Did you know that 28 October has been dedicated to animated films for over 20 years? This date was chosen in memory of the pioneer Emile Reynaud who projected the first animated film at the famous Musée Grévin, in Paris, on 28 October 1892, and it is now celebrated in nearly 40 countries. On this occasion, the Library highlights special works that enrich its collection.
For many people, animation is primarily aimed at children and under the monopoly of the Disney empire. These prejudices overlook a reality going far beyond that of the Magic Kingdom. Although the genre took off with the birth of Mickey in 1928, it quickly went beyond simple entertainment to become a propaganda tool. Fascinated by Snow White, released in 1938, Hitler dreamt of a German cartoon industry that would help educate young people. For his Soviet opponent, sophisticated animation techniques enabled, from the Russian Revolution to the Cold War, to mythologise history and stigmatise the enemy.
Beyond fairy tales with forced happy endings, animation takes on serious subjects aimed at an older audience. Black ink or the tip of a brush are sometimes more effective in illustrating the unspeakable, capable of translating the worst while maintaining a filter. In Japan, the burn victims of Hiroshima are nothing more than dead shadows in Hadashi no Gen. Similarly, Isao Takahata buries his childhood under the bombs in Kobe in a deeply moving Grave of the fireflies.
Takahata, Isao. Grave of the fireflies (Hotaru no Haka). 1988
More than a testimony, drawing exorcises the traumas of its actors. Thus, the massacre of Sabra and Chatila becomes a waltz with Bashir for Ari Folman. The journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski lives another day of life in war-torn Angola. Anja Kofmel searches for Chris the Swiss, her cousin who died in the Yugoslav conflict. Shades of grey allow the mischievous Marjane Satrapi to evoke her Iranian joys and sorrows in Persepolis, while Ali Soozandeh chooses colours to reveal the taboos of Tehran. The pain of exile is recounted by Josep, a cartoonist escaping from the Spanish dictatorship, and by Amin, the Flee‘s heroic Afghan migrant. Denis Do tells the story of his mother, victim of the Khmer Rouge revolution, in Funan. And when images of the Cambodian genocide are missing, Rithy Panh fills the gaps by animating clay puppets.
Kofmel, Anja. Chris, the Swiss. 2018
As a work of memory or resilience, animation transcends reality. Its multiple techniques, strokes and ranges of colours modify our view of subjects that have been dealt with a thousand times over. It arouses a different emotion with a taste of magic and nostalgia. The imagination of the pencil has no limits. Just consider the poetry of Hayao Miyazaki as a proof of this. And if some adults still insist on reserving cartoons for kids only, it is because they have lost their childhood forever.
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Greenberg, Raz. Hayao Miyazaki : Exploring the Early Work of Japan’s Greatest Animator. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018. Ebook
Jenkins, Eric. Special Affects: Cinema, Animation and the Translation of Consumer Culture. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014. Ebook
Morag, Raya. Waltzing with Bashir : Perpetrator Trauma and Cinema. London: I.B. Tauris, 2013. 791.43(569.4) HEIA 96512
Roffat, Sébastien. Animation et propagande : les dessins animés pendant la seconde guerre mondiale. Paris [etc: L’Harmattan, 2005. 791.43 HEIA 34777
Van de Peer, Stefanie. Animation in the Middle East : Practice and Aesthetics from Baghdad to Casablanca. London: I.B.Tauris, 2016. 791.43(56) HEIA 117051
Illustration: Poher Rasmussen. Flee. 2021