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63 minutes | Aug 26, 2019
Episode 28 - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) (with Stuart Messinger)
Episode 28 sees Chris and Alex joined in their world of pure imagination by Stuart Messinger, VFX Coordinator on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Tim Burton, 2005), to discuss the part-musical, full-fantasy and live-action/CGI adaptation of Roald Dahl’s popular story. Topics include Stuart’s work on the film in digital visual effects at the Moving Picture Company; the collaborative nature of multi-studio effects production on feature-length blockbusters; the practical and artistic challenges of animating live-action plates; the combination of 2D (matte) and 3D (sub-surface scattering) technologies; and the integration of realist aesthetics together with the surrealistic imagery and fantastic stylisations conjured by Dahl’s original 1964 story.
63 minutes | Aug 12, 2019
Episode 27 - Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) (with Simran Hans)
Episode 27 has Chris and Alex swinging their way into a superhero-filled multiverse to discuss the narrative strategies and visual dynamism of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman, 2018), the highly-successful computer-animated feature film from Sony Pictures Animation. Caught in the fantasy/animation web for this latest instalment is Simran Hans, film critic and culture writer whose work has appeared in The Observer, The Guardian, Buzzfeed, Dazed, The Fader and Sight & Sound. Topics for discussion include Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’s unique formal design and flattened style that reinvigorates computer-animated film aesthetics; superheroes, space and moments of stasis; forking path narratives and the fantasy of twice-told tales; and the role of family relationships as the film’s main structuring principle.
76 minutes | Jul 29, 2019
Episode 26 - King Kong (2005) (with Barry J.C. Purves)
For episode 26, Chris and Alex are joined by special guest Barry J.C. Purves, renowned stop-motion animator, director and screenwriter who is also the author of Stop Motion: Passion, Process and Performance (Burlington, MA: Focal Press, 2007). The focus of their conversation is the monster epic King Kong (Peter Jackson, 2005), the digital VFX-heavy remake of the original 1933 film of the same name, and a film upon which Barry himself worked as part of the animation department. Topics for discussion include the labour involved in the interaction between live-action and digital elements; the economy of King Kong’s symmetrical narrative structure; and the power of stop-motion’s objects as they become storytelling agents, as well as turns to William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde and Greek tragedy along the way.
72 minutes | Jul 15, 2019
Episode 25 - The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) (with Shaun Gunner)
Venturing to Middle-earth, and ably accompanied on this opening stage of their podcasting quest by Shaun Gunner, chairman of the Tolkien Society, Chris and Alex discuss the first of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings adaptations, The Fellowship of the Ring (2001). Journeying from the Shire on the way to Mount Doom, episode 25 debates Tolkien’s ability to craft believable genealogies and histories in his high fantasy realms; cartography, map-making and the geographical consistency of fictional worlds; and the film’s relationship to post-millennial Hollywood franchises via technological developments in digital visual effects.
58 minutes | Jul 1, 2019
Episode 24 - Waltz with Bashir (2008) (with Bella Honess Roe)
Episode 24 takes a walk through the terrain of animated documentary, with Chris and Alex joined by Dr Bella Honess Roe (Senior Lecturer and Programme Director for Film Studies, University of Surrey) to discuss the relationship between truth, authenticity and animation in Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman, 2008). Documenting his own personalised account of the Lebanon war, Folman’s feature film provides a useful test case to think about how fantasy and animation might be applied within a non-fiction context. Topics for discussion include the ability of animation to represent trauma (including its depiction of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre); the veracity of animating dreams and memory; and the medium’s veiling properties as a mode of historical or personal distraction. The result is both the framing of Waltz with Bashir as a crucible moment that reignited scholarly interest in animated documentary, and a reflection on how Folman’s film crystallises memory as itself as a combination of the factual and fantastical.
63 minutes | Jun 17, 2019
Episode 23 - Gulliver's Travels (1939)
In episode 23, Chris and Alex turn to the work of the Fleischer studios, looking at the second North American animated feature film Gulliver’s Travels (Dave Fleischer, 1939), an adaptation of Jonathan Swift’s seminal work of fantasy fiction. As something of a follow-up to Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (David Hand, 1937), the film raises questions about animation’s creative ability to render perspectival shifts and ‘scaled’ imagery of ‘big’ versus ‘small’; world-building and the intrusive fantasy of human figuration; and the surrealist design of the Flesichers’ characters offset against Disney’s more ‘hyperrealist’ aesthetic. We suggest that Gulliver’s Travels stands as an imaginative development of animation in the U.S. context, with a playful visual register in the presentation of Lilliput that uses the drama of shifting dimensionality to speak to the emotional function of fantasy spaces for children.
67 minutes | Jun 3, 2019
Episode 22 - Pogles' Wood (1965-1967) (with Simon Costin)
Episode 22 marks a return to the small screen, as Chris and Alex discuss the BBC television stop-motion animated series Pogles’ Wood (Oliver Postgate, 1965-1967), produced by renowned British production company Smallfilms. The Fantasy/Animation team are joined for this latest installment by Simon Costin, artist, set designer and director of the Museum of British Folklore, a project devoted to celebrating and researching the UK's rich folkloric cultural heritage. Weaving their way through this staple of sixties British television, the trio examine stop-motion techniques and the craft of puppetry, the integration of magic and wonder into idyllic pastoral visions, and broader traditions of British fairies, folktales, and fantasy.
76 minutes | May 19, 2019
Episode 21 - Aladdin (1992) (with Steve Henderson)
In episode 21, Chris and Alex are joined by Steve Henderson - Editor of the Skwigly Online Animation Magazine and Co-Director of the Manchester Animation Festival, and Senior Lecturer in Animation at the Manchester School of Art - to discuss the Disney animated musical Aladdin (Ron Clements and John Musker, 1992). With the live-action/CG remake soon to hit cinema screens, this episode provides the perfect opportunity to revisit what has made this popular cel-animated fantasy so enduring among audiences. Expect all your wishes granted as the conversation turns to reflexivity and narration, the Disney Renaissance, star voices and vocal artistry, the film’s use of digital visual effects, Orientalist discourse and the representation of ‘Otherness,’ and even the Gulf War. You’ve never had a friend like this podcast!
68 minutes | May 6, 2019
Episode 20 - Peppa Pig (2004-) (with Richard Dyer)
Episode 20 welcomes Professor Richard Dyer (Emeritus Professor of Film Studies, King's College London and Professorial Fellow in Film Studies, University of St Andrews) to the podcast, joining Chris and Alex to discuss the popular British animated television series Peppa Pig (Neville Astley and Mark Baker, 2014-). Comparing the programme to the work of modernist painter Henri Matisse and filmmaker Béla Tarr, they examine questions of episodic seriality, simplicity and realism in character design, and the politics of niceness, as well as the idea of children as a social construct via the inscription of ‘the child’ into the animated media text. We also talk about Daddy Pig’s big tummy and the joy of jumping in muddy puddles.
54 minutes | Apr 15, 2019
Episode 19 - The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
For episode 19, Chris and Alex revisit the Walt Disney Studio and its adaptation of Victor Hugo’s nineteenth-century Gothic novel for its cel-animated musical The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, 1996). A melodrama set against the backdrop of medieval Paris, the film reworks its classic source material and gives it the Mouse House treatment, bringing Hugo’s mature literary Gothicism together with Disney’s ‘cartoon’ principles. Discussion ranges from the film’s evocation of the ‘topsy turvy’ carnivalesque to specific elements of its character design, as Chris and Alex consider how Hunchback’s broader thematic concerns of suppressed sexuality and obsession, damnation, and grotesque horror reconfigure Disney’s (fairy) tale ‘as old as time’ formula.
73 minutes | Mar 31, 2019
Episode 18 (Bonus) - Society for Cinema and Media Studies 2019 (Part 2)
Episode 18 comes to you live from the 2019 Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference, held in Seattle, Washington, USA! Hear Chris and Alex report on the ins and outs of attending the largest academic media conference in the world, providing you with insights into the various panels, delegates and procedures of the event through a series of interviews with the best and brightest from the worlds of fantasy and animation. Part 2 continues the discussion with Tim Jones (Robert Morris University), Christina Kowalski and Suzanne Richardson (Routledge), Eric Smoodin (University of California, Davis) and Leon Gurevitch (Victoria University of Wellington).
86 minutes | Mar 31, 2019
Episode 17 (Bonus) - Society for Cinema and Media Studies 2019 (Part 1)
Episode 17 comes to you live from the 2019 Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference, held in Seattle, Washington, USA! Hear Chris and Alex report on the ins and outs of attending the largest academic media conference in the world, providing you with insights into the various panels, delegates and procedures of the event through a series of interviews with the best and brightest from the worlds of fantasy and animation. Part 1 includes interviews with Kristen Moana Thompson (Seattle University), Susan Ohmer (University of Notre Dame), Cristina Formenti (University of Milan) and Murray Leeder (University of Calgary), as well as highlights from Chris and Alex's own panel at the conference titled “Animation, Technology and Identity”, also featuring as speakers Cristina and Mihaela Mihailova (University of Michigan).
69 minutes | Mar 18, 2019
Episode 16 - Coco (2017) (with Eavesdropping at the Movies)
Episode 16 heralds the first Fantasy/Animation crossover instalment, with Chris and Alex joined by Michael Glass and José Arroyo, also known as the Eavesdropping at the Movies team. The focus of their discussions is Pixar’s feature film Coco (Lee Unkrich, 2017), a computer-animated fantasy inspired by the Mexican ‘Día de los Muertos’ (Day of the Dead) holiday. Seizing their moment, the foursome touch on issues of cultural specificity, authenticity and appropriation; its expressive use of luminescent lighting to illuminate its styles and details; and the themes of grief, ancestry, history and heritage that support the structures of a film whose two interconnected worlds of life and death are powered by the vitality of memory.
61 minutes | Mar 4, 2019
Episode 15 - Tron (1982)
In episode 15, Chris and Alex log on to Tron (Steven Lisberger, 1982), a watershed moment in the history of computer animation and one that taps into the early electronic spectacle of digital visual effects within a Hollywood context. Representing the wonder of - if not the cultural anxieties surrounding - the newness of computers and virtual reality (as well as the growing popularity of videogames), the film reframes cyberspace as a complex three-dimensional fantasy world. Tron invites spectators into the labyrinthine geographies of hardware and software, asking us to marvel at a series of magical mainframes but also to speculate over what digital technology might look like, and how it could be represented onscreen.
32 minutes | Feb 26, 2019
Episode 14 (Bonus) - Live from London Anime & Gaming Con 2019
Recorded live at the London Anime & Gaming Con during a special “Fantasy in Anime” panel on Saturday 16th February 2019, this bonus episode of the Fantasy/Animation podcast has Chris and Alex joined by an audience of passionate Japanese anime fans brought together through the Animeleague community. Tune in to hear an energetic discussion of anime authorship, the role of fantasy and imagination in cartoon narratives, and the creative compatibility between characterisation and design.
66 minutes | Feb 18, 2019
Episode 13 - Animal Farm (1954) (with Jez Stewart)
Far from being unlucky, episode 13 offers listeners a bumper line-up as Chris and Alex are joined by special guest Jez Stewart - curator at the BFI National Archive and expert on British animation history - to talk about Animal Farm (John Halas and Joy Batchelor, 1954). Taking on this celebrated animated adaptation of George Orwell’s popular novel, they discuss the production history of Britain’s first animated feature film and the vital role of archival material, alongside broader questions of cartoonal allegory via the narrative’s heavy politicised visions of anthropomorphic left-wing uprising.
57 minutes | Feb 4, 2019
Episode 12 - Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
Episode 12 takes Chris and Alex to feudal Japan as they get to grips with Laika studio’s stop-motion feature film, Kubo and the Two Strings (Travis Knight, 2016). The thorny question of animation’s inherently self-reflexive identity and status as anti-illusionist art; the magic of fantasy storytelling and spectatorship; and the medium specificity of object animation provide just some of the topics involved in their own critical battle with this popular fantasy/animated samurai epic.
57 minutes | Jan 21, 2019
Episode 11 - Disenchantment (2018-)
Episode 11 marks Chris and Alex’s first venture to the small screen, offering a rundown of Matt Groening’s recent television series Disenchantment, which first premiered in August 2018 on Netflix. A fantasy sitcom visualised through Groening’s signature animated style (including the requisite character overbite), Disenchantment parodies the archetypes familiar from fantasy mythology. From hard-drinking princesses to sweet-toothed elves, its playful swipes at fantasy storytelling feed into an overriding irreverence that fully exploits animation’s subversive potential, as Groening’s series sets about both constructing and deconstructing the terms of its own animated world.
53 minutes | Jan 7, 2019
Episode 10 - Moana (2016) (with Catherine Wheatley)
For the 10th episode, Chris and Alex travel to Polynesia to tackle their first computer-animated film - Walt Disney’s all-singin’, all-dancin’ and all-digital musical Moana (Ron Clements and John Musker, 2016). They are joined by Dr Catherine Wheatley (Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at King’s College London) to discuss the film’s gender politics and feminist register; its beautiful Samoan and Tokelauan-language soundtrack (with songs written and composed by Opetaia Foa’i, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Mark Mancina); its ambivalent status as typical Disney fare; and the ‘tiny details’ that comprise its message of diplomacy and female empowerment.
79 minutes | Dec 10, 2018
Episode 9 - Mary Poppins (1964)
The ninth episode takes Chris and Alex up to the rooftops of London as they tackle Walt Disney’s fantasy musical Mary Poppins (Robert Stevenson, 1964). This song-and-dance celebration follows the adventures of Mary, Bert and the Banks children, including their famous journey into the wonderful world of animation. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
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