Animation: the Automaton Within

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


“It is not difficult to see how animation has the ready capacity to facilitate ‘the uncanny’” (Wells, 2006) In this paper I will argue that animation is not, on the surface uncanny through its superficial tropes of making animate the inanimate, nor is it hidden as a ‘harbinger of death’ (Crawte 2017) within the inertia between each frame. Instead, I will argue, that it resides in a place that reveals to us the automaton within, making known something repressed at the core of our being, the alienation of the self and agency. Culturally we understand the ‘magic trick’ involved in animation, that is, the bringing to life of inanimate objects, be them drawings, puppets etc. through tiny increments of movement captured as a series of still images and brought to life through the motion of film. Rather than embodying the uncanny through the bringing to life of these inanimate objects, the animated form questions our assumptions of individual agency and reveals the hidden mechanism that lies within us all, the hidden automaton that is revealed, for Freud and Jentsch, and others, in epileptic seizures “because these excite in the spectator the impression of automatic, mechanical processes at work behind the ordinary appearance of mental activity.” (Freud, 1919) The paper will look at examples that illustrate these arguments, such as; Moon and Me (2019) and Stanley Pickle (2010), Jan Svankmajer’s Alice (1988), and their revealing of the uncanny through technique within the animated form.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2021
EventBringing Legacy to Life: Stop Motion Conference 2021 - Scotland , Edinburgh , United Kingdom
Duration: 29 Apr 202130 Apr 2021


ConferenceBringing Legacy to Life
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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