Auteur Theory: The Studio as Auteur – Disney and Pixar
151 | Rhetoric 132T | CCN: 31705
As Paul Wells notes in Animation: Genre and Authorship,
Walt Disney is viewed as the key pioneering figure in the creation of the art, commerce, and industry of animation…. Even his fiercest advocates, however, have struggled to name Disney’s mode of authorship…. [Disney] operates as a useful case study…[in our efforts] to form a view of the ways in which ‘authorship’ in animation might be evaluated.
As the professed inheritors of the Walt Disney tradition in animated feature filmmaking, Pixar has revived the issue of authorship in animation. It has sought with considerable success to inherent the mantle of Walt Disney’s commercial auteur persona through the constitution of a “digital animation” auteur persona. This process has involved the seemingly paradoxical casting of the Pixar creative team as the collective “author” of the Pixar films while at the same time privileging and publicizing the figure of the director-as-author far more than Disney Studios ever did. Drawing on the work of such film animation scholars as Paul Wells and Maureen Furniss, we will examine the process of the creation of the Pixar auteur persona and the function of the distinctive Pixar aesthetic mediating between the collective authorship of the Pixar creative team and the distinctive authorial identities of Pixar directors such as John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Andrew Stanton, and Pete Docter.
There will be a required textbook, Mauren Furniss’ Art in Motion: Animation Aesthetics, as well as a course reader. Students should expect to do a lot of reading, writing, film viewing, and class discussion! Attendance is required!