Animated Television: The Narrative Cartoon [Part 3: Special Topics in Television Form]

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Animation has had a rather erratic presence on television. A mainstay of Saturday morning children's programming, small snippets of it appear regularly in commercials, credit sequences, music videos, news and sports, but there have been long stretches when there were no prime-time cartoon shows. After The Flint stones ended its original run in 1966 there wasn't another successful prime time cartoon show until 23 years later, when The Simpsons debuted. Since 1989 there has been something of a Renaissance in television animation. Numerous prime-time cartoon programs have appeared and at least three cable channels have arisen that feature cartoons-the Cartoon Network, Nickleodeon, and Toon Disney. And, of course, cartoons continue to dominate the TV ghettos of Saturday morning and weekday afternoons.

Although numerous new animated programs are now being created, many of the cartoons regularly telecast today were produced 50, 60, or even 70 years ago.

As much as any other aspect of television, cartoons illustrate the medium's ability to recycle old material. Thus, to understand animation we need to examine the evolution of narrative cartoons in both film and television. This will be the general purpose of this section. However, as we outline cartooning's history, we will also discuss its technology, aesthetics, and economics -each of which plays a significant part in determining how animation is created and presented on television. From Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) to South Park (1997 4 cartoons have depended on technology to achieve aesthetic goals that are always restricted by cost (especially since cartoons mainly appeal to children, an audience without direct buying power). This section sketches how technology, aesthetics, and economics have intertwined to produce contemporary television animation as it has taken form in storytelling cartoons.


Figures from cinematic animation were present at the various "births" of broad cast television. Among the very first experimental images transmitted by RCA/NBC engineers in the late 1920s was a wooden doll of Felix the Cat, a cartoon star of the silent cinema. It was placed on a phonograph turntable and slowly rotated under painfully hot lights before the camera. A decade later, Disney's Donald's Cousin Gus was broadcast as part of NBC's first full evening of programming, on W2XBS, May 3, 1939. It would be many years, however, before cartoons as we know them would be created specifically for television.

Early cartoon programming on television relied instead on short subjects initially exhibited in movie theaters and featuring now familiar characters such as Felix, Popeye, Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Woody Woodpecker, Betty Boop, et al. As these shorts served to establish cartooning's basic mode of production, and since many of them still appear on television, a significant portion of our consideration of television animation will address the cartoon designed originally for the cinema.

Like live-action video and film, animation relies on the illusion of movement being created from a succession of still frames. But that is where their similarities end. Unlike other forms of video and film, a camera in an animation production is not pointed at real people in real settings. Rather, conventional animators aim their cameras at handmade drawings on paper or cels and computer-based animation generates images out of digital models. Animation's mode of production leads to unique economic imperatives, necessitates certain technologies, and raises distinct aesthetic issues that do not apply to other forms of video and film production.

The factors necessary for the creation of film cartoons came together soon after motion pictures were invented in the 1890s, but their initial development was slower than that of live-action cinema. Established newspaper cartoonists such as Winsor McCay became involved with the infant medium after the turn of the century, but their task was daunting: approximately 16-20 frames had to be drawn for every single second of film, 960 to 1200 per minute.1 McCay's influential Gertie the Dinosaur, which ran about 7 minutes, comprised some 10,000 individual drawings (Fig. 11.1 ). It's small wonder that McCay's films often took years to prepare. The length of time involved in such cartoon productions discouraged film studio executives. If cartooning were to become a commercial reality, it would need a more cost-effective mode of production.



FIGURE 11.3; FIGURE 11.4

This economic imperative led to a simple technological refinement. McCay and other animators had been drawing and redrawing every detail of every frame to show movement, even when the action was occurring in a small part of the frame. In 1914 Earl Hurd applied for a patent on a process in which a transparent sheet of celluloid, commonly referred to as a cel, is placed before a background drawing (see Fig. 11.2, a detail from the patent application). The animator then needed only to draw the segment of the image that moves (which is transferred to the cel). The background stays constant and thus does not need to be redrawn. At the same time, John R. Bray had been aggressively patenting animation techniques and suing anyone who dared infringe on them. He united with Hurd to form the Bray-Hurd Process Company, and they began charging a fee for the use of cel technology-thus initially slowing its acceptance. Most animation studios of the 1910s and 1920s continued to painstakingly redraw every detail, to avoid the Bray-Hurd fees and Bray's litigious wrath. It wasn't until the early 1930s that animators converted to Hurd's system, and paid to use his cels. The shift to cel animation came close on the heels of another, more significant technological invention (one that also had economic and aesthetic ramifications): the popularization of sound film in 1927.

During the silent era, cartoons had little more status than did parlor games, such as flip cards, the phenakisto-scope (Fig. 11.3), and the zoetrope (Fig. 11.4), that had been popular during the 19th century.2 Many of the studios that specialized in silent cartoon production went bankrupt before the coming of sound, because cartooning had not yet developed an efficient mode of production. With the arrival of sound, a major animation producer also arrived who would standardize and dominate theatrical cartooning and who was the first to take full advantage of the new sound technology. This was the impact of Walt Disney.

The Jazz Singer, the film that popularized sound in live-action cinema, was released in the Fall of 1927. On November 28 of the following year, Disney released the first significant sound cartoon, Steamboat Willie, featuring Mickey Mouse. The popularity of Steamboat Willie had three major repercussions on the animation industry.

First, it established Mickey Mouse as a major figure. At that time he had only appeared in two cartoons that had not been distributed to the public. He would go on, of course, to be possibly the most widely marketed cartoon character in the world and form a central component of Disney's theme parks, long-running, self-promoting television program, and cable channe1.3 Second, Steamboat Willie positioned Disney as the 1930s' preeminent producer of cartoons. His studios in California (previously animation production had been based mostly in New York) attracted prominent cartoonists of the time, and he soon developed a cost-effective mode of production. To achieve this economy of production Disney divided his workers into specialized departments. Some focused on story development while others worked more on the animation. Disney's studio was also the first to use storyboards (Fig. 7.1), sketches that show the progression of the entire cartoon. With a precise outline of the full cartoon, Disney's animators were able to work more efficiently, the narrative structure was clearer, and Disney, the producer, was better able to control pre-production and minimize costs.

In addition to the stabilization of production budgets through Disney pioneered methods, distribution costs were also standardized in the 1930s when major studios such as Paramount, Warner Brothers, Universal, and MGM signed distribution contracts with cartoon studios, or created their own cartoon departments whose product they distributed to theaters they themselves owned.

Thus, by the mid-1930s animation producers had developed a cost-effective mode of production and distribution.

Third, with Steamboat Willie, Disney set the aesthetic standards for cartoons with sound. His approach to cartooning would continue to govern animation aesthetics throughout the 1930s-determining much of how cartoons looked and sounded.


Naturalism Versus Abstraction The aesthetics of animation has long been split between naturalism and abstraction. Naturalism advocates animation that replicates live-action film or videotape as much as possible. According to this aesthetic, cartoon characters should resemble objects in reality, and our view of cartoon figures should resemble a camera's view of real humans and objects. Abstraction, in contrast, maintains that the essence of cartooning is lines, shapes, and colors (or shades of gray) --abstract forms that animators may manipulate as they wish.

The extremes of these two positions seldom exist. Only now are computer generated animations reaching a level of technical sophistication where a fabricated character might be mistaken for a real human -as can be seen in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001; Fig. 11.5) -but hand-drawn animation will probably never achieve this level of naturalism. And few cartoons are made that have no characters resembling real life objects, though there have been important exceptions to this, such as Norman McLaren's Begone Dull Care (Fig. 11.6; 1949). Most cartoons, especially ones that are broadcast on television, balance these two extremes. Drawn characters and objects bear enough correspondence with reality for us to recognize them, but animators do not draw every leaf on every tree.



The naturalist impulse began to dominate the Disney studio's productions in the 1930s as they aspired to feature-length theatrical cartoons such as Snow White (1937). Disney's naturalism has continued through its recent releases such as Beauty and the Beast (1991) and The Lion King (1994). Among the naturalistic changes Disney implemented during the 1930s were heightened rounding and shading of characters and objects. Silent-era characters such as Gertie and Felix the Cat tend to appear flat, emphasizing their two-dimensionality (Fig. 11.1). Disney's animators used shading to create a more rounded appearance. Their characters, although two-dimensional, give a greater illusion of three-dimensionality. They seem almost bulbous.

Disney's Use of Sound and Other New Technologies Disney's Steamboat Willie was more than a silent cartoon with music attached.

After all, this would actually have been nothing new. "Silent" cartoons were hardly ever presented silently. When they were shown in theaters, they were nearly always accompanied by a pianist, band, or full orchestra. What is different about Steamboat Willie is that the movement in the image is precisely synchronized to the music, because the music was planned before the images.

Linda Obalil explains: "Since music can be broken down mathematically, the animation was drawn to follow a musical pattern. For example, if the music had two beats per second, the animation would hit a beat every 12 frames (based on 24 frames per second)." 4 With this innovation, Steamboat Willie set an aesthetic standard for the synchronization of image and sound in animation. In the most highly regarded cartoons of the 1930s, sound does not merely overlay the image; instead, it dynamically interacts with character movement.

Music often forms the structuring principle for 1930s cartoons-as is evident in the titles of cartoon series such as Disney's "Silly Symphonies" and Warner Brothers' "Looney Tunes" (a rather direct parody of Disney's pre tensions) and "Merrie Melodies:' Because Max and Dave Fleischer-Disney's rivals-had access to Paramount's music library, their work, which was distributed through Paramount, also makes liberal use of songs. Their Betty Boop cartoons, Minnie the Moocher (1932) and Snow White (1933), for example, feature the Cab Calloway tunes "Minnie the Moocher" and "St. James Infirmary Blues," respectively. Other Fleischer shorts highlight music by Ethel Merman, the Mills Brothers, and Louis Armstrong (I'll be Glad When You're Dead You Rascal You [1932] ). Many of these cartoons regularly appeared on television from the 1960s to the present-long after viewers would be familiar with Calloway, Mer man, Armstrong, et al. In their interpretation of preexisting popular songs, these musical shorts anticipated the animated music videos of the 1980s and later. (The Fleischers also pioneered follow-the-bouncing-ball musical shorts, in which viewers were encouraged to sing along.) Disney incorporated other new technologies during the 1930s, always with the goal of greater naturalism. The most influential of these technologies were:

• The Technicolor color process

• The rotoscopes

The history of color technology in film is long and complicated, but its end result was that three-color Technicolor--a process mixing yellow, magenta, and cyan dyes-would come to dominate color filmmaking in the late 1930s, 1940s, and early 1950s. Disney was among the first to experiment with the new three color process, signing a contract with Technicolor that blocked any other cartoon studios from using it for 3 years. His first cartoon in three-color Technicolor, Flowers and Trees, was released in 1932, 3 years before the first live-action feature using the process (Becky Sharp [1935] ). It was an instantaneous success and won the Academy Award for best animated short subject.

Although Disney's use of color in Flowers and Trees is somewhat stylized, the more routine "Silly Symphonies" use color in predictably naturalistic fashion.

Color was mostly another way for Disney to make cartoons look more like reality (which, after all, is in color). Stylized experimentations with color were left to more avant-garde animators.

Rotoscoping was not invented by Disney's animators, but they used it to greatest naturalistic effect. The rotoscope was patented in the 1910s by Max Fleischer. It is a fairly simple device, still in use today, by which a single frame from a live-action film is rear-projected onto a light table (a table with a semi opaque glass in the center). The animator places paper on the light table and traces the image cast by the live-action film. Then the film is advanced to the next frame and the process is repeated. The tracings are re-photographed, and the end result is an animated film that is based on the live-action images.

In line with their naturalist aesthetic, Disney's animators put the rotoscope to work duplicating human movement. For their first full-length cartoon, Snow White (1937), the dancer Marge Champion's body and movements were filmed and then, through rotoscoping, converted into Snow White's. Thus, Snow White is actually a cartoon replica of Champion. Disney's naturalistic aesthetic peaked in Snow White. Cartoons were as close to live-action as they would come until the advent of computer animation.

Rotoscoping is not necessarily a tool for Disney-style animation or naturalism in general, however. Recent music videos have incorporated rotoscoping as a way of transforming performers into animated images, which may then be abstracted in a variety of ways. A-Ha's Take On Me video shifts effortlessly between live action and stylized, rotoscoped animation (Figs. 11.7-11.8). The technology of the rotoscope is open to various aesthetic uses, not all of them naturalistic.

FIGURE 11.7; FIGURE 11.8

As the 1930s came to an end and World War II began, cartoons were well established in the cinema. With Disney's move into features at the end of the decade, he became the most prominent cartoon producer. But there were many 1 other studios cranking out cartoon shorts with characters much more audacious than were Disney's: Warner Brothers' Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, and Daffy Duck; Fleischer's Popeye and Betty Boop (officially censored by the Production Code); Walter Lantz's Woody Woodpecker; and MGM's Droopy, The Wolf, and Screwy Squirrel. Every major studio had a division for producing cartoons and, since they owned the major theaters, they also had assured exhibition for their cartoon product.

By this time animation found its own niche within the expanding film industry. Cartooning had developed an efficient mode of production through industrial specialization, the incorporation of cost-cutting technologies (e.g., the animation cel), and businesslike pre-production planning based on storyboards.

It had also settled on the basic format that would prevail to the present day:

• 6-8 minutes long.

• In color.

• Structured around music and sound effects.

Cartoons' place in theatrical film exhibition seemed assured. At the time, movies were presented in double bills, and cartoons were a routine part of the short subjects (newsreels and the like) that were shown between feature films. Changes in film exhibition and the rise of television would change all this, absorbing and bringing to an end one form of the cartoon, but eventually spawning its own assortment of animation. We will detail these economic shifts below, but first we must consider an aesthetic change in cartooning that occurred just as television was beginning to make its presence felt.


Disney and his naturalist aesthetic may have governed 1930s animation, but the early 1940s saw the disruption of his economic dominance and the rise of a new aesthetic of abstraction that has continued to have a major impact.

Disney's economic empire was briefly unsettled in 1941 when a strike against the studio resulted in the departure of several key animators. Among this group were John Hubley, Steve Bosustow, and Adrian Woolery, who would form the mainstays of United Productions of America (UPA). Obviously, the strike had little lasting economic impact on Disney as he went on to diversify his investments, founding Disneyland in 1954 and producing his long-running television program. But the eventual formation of UPA did provide the environment to nurture a new animation aesthetic. It contrasted markedly with Disney's work, which, after the 1930s, emphasized feature-length production, leaving the field open for other studios to produce animated shorts.

UPA's animators came to cartooning with a background in the fine arts and drawing. This nurtured an aesthetic that emphasized abstract line, shape, and pattern over naturalistic figures. UPA first achieved commercial success in 1949 with the Mr. Magoo series, but its aesthetic wasn't fully recognized until the Academy Award-winning Gerald McBoing Boing (1951). We can distinguish several characteristics of this aesthetic, each of which contrasts with Disney-style naturalism:

• Flattened perspective.

• Abstract backgrounds.

• Primary colors.

• Well-defined character outlines.

• Limited animation.


Flattened Perspective. Throughout the history of drawing, artists have been concerned with perspective, with the rendering of the three-dimensional world in two dimensions. Drawings and cartoons have horizontal and vertical dimensions, but they have no true depth. Hence, the illusion of depth must be fabricated. One of the principal artistic developments of the European Renaissance was linear perspective, a method for representing depth in which the parallel lines of "reality" are made to converge at a single point-the vanishing point-in a drawing. Naturalistic animation such as that produced by Disney used linear perspective and other visual cues (e.g., character shading) to heighten the sense of depth in their cartoons.

In a revolutionary move, the UPA animators rejected this illusion of depth.

Instead, they flattened and distorted Renaissance perspective--as did avant garde graphic designers and artists of the time. In one shot from Gerald McBoing Boing, for instance, a small boy, Gerald, walks up a flight of stairs (Fig. 11.9). There are four or five vanishing points, and none of them match. A doorway is askew and the side of the staircase is covered with an abstract design. The image resembles cubist paintings more than it does Disney's Snow White.

Abstract Backgrounds. Closely related to this flattening of perspective are the revolutionary backgrounds in UPA cartoons. The background in the shot from Gerald McBoing Boing consists of broad, abstract fields of color. In one respect, this returned animation to the earliest days when minimal backgrounds were used because animators were redrawing entire frames. After the animation cel was invented, backgrounds became quite elaborate, since they only had to be drawn once for each shot (only moving elements were redrawn). The Disney features in particular have intricate backgrounds in nearly every shot. In striking contrast to Disney, the UPA films completely reject this naturalistic style.

Primary Colors. Coloring in cartoons has never been subtle. The technology of the three-color Technicolor process in the 1930s made muted colors tough to achieve because Technicolor's hues tended to be very rich and deep (i.e., highly saturated). That animators were able to get as much variation out of Technicolor as they did is a testament to their inventiveness. It is somewhat ironic, then, that in the early 1950s, when Kodak was introducing a more supple color technology (EASTMAN Color), cartoonists were experimenting with prominent, almost garish, primary colors in the abstract color fields of cartoons such as Gerald McBoing Boing.

Well-defined Character Outlines. In another "innovation" that actually made cartooning resemble its formative years, the UPA animators rejected the fully rounded, shaded, and molded look that Disney achieved (at great expense). Instead, they sharply outlined their characters and filled the outlines with single colors (i.e., little or no shading) -as had been done decades before in Gertie the Dinosaur (Fig. 11.1) and the Felix the Cat series. This contributed to the flattening of perspective by making the characters themselves appear two-dimensional.

Limited Animation. By far the most significant change inaugurated by UPA, at least as far as television is concerned, is so-called limited animation.

There are three ways in which UPA animation is more "limited" than other animation of that time, especially compared to Disney animation such as Snow White and Pinocchio (1940). First, in limited animation, the amount of movement within the frame is substantially reduced. Once animators began using cels, they stopped redrawing the entire image for each frame of film. But still, 1930s and 1940s animators typically redrew entire characters who were involved in any form of movement. Even if a character were just speaking and moving its mouth, the character's whole body would be redrawn. In the most extreme limited animation, in contrast, when a character speaks, only its mouth moves. Cels of the mouth drawings would be placed over one of the entire character, which, in turn, would be on top of the background. As the character speaks, only the mouth-drawing cels are changed. Thus, as animation has become more and more limited, less and less of the frame has been redrawn.

Second, in limited animation, eye blinks and arm, leg, and head motions are routinely repeated, using the same series of cels over and over. Consequently, the characters move in limited, repeatable directions. In full animation, characters make a large number of unique movements, which demand that a new set of frames be drawn.

Third, movements are constructed from fewer individual frames in limited animation. Consider a simple movement such as Bugs Bunny raising his hand, a movement that takes one second. Since sound film uses 24 frames per second, there must be 24 drawings for this movement. But even in full animation not all of the drawings will be unique. The movement might actually consist of only 12 cels, each of which is photographed twice. In limited animation the number of cels is reduced even below that of "full" animation, and the result is a less fluid movement.

FIGURE 11.10

FIGURE 11.11

FIGURE 11.12 - FIGURE 11.13

The differences between naturalism (Disney) and abstraction (UPA) is summarized and parodied in a Cow and Chicken cartoon. In general, Cow and Chicken adopts the principles of UPA-style abstract animation and, further, is heavily influenced by the visual style of Ren and Stimpy, but in "The Bad News Plastic Surgeons" episode Chicken is turned into a naturalistic looking character, a "photo-realistic beaver?' Its director, David Feiss, placed this naturalistic beaver into the program's abstract world-providing a sharp contrast between its naturalism and the stylized environment, including a very abstract character named Cow (Fig. 11.10). In Fig. 11.10, Cow and the background could have been done by UPA, while the photo-realistic beaver follows the Disney tradition.

There are obvious economic advantages to UPA's limited animation, flattened perspective, and abstract design (fewer, less-detailed frames mean faster production time); but there exists an aesthetic rationale independent of the financial advantages. Remember, Gerald McBoing Boing was a well-respected, Oscar-winning film of the time. One aesthetic justification is that this herky-jerky animation style mirrors the frenetic pace of the modern world-just as jump cuts do in the French New Wave films of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

One argument for the abstract design is that it is the cartoon equivalent of art movements such as abstract expressionism, which drew viewers' attention to the surface of the painting, making them aware of shape and formal patterns.

In this sense, Gerald McBoing Boing may well be the only exercise in abstract expressionism that also won an Academy Award and was the model for its own television cartoon show ( The Gerald McBoing Boing Show, [1956-58] ). UPA set the standard for theatrical animation during the gradual demise of cartoons in theaters. UPA's Mr. Magoo series incorporated the money-saving aspects of Gerald McBoing Boing's animation, watered down its aesthetic of abstract stylization, and established what cartoons would be like during the 1950s and1960s. All of the major studios soon followed suit with stylized cartoons such as MGM's Symphony in Slang (1951) and Warners' What's Opera, Doc? (1957)

(Fig. 11.11) and the Road Runner and Coyote series (Figs. 11.12-11.13). Even Disney finally recapitulated and released the UPA-esque Pigs is Pigs in 1954. The full and total victory of UPA animation style, however, would come in television.


Television's ascent in the postwar years had direct and drastic economic effects on narrative cartoons.

First, it contributed to the demise of the theatrical exhibition of cartoons.

As the film industry scrambled to economize during the 1950s and into the 1960s, the output of feature films tumbled to barely one fourth of what it had been during the 1930s-from a yearly norm of approximately 500 to an all time low of 121 in 1963. Most troubling to cartoon studios was that the film exhibition patterns were changing as the production declined. The double bill, the cartoon's raison d'etre, was becoming extinct. With its passing, so did the need for short subjects to interject between the features. Shorts were shown before films on some single bills, but they were regarded by theater owners as an unnecessary expense. Perhaps most damaging to the theatrical exhibition of cartoons was a 1948 court ruling that forced studios to sell the theaters they owned, which meant that MGM, Warner Brothers, and the rest were no longer assured a venue for their product.6 Suddenly, there was no guaranteed place to show cartoons theatrically. Since major studios regarded animation and other short film production as of secondary importance anyway and because cartoons are relatively more expensive to create than are live-action films, the cartoon divisions were soon abolished.

As cartoons were virtually eliminated from theaters, they found a new home on television. As discussed previously, the television and film industries have come to depend on one other in a variety of economic ways. For animation, this interdependence meant that theatrical cartoon stars such as Bugs Bunny, Popeye, and Woody Woodpecker became broadly known to children of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s through their appearance on television. Most often, these cartoons were packaged for television's use in locally produced, after-school children's shows, or grouped together for Saturday morning programming, beginning with The Mighty Mouse Playhouse (1955-66). The initial move to television was led by smaller animation studios/ distributors because the majors were locked in seemingly mortal combat with television over rights to their film libraries--which included cartoons. Consequently, the minor-league Van Beuren Studios, which had ceased production in 1936, was able to successfully market cartoons (e.g., Aesop's Fables) to early children's programs such as Movies for Small Fry, which was broadcast on the now-defunct DuMont network in 1947. Among the first of the majors, Disney came over to television in 1954 with Disneyland, and the following year premiered The Mickey Mouse Club. These programs maintained his exclusive control over the Disney animation library for decades to come. The other major cartoon studios began capitulating in 1955, when both Paramount-Fleischer Famous Studios and Warner Brothers released their cartoons to television, and Terrytoons (from Paul Terry's Studio) was bought by CBS. 7 By 1960 most of the majors were releasing their cartoons to television, with the exception of the few cartoon series that were still running in movie theaters.

Bugs Bunny and the other Warner Brothers characters (Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety, Sylvester, and so on) made the most successful transition to television -starting in 1956 with Bugs Bunny Theater, which was syndicated to local stations. Then, in 1960, they premiered in a prime-time network series on ABC called The Bugs Bunny Show (1960-62). Most significant, the Warners characters found a permanent home on Saturday mornings, debuting in 1962 and remaining on the air ever since-the most long-lived of all Saturday morning cartoon shows. Virtually every child who has grown up watching television in the United States during the past 40-odd years is familiar with these cartoons.

Cartoon compilation programs such as The Bugs Bunny Show do not contain new cartoons but use theatrical releases from decades past. This can result in some odd cultural ruptures. For instance, when today's child viewers watch The Goofy Gophers, a Merrie Melodies cartoon from 1947 that is still occasionally broadcast on television, they will witness one scene in which two gophers pile fruit on their heads and say, "Toodle-oo, Carmen" and "See you tomorrow, Hedda." The first refers to Carmen Miranda, a 1940s movie star, and the second to Hedda Hopper, a gossip columnist from the same era. Both were known at the time for their outlandish headgear. To today's child viewers, plainly, the references can have little significance.

This disjunction between the text's discourse and that of the viewer is not just a matter of a changing frame of reference over the passage of time. It is also because these cartoons were originally designed for a general theatrical audience, an audience that was predominantly adult. Consequently, they were encoded with an adult discourse that even contemporary children could not have decoded. For example, in My Artistical Temperature, a Fleischer cartoon from 1937 that still appears occasionally on TV, Popeye and Bluto battle as rival artists. At one point Popeye has trouble arranging the arms on a statue of a woman. Finally, he tears them off, so that it resembles the Venus de Milo, and mumbles, "Oh! I think I got something here: a masterpiece!" How many 10-year-olds in either 1937 or today would understand this joke? And yet, there is obviously much meaning and pleasure that children receive from cartoons such as this. Theatrical cartoons have often possessed a polysemy--a "double discourse" (child and adult)--that has facilitated their long-standing popularity on television.

Thus, the first cartoons on television, as well as many still being telecast, were drawn from the older libraries of theatrical product designed for general audiences (child and adult). The domination of television animation by theatrically exhibited cartoons could not continue once theatrical cartoon production declined. Television required more and more cartoon product, and the cartoon studios' archives were quickly being exhausted. An economically efficient mode of production was needed for the creation of cartoons specifically for use on television.

FIGURE 11.14

Made-for-Television Cartoons

The history of cartoons produced for television begins in syndication, rather than network programming. Around the time that UPA was first garnering attention for its new animation style, Jay Ward and Alexander Anderson were preparing to syndicate Crusader Rabbit (Fig. 11.14; 1948-51, 1957-69). Al though never picked up by the networks, Crusader Rabbit was quite popular in the major TV markets and established much of the made-for-TV cartoon's mode of production. The persons to benefit most from this format and to bring it to network television were Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, the preeminent producers of made-for-TV cartoons. The Ruff and Reddy Show (1957-60, 1962-64) was Hanna-Barbera's first foray into network TV animation. It was also the first network cartoon series to use material designed specifically for TV-although it also mixed in older Columbia Pictures cartoons. Moreover, The Ruff and Reddy Show was the first such show to stake out the territory of Saturday morning children's programming, proving to the networks just how lucrative those time slots might be. Three years later, Hanna-Barbera introduced The Flintstones (1960-66) to prime-time network programming.

With Crusader Rabbit, The Ruff and Reddy Show, and The Flintstones, the blueprint for the made-for-TV cartoon was consolidated. Its format can be divided into four characteristics:

1. Program structure

2. Narrative structure

3. Limited animation

4. Emphasis on dialogue

Program Structure. Taking into account television's (commercial)

interruptions and the need for segmentation, Crusader Rabbit's individual cartoons were even shorter than theatrical cartoons. They were compartmentalized into 4-minute segments that could be combined in a single day's program or run separately on subsequent days. Not all made-for-TV programs use such short segments. The average Flintstones segment lasts longer than 4 minutes, for example. The point is that cartoon segments on television are often shorter than are theatrical short subjects.

Since 1950s cartoon programs were made up of short individual cartoons, some structure was needed to unify and cohere the segments. Many programs solved this with a human host, sometimes accompanied by puppets. The Ruff and Reddy Show, for instance, was initially hosted by Jimmy Blaine, accompanied by the puppets Rhubarb the Parrot and Jose the Toucan. When revived in 1962, the program was hosted by Captain Bob Cottle and his puppets-Jasper, Gramps, and Mr. Answer. These hosts, both human and puppet, provided coherence to the disparate mix of material (old and new cartoons, live-action shorts, sketches performed by the hosts) presented in 1950s and 1960s children's programs.

They also lured the viewer into staying tuned by introducing and promoting upcoming segments--much as a news or sports play-by-play announcer does.

Since that time, hosted children's programs have gradually lost their hosts. The transitions between cartoons are now accomplished by voiceover narrators and visual material.

Narrative Structure. Crusader Rabbit's and Ruff and Reddy's segments are not self-contained narratives, as in theatrical cartoons. Rather, Crusader Rabbit and Ruff and Reddy are television's first cartoon serials-one segment picking up the action where the preceding episode left off. As Jay Ward commented, "We wanted to get the effect of an animated comic strip. The commercials would go in between the short segments." 8 In effect, each cartoon segment is like one panel in a comic strip. Incomplete on its own, it leads from one narrative segment (panel or animated cartoon) to the next. The effect, obviously enough, is to encourage us to remain tuned in, to impel us to continue watching through the commercials. Theatrical cartoons that have been packaged together for TV cannot provide this narrative propulsion, because they come to a explicit conclusion every 7 or 8 minutes. Crusader Rabbit established a form of narrative segmentation that would prevail in many subsequent television cartoons.

The Flintstones and other Hanna-Barbera programs modified this form of serialization. Like most live-action television series, the Hanna-Barbera pro grams come to a tentative conclusion at the end of the program. Each episode presents some dilemma that will be resolved. But the end of each segment be tween the commercials ends inconclusively, leading to the next segment-just as in Crusader Rabbit and unlike theatrical cartoons.

Limited Animation. Crusader Rabbit established that made-for-TV cartoons would use the limited animation style that had been pioneered by UPA. But made-for-TV animation does not use that style in exactly the same way.

Made-for-TV animation rejects the aesthetic of abstraction that was embraced by UPA's theatrical animation, and for which it won honors such as the Academy Award. Crusader Rabbit's limited animation was born of the necessity to produce an immense amount of animation in a short period of time and for a relatively small amount of money. In specific, while it cost approximately $60,000 to fully animate a 7-minute cartoon in the 1950s, a limited-animation cartoon could be created for $10,000 or less. Hanna-Barbera's Ruff and Reddy was produced for a paltry $2,700! 9 Do such stingy budgets make any difference in the texts themselves, in the way that these cartoons look? Do they differ, say, from award-winning shorts such as Gerald McBoing Boing? Yes, in small ways. UPA's style, at its most extreme, draws as much attention to the visual design itself as to the story being presented.

Made-for-TV animation spurns that approach; the design of an image never intrudes into the storytelling, never impedes the progression of the narrative.

Indeed, very little narrative information in contained in the images as early television's low resolution would not be able to show small visual details-even if money and time had been available to further develop the drawings. This leads to a final narrative component of the made-for-TV cartoon: its reliance on dialogue.

Emphasis on Dialogue. Because of their limited animation and acknowledging TV's low resolution (compared to the cinema), the Hanna-Barbera cartoons do not rely on the visuals to convey narrative information or other meanings. Consequently, the visuals and the dialogue are often redundant. For example, in one episode of The Flintstones, we have the following five-shot sequence:

FIGURE 11.15

FIGURE 11.16

FIGURE 11.17 - FIGURE 11.18

FIGURE 11.19

1. Medium long shot: Baby Pebbles' carriage speeds along, pulled by their pet dinosaur (Fig. 11.15).

2. Close-up: The leash breaks (Fig. 11.16).

3. Long shot: The carriage rolls out of control (Fig. 11.17).

4. Long shot: Fred and Barney chase the carriage (Fig. 11.18). Fred says, "Oh no, the leash broke! Pebbles, stop the carriage!"

5. Long shot: The carriage passes a sign pointing to the zoo (Fig. 11.19). Barney (in voiceover) says, "Ooooh, she's headed for the zoo!" All of the dialogue in this segment reiterates what is already shown in the visuals.

As in a soap opera, we could get most of the narrative information from a Flintstones episode by listening to it from another room. It has become what animator Chuck Jones called "radio with pictures." Contrast The Flintstones with one of Jones's Roadrunner cartoons to see the difference (Fig. 11.12-11.13). The Roadrunner cartoons are entirely dependent on visuals; the soundtrack consists almost solely of music, roadrunner beeps, and explosions. Dialogue never duplicates image, as it often does in limited-animation series.

The significance of the visuals is, of course, largely a matter of degree. Made for-TV animation, even The Flintstones, does emphasize and derive humor from the visuals occasionally. And most theatrical cartoons are not as extreme as the Roadrunner series in their reliance on the visuals. Still, it is generally true that made-for-TV cartoons rely on dialogue and deemphasize the image more than do theatrical cartoons. This is in keeping with television's overall accent on sound, as discussed in section 8.

(The Flintstones also added a component of TV sound that has not been adopted by many other cartoon shows: the laugh track. This element of the program indicates The Flintstones' close relationship with the live-action genre of the sitcom. In fact, it has often been said that the program was an animated version of Jackie Gleason's The Honeymooners.) By 1960, television cartooning had developed an efficient mode of production, a cost-effective aesthetic, and successful programming strategies (afternoons and Saturday mornings, but not prime time). The 1970s and 1980s saw very little change in the TV cartoon, but in the 1990s there was a revival of interest in prime-time cartoons and accelerated developments in the world of computer graphic technology-resulting in aesthetic and economic changes in made-for-TV animation, as well as in the theatrical, animated, feature film.


TABLE 11.1

Notable Moments in Computer Animation (Since 1980)


1980 Arcade video game features a three-dimensional world for the player to move through-BattleZone 1982 All-digital CG sequence in a feature film-the "Genesis Effect," in Star Trek: Wrath of Khan An elaborate CG virtual world, with a human inserted into it--Tron 1984 CG models (instead of physical ones) of spaceships in The Last Starfighter 1985 Wholly CG character, a stained-glass knight-Young Sherlock Holmes First widely distributed instance of morphing-the music video, Cry, by Godley and Creme CG world with three-dimensional CG characters moving through it-Dire Straits' Money for Nothing CG characters/objects begin appearing in commercials--e.g., "Sexy Robot" (Canned Food Informational Council), Listerine bottle, Life Saver candies 1986 Entirely CG short film--Luxo Junior 1988 Live-action morphing in a feature film-Willow 1989 CG television character, performing live on The Jim Henson Hour CG water-snake effect, with the face of actress, in The Abyss (director: James Cameron) Virtual reality demonstration at SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics of the Association for Computing Machinery) conference 1991 Bulk of extensive, elaborate effects work for a feature film done on computer- including morphing between a human and a CG character, the T-1000 cyborg (who looks to be made of mercury) - Terminator 2: Judgment Day Morphing in a music video-Michael Jackson's Black or White 1992 Virtual reality in film-The Lawnmower Man 1993 Multi-user, "first-person shooter," personal-computer game-Doom Morphing in commercials-Exxon, Schick Plausible textures (fur, scales, etc.) on live CG creatures-Jurassic Park (sequel in 1997)

1994 Entirely CG cartoon show--ReBoot CG insertion of an actor into historical films, and the manipulation of historical figures-Forrest Gump 1995 CG feature-length film protagonist-Casper Entirely CG feature-length film-Toy Story (sequel in 1999)

CG spaceship models in a TV show-Babylon 5 1996 Heightened detail in a three-dimensional gaming environment-Quake 1999 Mainstream interest in virtual reality-the success of The Matrix 2000 CG insertion of first-down line in live, televised football games 2001 Photo-realistic, CG, feature-length film-Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.


FIGURE 11.20



As you might expect, the computer has had an enormous impact on contemporary animation. High-tech computer-graphics laboratories such as those at the California Institute of Technology, MIT, and the New York Institute of Technology, along with avant-garde computer-graphics visionaries have been experimenting with computer-generated imagery (CGI) since the 1960s. How ever, this activity didn't have much affect on television and feature film until Disney's Tron in 1982. A story of a computer programmer and video gamer who's sucked inside a computer, Tron features an animated world that was mostly computer-generated and set the standard for 1980s CGI. Throughout the 1980s and most of the 1990s, CGI was too expensive and time-consuming for narrative, serial/series television, but it found its way into commercials, credit sequences, and music videos--in addition, of course, to feature films and video games (see Table 11.1).

As prices on computer technology have come down and hardware capabilities have grown, we've seen an increase in the impact of computers on all aspects of television, but especially on animation. Essentially, the computer may be used in two ways in the animation process. First, in the tweening process it assists animators by drawing frames for them. Second, in three-dimensional CGI, it wholly fabricates the image based on a set of instructions from the animators.

Let's examine each of these processes in more detail.

Tweening. In the mode of animation production that evolved in the 1930s, the work was highly specialized. To speed up the process, the top artists did not draw every single frame needed for a particular action. If, for example, Bugs Bunny were to raise his arm, the artists might draw two key frames-the arm lowered and the arm raised. It would be the job of lower-paid animators to draw the in-between frames. This process thus came to be known as tweening, which, as you can imagine, was not a very glamorous job. Today's animation software has taken over the drudgery of tweening. For example, Macromedia Flash, a program commonly used to create compact Web animations, has a tweening function. If we wanted to have a robot hover from left to right we would begin by generating one instance of that robot and placing it on the left of a keyframe. Then we would make a copy of the robot and place it on the right side of another keyframe. Finally, we would have Flash tween from the robot on the left to the one on the right, from one keyframe to the other. The result would be an animation consisting of two keyframes and numerous tweened frames in between them. We can see the effect in static form in Fig. 11.20. The robot keyframes are superimposed on either side of the frame. In between them are onion-skin (slightly lighter) versions of the tweened frames so that you may see the progress of the robot across the frame. (See our companion Website,, to witness the robot's hovering in action-with sound.) In terms of how the final product looks, animation made with computer based tweening is not all that different from Winsor McCay's Gertie the Dinosaur, Disney's Snow White, or Hanna-Barbera's The Flintstones. Computer tweening has made animation much less expensive and has counteracted some of the restrictions of limited animation. Now that some action may be quickly tweened, made-for-TV cartoons can afford to include more movement -although the details of the animation of specific characters still requires manual animation.

Still, if you compare the amount of physical action in The Flintstones with what you see in a typical Saturday morning cartoon, you'll likely note much more activity in the recent program.

FIGURE 11.21 - FIGURE 11.22

FIGURE 11.23 - FIGURE 11.24

FIGURE 11.25

Three-dimensional CGI. Even more significant than digital tweening is the evolution of three-dimensional computer-generated animation, which is rapidly changing the look of animation. In 3D CGI, a schematic model is created in digital format. The model may then be controlled by the animator and made to move in a variety of ways. Animators do not draw frames as they did in traditional two-dimensional animation, where the characters and objects appear relatively flat on the screen (e.g., Homer in The Simpsons, Fig. 11.21). Three-dimensional animators direct the computer to generate frames based on the plotted movements of the model. In other words, the computer does the physical act of creating the individual frames based on instructions from the animator. The resulting images are still physically two-dimensional; they're still presented on a 2D television screen-but they create a greater illusion of three dimensionality. To see the difference, examine the appearance of the 3D CGI Homer in Fig. 11.22 -from a Halloween episode in which he transforms from 2D (Fig. 11.21) to 3D (Fig. 11.22). See how much more rounded and bulbous he appears in Fig. 11.22? That is the effect of 3D CGI work.

For further illustration, consider the image of an island with a huge surrealistic ball, cube, and doughnut floating over it, which was created by Mark J. P. Wolf using Corel Bryce software (Fig. 11.23). The process he used to create this image is not unlike stop-motion animation-as in King Kong (1933), The Gumby Show (1957, 1966, 1988), or Nick Park's Wallace and Gromit series- where an object is made to move by shooting a frame of it, moving it slightly, shooting another frame, moving it again, and so on. Instead of using a puppet or pieces of clay, Wolf has created virtual objects that exist solely within the computer. He can position those objects where he will and he can illuminate or shadow them as he wishes-with Bryce adding appropriate reflections. To generate movement, he repositions the objects in this virtual world and captures individual still frames (keyframes) of them-much as a stop-motion puppeteer would. The computer then tweens more images-generating frames to fill in between the keyframes. The result is animation created from original still frames of digital, virtual objects.

Wolf's first step in this process was to create a wireframe version of the objects-a virtual representation of their exteriors, which looks quite like a diagram of a Renaissance painting (Fig. 11.24). Another option to fabricating computer models from scratch is to digitally trace or "capture" a three dimensional object or human. A motion-capture device was used to create, for example, Dash, one of the computer-generated hosts on the TechTV channel (Fig. 11.25, on left). Computers also captured the movement of humans to created the CG characters in the theatrical film, Final Fantasy (Fig. 11.5). In the motion-capture process, actors are recorded wearing suits with reflective dots on them that computers can digitally trace. To the computer, these dots moving in three-dimensional space define the points from which a wireframe is constructed. It's quite similar to the decades-old rotoscope process, with the essential difference that in a motion-capture device it is a machine that is tracing a human's movement and not an artist. Just as Disney's use of a rotoscoped actor created the lifelike movement of Snow White in 1937, so did the digital motion-capture device produce the very plausible movements of Dash over 60 years later. Moreover, motion-capture systems can also be used to insert a CG figure into environments where the animated characters interact with real world humans, as can be seen in Fig. 11.25 where Dash is interviewing a graphic designer. This resembles the rotoscoped interaction between animated figures and humans in 1930s Max Fleischer cartoons and A-Ha's "Take On Me" video (Fig. 11.7-11.8).

FIGURE 11.26

Wireframes are obviously not very realistic looking. They don't have substantial surfaces yet. The process by which different textures (water, rock, smooth surfaces, skin) are added to these frames is called rendering, which results in objects that appear strikingly three-dimensional on screen. The rendering stage requires the most resources and comes only at the end. The rendering of Toy Story (1995), the first entirely CG feature film, was particularly intense.

Some 800,000 computer-hours were required to generate the 77-minute film.

Each individual frame-consuming 300 megabytes of disk space-took from 2 to 15 hours to render and there are some 111,000 frames in the film! Early computer 3D animation had its own distinct appearance that separated it from conventional 2D animation. ReBoot (the first CG TV program)

typifies this look (Fig. 11.26--compare with Final Fantasy, Fig. 11.5), as do the ball, cube, and doughnut in Wolf's image. Much CG animation has coloring and movements that are mathematically precise, unlike those done by human hand. Their surface textures have a uniform sheen to them. The quirks of human animation are missing. The biggest challenge for computer animators is to be able to render irregular surfaces such as fur, hair, and skin. The island in Wolf's image illustrates the advances CGI is quickly making. Its surface is rough, craggy, and quite photo-realistic. Three-dimensional CGI animation for video games is also becoming increasingly photo-realistic-as can be seen in games such as Sega Sports NFL 2K1 (2000). NFL 2K1 simulates many aspects of the look of TV coverage-including a game clock in the upper left corner. Moreover, a video game was also the source of Final Fantasy, the photo-realistic theatrical film. It's clear that the technology for wholly computer-generated actors is here today and that it goes way beyond any dream of true-to-life naturalism that Disney had in the 1930s.

Mode of Production

In the 1980s, production was internationalized. Much routine animation work, such as inking-in character outlines, began to be sent to firms outside the United States. Korean animators, for example, are largely responsible for creating The Simpsons--for which all of the tweening is still done by hand. The major conceptual work of most cartoons continues to be done in the United States, but the physical creation of the animation is often executed abroad. The reason for this change is clearly economic: Korean labor is less expensive than is U.S. labor.

Further, it is part of a global economic shift whereby national boundaries are becoming less important than financial ones.

One less marked change in cartooning's mode of production has been the increase in merchandising of cartoon characters. Cartoon characters have been merchandised since at least 1904, when the Brown Shoe Company based an advertising campaign around the Buster Brown comic strip character. But the 1980s saw an intensification of the link between sponsors and cartoon programs as several already existing products were transformed into television characters: for example, Strawberry Shortcake, the Smurfs, and He-Man. The difference between the characters and the products became less and less clear, and the textual difference between the commercials and the narrative cartoons diminished correspondingly. It became difficult for (child) viewers to discern where one ended and the other began. Television network's ultimate goal, to advertise products, had become confusingly entwined with the medium's entertainment function.

FIGURE 11.27

Violence and Pro-social Messages

Concerns over violence and a discourse that is perceived as antisocial has led to modifications of cartoon stories. Made-for-television programs on broadcast networks are strictly monitored by the networks' broadcast standards and practices (BSP) units. For example, when ReBoot was airing on ABC, it repeatedly ran afoul of BSP. One of its producers, Gavin Blair, complains, "... we couldn't even have a punch-up [a fistfight] because that was violence. Also, we couldn't have jeopardy. Meaning we couldn't end an act with Bob [a central character] falling off a cliff and him yelling Aaaahh' as we cut to commercial-because that's jeopardy, and we'd upset the kiddies."' The brutality of older theatrical cartoons is also regularly censored by television networks and syndicators. In Warners' Duck, Rabbit, Duck (1953), for example, Elmer Fudd blasts Daffy Duck in a variety of manners (Fig. 11.27). When it is broadcast today, most of those explosions are cut out. Generally, violence has become much less visual in to day's cartoons, but the U.S. Congress is still concerned about violent imagery in television, film, video games, and other aspects of popular culture. In the 2000s, there have been repeated calls for Hollywood to curtail the violence in media designed for children.

In addition to taming the anarchic violence of cartoon visuals, animators have also added so-called pro-social meanings to the discourse of children's cartoons. For instance, in one episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, He-Man runs around battling various villains. At the end of the program, he faces the camera and explains the value of cooperation to the (child) viewer. Theatrical cartoons, by virtue of their marginal existence and the distancing factor of drawings (compared to live action), were often permitted to violate social taboos against violence, sexuality, and general chaos. Contemporary Saturday morning cartoons are the enforcers of those taboos. They speak the language of the dominant discourse.

Not all television cartoons are so clearly under the sway of dominant discourse. The debut of The Simpsons in 1989 led the way for a series of controversial adult-oriented cartoons-namely, Beavis and Butt-head (1993-97) and South Park (1997-) -- which appeared on cable channels and Fox, a then new network looking to disrupt the control of the Big Three. The Simpsons has satirized popular culture fads, organized religion, conservative politicians, consumerism, the merchandising of its own products, and the sanctity of the nuclear family. Its characters have said and done things that would have caused a scandal if they weren't cartoon characters. In these respects, it's quite ground-breaking, but we can also see that it fits within the tradition of theatrical cartoons such as those Warner Brothers, UPA, and Fleischer made in decades gone by. In those cartoons as well there was an anarchic spirit and a willingness to push the boundaries of acceptability.


Television animation has appeared in many forms, from theatrical cartoons to computer-generated commercials. In this section we have focused on the types of narrative cartoons that have appeared on television. We have surveyed the counterbalancing forces of technology, aesthetics, and economics, which have determined the mode of production of those cartoons.

Initially, cartooning evolved a mode of production well-suited for creating films for movie theaters. Cel-and-background animation was coupled with new technologies of sound, color, and rotoscoping, a specialized studio structure, and pre-production planning (using storyboards) to efficiently construct a durable product. Disney, Warner Brothers, MGM, Paramount, and others produced theatrical cartoons during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s that would be run and rerun on television up to the present day-once the studios had overcome their fear of television in the late 1950s.

These theatrical films share a general aesthetic of naturalism, which was most aggressively propounded by the Disney studio. UPA contested that aesthetic with its abstract animation style: flattened perspective, abstract backgrounds, primary colors, well-defined character outlines, and limited animation.

The economic advantages of UPA-style animation necessitated its use in made-for-TV animation, which was inaugurated in syndication by Crusader Rabbit in 1948 and on prime-time network television by The Flintstones in 1960. Cartoons quickly adapted to television's special demands. Made-for-TV cartoons rely heavily on limited animation, taming UPA's abstracted style into "radio with pictures." Because the visuals are so simple, dialogue comes to dominate the presentation of narrative, often duplicating what is presented in the image. Television cartoon segments are shorter than are theatrical cartoons, to allow for TV's interrupted and segmented form. Some shows use the serial form, posing enigmas to the viewer just before the commercial breaks began.

Others are more like live-action series: broken into incomplete segments, but ending with a tentative conclusion. Shows that are compilations of new and old cartoons often use a host to bridge all the elements together.

The template for television animation was formalized by the early 1960s, but underwent significant changes in the 1980s and 1990s. Developments in computer-generated imagery (CGI) altered fundamental assumptions about how cartoons were made-changing the look of animation as well as its mode of production. CGI may eventually do away with the need for cels themselves.

New economic pressures have also driven much animation work overseas and heightened the impact of merchandising. Social pressures have led animators to censor themselves-modifying old cartoons and inserting pro-social discourses into new ones. However, a new market for adult-oriented cartoons has arisen.

In The Simpsons and South Park conservative values are challenged on a regular basis.


Little has been written specifically on the television cartoon. However, Charles Solomon, Enchanted Drawings: The History of Animation (New York: Knopf, 1989), does offer a well-illustrated section on the topic. Similarly, Leonard Maltin, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons (New York: New American Library, 1980), chronicles the advent of the TV cartoon after detailing the history of the theatrical cartoon. Solomon's and Maltin's approaches are historical and offer rudimentary critical analysis of the cartoons.

George W. Woolery, Children's Television, the First Thirty-Five Years: 1946-1981 (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1985), is a broad-based history of all children's programming, paying particular attention to cartoons.

Margaret Morse, Virtualities: Television, Media Art, and Cyberculture (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998) examines many of the theoretical implications of CGI and its impact on television. However, the best resources for computer-based animation are on the Web-including sample images and animations. The addresses for these resources change quickly, however, and so we have placed them on Television's companion Web site where they may be easily updated. Please see for further information.

Most of the numerous books on theatrical cartoons are lightweight reading.

Two books that do attempt a more rigorous critical and/or cultural interpretation of animation are Donald Crafton, Before Mickey: The Animated Film, 1989-1928 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1982), and Eric Smoodin, Animating Culture: Hollywood Cartoons from the Sound Era (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1993).


1. The speed of silent film was originally around 16 frames per second (f.p.s.), though by the 1920s it was above 20 f.p.s. The cameras were cranked by hand at that time, and the speed varied considerably. Once sound arrived the speed was standardized at 24 f.p.s.

2. In both devices, one looks through slits to see drawings while the device turns.

One views these individual drawings in quick succession, which leads the human perceptual system to translate the still images into motion pictures. The exact process is not fully understood, but it's thought that the phenomena of critical flicker fusion and apparent motion are what cause the illusion of movement. For more information, see David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson, Film Art, 0 ed. ( New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000), pp. 2-3.

3. Disneyland was opened in 1955. Disney's television program has been known variously as Disneyland, Walt Disney Presents, Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, The Wonderful World of Disney, Disney's Wonderful World, and Walt Disney. It was broadcast for 29 years on ABC, CBS and NBC; and is second only to The Tonight Show in longevity. The Disney cable channel was launched in 1983.

4. Linda J. Obalil, "Steamboat Willie," The International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers: Films, ed. Christopher Lyon (New York: Perigee, 1984), 451.

5. The multiplane camera was still another of Disney's technological devices that was meant to increase naturalism. However, it had little impact on most cartooning of the 1930s.

6. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the "Paramount Case" in 1948 and ordered the divorcement of the studios' exhibition operation from their production and distribution divisions. Studios were no longer permitted to own theaters and had to compete with independent producers to get their films shown.

7. To be accurate, some of the early Terrytoons were released to television before CBS's acquisition of Paul Terry's Studio in 1955. They had been seen on the network weekday afternoon program Barker Bill's Cartoon Show (1953-56).

8. George W. Woolery, Children's Television, the First Thirty-Five Years: 1946-1981 (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1985), 74-75.

9. As cited in Mark J. Wolf, "Crusader Rabbit and the Adaptation of Animation to Television," unpublished essay, 1991.

10. Rogier van Bakel, "Before Toy Story There Was . . . ReBoot," Wired 5.3 March 1997, 7 Nov. 2000.

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