The Animated Bestiary: Animals, Cartoons, and Culture
The Animated Bestiary critically evaluates the depiction of animals in cartoons and animation more generally. Paul Wells argues that artists use animals to engage with issues that would be more difficult to address directly because of political, religious, or social taboos. Consequently, and principally through anthropomorphism, animation uses animals to play out a performance of gender, sex and sexuality, racial and national traits, and shifting identity, often challenging how we think about ourselves.
Wells draws on a wide range of examples, from the original King Kongto Nick Park's Chicken Run to Disney cartoonsùsuch as Tarzan, The Jungle Book, and Brother Bearùto reflect on people by looking at the ways in which they respond to animals in cartoons and films.
animated form, it is further problematized by the shifting terms of bestial ambivalence, especially when a particular narrative seeks to play out a tension between animal culture and the shifting parameters of sexual desire and personal status. This occurs in Moscow-born Ladislaw Starewicz’s The Cameraman’s Revenge (Ladislaw Starewicz, Russia, 1911). Starewicz’s childhood interest in entomology was satisﬁed in adult life when he became director of the Natural History Museum in Kovno, Lithuania,
B E S T I A RY Her success in ﬁnding imagery that alludes to states of consciousness in living creatures is achieved by a certain ambiguity in the frame, half suggesting that what is being seen is being perceived by the animal or that the experience itself is uncertainly interrogated and represented as such. The relationship between the animator, the animal, and the animated image is explored further in the next chapter, but it is important to consider here that the movement Leaf describes as
their natural habitat to understand the anatomical factors that underpinned processes of physical movement and expression in animals. As contemporary animator Christopher Hart has suggested to aspiring animators, “It is important to keep a reference ﬁle on hand for drawing animals. If you don’t you’ll just be drawing cartoon animals based on your recollections of other cartoon animals, and your drawings will show a lack of mastery. The next time you go to the zoo, bring along a sketchbook, and
typewriter in Hollywood who has had no experience with the actual things he’s writing about” (Goldner and Turner 1975, 80). Cooper clearly expected that O’Brien would create Kong ﬁrst and foremost as a convincing animal, but it would be the relationship with Fay that would invest him with humanity. This narrative accords usefully with the work of Donna Haraway on the role of taxidermy and the creation of the African Hall dioramas, opened in 1936, in the American Museum of Natural History (Haraway
Schoedsack. As Burt has pointed out, “It is easy to lose sight of the historical perspective when concepts of the animal are associated with ideas of naturalness, emotional directness and simplicity; terms which are themselves important cultural constructs” (Burt 2002, 21). It was this sense of a historical perspective embedded in cultural myth that Cooper wished to recover and to reposition amidst the complacencies of modern culture in the West. This was a culture, somewhat contradictorily,