activities of this group. Healy (2001), states that the International electronic music culture may be viewed as subordinate to mainstream culture, and therefore resistant. Healy (2001) goes on to state that “While it is getting more difficult to classify the amorphous electronic music culture as a distinct subculture rather than an ecology of mutating, genre splintering cultures from the underground through to commercial culture, there is enough shared focal concerns, activities and values within this spectrum to group them together for the purpose of giving context to rave visuals.”

Although ‘Rave’ Party Animation is not immediately available to the general public and there is scarce written material available about the role of visuals in a rave environment, the visual language of the rave sub culture can be seen to have influenced the main stream popular visual culture, primarily through its impact on the culture of advertising. This has been through high profile popular culture companies such as Levi Strauss and MTV utilizing the rave sub culture’s visual language and Viral marketing strategies to reposition them as “cool” (Jordan 2000)

Rave Animation is a complex visual language with creative impulses and aesthetic interests outside the context of mainstream mass production. Paul Wells (1988) defines the terms and conditions of experimental animation as being; abstraction, specific non - continuity, interpretive form, evolution of materiality, multiple styles, presence of the artist and the dynamics of musicality. Using these terms, it can be noted that Rave animation is primarily an experimental animation form.

This type of animation is diverse; drawing its visual syntax from many sources, significantly, the visual language and concerns of the psychedelic era of the 60’s and 70’s, (Jordan 2000). This complex visual language is informed by the aesthetic sensibilities of the underground ‘rave’ dance party sub-culture. Strauss (Jordan 2000) states that “One can trace raves back to the transgressive four arts balls in Paris in the 1920’s, the acid tests of Ken Keasey and the Merry Pranksters in San Francisco in the 60’s, or for those more mystically inclined, Native American religious ceremonies and the shamanistic rites of other tribal societies”.

Common Themes that are often explored within Rave animation include; Technology, Metamorphosis, metaphysics, Rhythm and beat, Exploration of time and space, Shamanism and the use of perception altering Drugs. A general Popularity in the “new Age” concepts of Metaphysics and spirituality has been supported by the advent of new scientific discoveries and theories including, fractal geometry, quantum physics and the chaos theory, all of which, have contributed to the visual language of Rave party animations.

Rave animation often features visual imagery produced by computer programs, fractal generators and other algorithms such as Mandelbrot fractals (fig 1). Equally this animation form could include graphic manipulation of live footage (fig 4), and still images. 3D animation features prominently in this form of animation. Traditional 2D cell techniques appear to feature minimally.

Although this form of animation can be seen as unique it must be acknowleded that there is a rich tradition of experimental animation and animators, and there are visual precedents to this kind of visual form. The language of Rave animation reflects some of the visual pioneers of experimental animation, such as Norman Mclaren and John Whitney.

“Norman McLaren was one of the most influential of all animators” states Grant (2001) and his restless inovation is recognized throughout the animation industry. McLaren set numerous visual precedents that have since been capitilized upon within the culture of rave animation. By comparing McLaren’s “Pas De Deux” (1969)(fig.3) with the animation by VJ Aix called “Dream of Jinni”(2002)(fig.4) and, ‘Images from AREA 51’ (1990’s) (fig.5) by Daniel Forbus we can establish that there has indeed been precedents of visual elements within the rave animation form. All three works explore the visual language of multiple image.

John Whitney was one of the foremost artist technicians working in the field of experimental animation from the 1940’s to the 1990’s and was a pioneer in the area of computer visualizations, his experiments “balanced a cutting edge use of technology with a strong sense of artistic control and integrity” (digital Art Museum 1967) Digital Harmony (1988) by John Whitney (fig.6) was produced with a digital computer under a IBM research grant. Whitney’s visual experiments can be seen to be reflected in the Rave animation "Aix live mix excerpt A". Both animations are exploring the visual language of animated movement using digital technology. Both texts utilize a central motif of a circle/sphere to explore this movement. This further enriches the view that there have been visual precedents to the visual language of rave animation.

The pioneers of Abstract animation in turn can be seen to be part of a strong tradition of visual exploration of a non objective visual language and have a shared heritage back to the pioneering work of Wassily Kandisky. Kandinsky not only provided the western world with the first abstract, non objective imagery he wrote a number of influential books theorizing the dynamics of non-objective image making. Interestingly Kandinsky connected non objective imagery to concepts of spirituality in his book “Concerning the Spiritual in Art” and strived to create a visual language that reflected the purely abstract art of music. These are concerns that are explored within the forms and themes of rave animation today.

Although there have been historic precedents of the visual form of rave animation and a strong tradition of visual exploration as stated, Rave animation can still be considered unique. It differs from the endeavors of earlier experimental animators, in that the exploration and or creation of movement and color, is taking place in an entirely new space. This new space seems to have an ever expanding horizon in terms of the visual possibilities. Terence McKenna (2000), a psychedelics guru of the Rave culture states, “There is the phenomenon of non-ordinary, or what I call visible language and this is very interesting to me. This is where technology, virtual-reality, cybernetics, human-machine interfacing can actually make an impact and explore a frontier. Visual language is a transformation of the physiological impulse towards syntax into a final product, speech, which is not heard with the ears, but beheld with the eyes.” Rave animation has embraced the exploration of synthetic technologies, the possibilities that they can create and the questions that they provoke.

A unique aspect of rave animation is that it depicts a new complexity of visual signs that until the advent of the digital technologies were either not available or not easily obtainable. This new space can be seen to be the virtual possibilities of the digital environment of the computer. Widespread availability of the new digital sound and image manipulation technologies enables individual artists to manipulate the experience of time and space both visually and audibly outside of the laws of dynamics that apply to non digital artifacts. It could be said that the primary concern of Dance party animation, is the intentional exploration of the possible parameters of synthesized animated movement within the context of the digital environment of the computer

A significant concern of Rave animation then arises that is to create a manipulation of vision and sound that extends to the explored parameters of the technology, utilizing a creative aesthetic to produce a personal and communal product/experience. McKenna (2000) states “It’s almost as though the project of communication becomes high-speed sculpture in a conceptual dimension made of light and intentionality”

Rave animation can be accounted for in large part to the unique social, cultural and economic environments under which the animation has been created

Two significant factors that have contributed to the uniqueness of Rave animation include, Firstly, Rave cultures unique relationship with digital technology, which is that it has embraced it wholly as a creative vehicle of expression. And secondly the rave party sub-cultures non – mainstream aspirations and practices. Significantly this includes the use of perception altering substances such as MDMA (Ecstasy) and LSD (Acid).

This animation does not follow conventional strategies of commercial animation production nor does it rely on mainstream networks of distribution. The Disney model of animation production is challenged by the animation used at dance Parties. Rave animation, or simulted alternative visual reality is generally non narrative and often provides the audience the opurtunity to internalize the non narrative visual input into a personal abstract visual journey.

The production concerns of Animation for dance parties seem to be significantly different to that of current commercial animation studios producing material for the TV and film market. Some of these concerns It seems that this form of animation is often produced in small personal studios by individuals or small groups of people who identify with Dance party culture. This form of animation is generally produced for a limited display at a number of dance party events.

Dance Party Animation Differs from Disneys orthodox model of animation production and distribution in numerous ways. Rave animation’s relationship with sound differs significantly to the disney model in that generally Sound and music are made independently to the animation, There is little to no focus on dialouge within this animation form and generally The animations and visuals act to support the music and sounds. The disney model is concerned with primarily producing Animation Timed to soundtrack, the Music and soundtrak are created to support the Animated materialit is dialog focused with Star personalities used for voice casting

Within this form of animation there is an exploration of the paremeters of animated movement. Mckenna (2000) states that digital visual language ihas a focus on ‘Animism’ as opposed to dynamism, the study of dynamics as exampled by the Disney studio’s immitation of the real. There is a focus primarily on naturalistic movement. Dynamism or the study of dynamics in the real world and transposing those into the formal visual language that Disney is famous for.

Rave animation Does not utilize traditional narrative techniques. Narratives are reflexive, relating to , and reflecting on the technology that is producing the animated form. It could be said that The lack of narrative allows for an audience participation that is different from the traditional models of animation screening. Personal interperatation of the animated material is enevitable. This more personal interperatation allows the audience to become the heroes or anti-hero’s of the real world by becoming an intergrated component within the meaning of the text.

The concerns of Rave animation can be seen to challenge the Disney model in numerous ways. These include: a recognition of the individual artist/animator, the use of high end technology to create non-mainstream artifacts, small personal studio environments, and Insubstantial production budgets. Rave animation is disributied through non-mainstream networks, and is promoted utilizing alternative marketing stratergies such as Viral marketing. Where as The Disney model of animation production is is supported by a Significant International Industry where the company name overshadows individual artistic work., There is a utilization of high end technology to produce mainstream poular culture texts for mass consumption. The Disney model is founded on the studio sysrtem of production with large production budgets. There is also a use of Established distribution networks and tradtional marketing stratergies.

In conclusion it can be said that Rave animation is a unique contemporary animation art form. The Rave party sub-culture can be seen as resistant to the mainstream yet the visual language of the sub-culture can be seen to have influenced mainstream visual dialouge. Although there have been precedents and a strong tradition of experimental animation, rave animation has it’s own uniqe sensiblities and visual form. Significantly, this can be seen to be a reflection of the rave sub-cultures non-mainstream philosophies coupled with the advent of new digital imaging technologies available to the general public.


Paul Wells, (1998), Understanding Animation, Routlage, London & New York

R Russet & C Starr, (1976), Experimental Animation – An Illustrated Anthology, Litton Educational Publishing, Inc., USA

Alan Cholodenko, (1991) the Illusion of Life, Essays On Animation, Power Publications – Australian Film Commission, Sydney, Australia

Wassily Kandinsky, (1947), Point and Line To Plane, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation for Non-Objective Painting, New York City

J. Jordan, S. Hoeckel, J. Jordan, (2000), Searching for the Perfect Beat,Watsin-Guptill Publications, New York, USA

John Grant, (2001), Masters of Animation, BT Batsford, London


John Whitney, (1988), Digital Harmony , The John Whitney Biography Page, Digital Art Museum,(USA),

Terence McKenna, (2000), Ordinary Language, Visible Language and Virtual Reality,


(fig.1) Mandelbrot fractal. On March the 1st, 1980 the Mandelbrot set was discovered by mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot.

Copyright © 1998 - 2003 by SpiritArt Org.

(fig.2) Algorithm based visual

From Internet, No details

(fig.3) Pas de Deux (1969) by Norman McLaren

Experimental Animation (1976), R Russet & C Starr

(fig.4) Dream of the Jinni, (2002) by VJ Aix

TranceVideo Clips,, (1 minute, 320 x 240, 15fps, 11.8MB QUICKTIME format)

Dream of the Jinni is a 7-minute video-art composition by VJ

Aix which was recognized as a finalist at the screening of the 7th

Annual NOT STILL ART Festival in New York, April, 2002. Music "Shadai"

By Ken Hata and Madoka of Jiyuujidai (Japan)

(fig.5) Images from AREA 51 by Daniel Forbus

This is an example of images produced from a live camera and real-time image manipulation (1990’s),

(fig.6) Digital Harmony by John Whitney, (1988)

The John Whitney Biography Page, Digital Art Museum,(USA),

(fig.7) "Aix live mix excerpt A" by VJ Aix

TranceVideo Clips,,

(1 minute, 320 x 240, 15fps, 10.3MB QUICKTIME format)

(fig.8) 3-Dimensional Rave Animation Visual

From Internet, no details