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Free Content In visible hands: the work of stop motion

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This essay puts artists, historians and theorists into conversation with each other in the context of an examination of stop-motion work process. Stop-motion film-makers frequently blur the boundaries between work and play as they practise their painstakingly labour-intensive craft, and this essay considers how the work of the animator’s hands is evoked (in implicit and explicit ways) in two key examples of late-twentieth-century stop-motion film. Starting with Adam Smith’s metaphor of the ‘invisible hand’ as a figure for self-regulating tendencies within capitalism, and extending into far more critical re-examinations of the figure by C. Wright Mills, I discuss the visual culture of workplace efficiency analysis and its relationship to the history of stopmotion film. I focus in the remainder of the essay on representations of work process in Henry Selick’s Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and Peter Lord and David Sproxton’s Confessions of a Foyer Girl. I argue that these films’ contrasting considerations of work are enmeshed within ambivalent considerations of the political economy of cinematic production and distribution.
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Keywords: art; craft; labour; play; stop motion; technology; work

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Southern California

Publication date: 01 March 2011

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  • Animation Practice, Process & Production is a journal presenting, analysing and advancing how animation is created and shown. From Pixar to Parn, Aardman to X-Men, Motion Capture to Mobile Phone, GUI to Gallery, all forms of animation will be revealed and assessed. Illustrated contributions are invited from practitioners and scholars of animation. Innovative models of critical presentation and analysis are especially encouraged. All topics engaged with the practice, process and production of animation, from a range of perspectives, will be considered.
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