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Shadow of a Mouse by Donald Crafton

Shadow of a Mouse Performance, Belief, and World-Making in Animation

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Chapter 1

Performance in and of Animation

"What is typically lost in discussions about animation is the fact that when you watch an animated film, the performance you're seeing is the one the animator is giving to you. If an animated character makes you laugh or cry, feel fear, anger, empathy, or a million other emotions, it is largely due to the work of these often unsung artists, who invest a lot of themselves in the creation of these indelible moments."

-Brad Bird

There's something about Betty. She is one of the earliest cartoon characters to be a fully fleshed-out being and the only classic toon star gendered as female (neither Minnie nor Daisy were leading ladies). Now, truth be told, Betty Boop can be a little annoying. Her high-pitched voice is a bit too squeaky. She and her playmates, Bimbo and Ko-Ko the Clown, behave like children when some adult judgment (and they seem to be adults) would make their lives easier. They are also unthinking colonialists and probably more than a little racist when they travel to exotic lands. Her sexy design is irritating to anyone with the least concern about reducing female identity to a sexual package: the gams, the short skirt showing a to-be-taken-off garter, the heart-shaped dΘcolletage. As her theme song points out in regard to her unmentionable sexual charms, "Those eyes, that pretty nose, / Although aside from these / She's got so much of those!" Then there's her relation to "Uncle" Max, who plays her cartoonist-creator in the films where they appear together. She is vamping him, to be sure, and he clearly is besotted with her, living out the middle-age male sugar-daddy fantasy.

Betty, though "made of pen and ink," will indeed "win you with a wink." Despite her off-putting aspects, Betty Boop definitely had personality. Her cartoons, especially the piquant "pre-Code" ones made before 1934, appeal irresistibly. It is difficult not to respond to this drawing as a vivacious human female, despite her disproportionate, infantile head, chubby cheeks, and absurdly small lips. When she acts, she's lithe and loquacious. Her coo and her wink project knowledge of the ways of the world. She's been around. Yet she also has little-shopgirl innocence. You feel sorry for her because her clothing tends to drift away from her body and she has to fend off the grotesquely horny men (her bosses, the Old Man of the Mountain, etc.) who want to have at her virginal "boop-oop-a-doop." You want to know her better, befriend her, or more. A little Olympia. This might explain the presence of the hula-dancer Betty doll that for many years has occupied a spot on my bookshelf. In my imagination, she's more than a drawing, more than a collectible. She's one of my favorite actresses.

There's nothing weird about my mixed feelings about Betty. She isn't a fetishistic hallucination, a dream, or a delusion. Although I like the experience of encountering her in her own imaginary world, I also know that I can't walk up to her and tell her how neat or annoying she is. Boop's a fan object, not a real object. Still ...

Animator, screenwriter, and director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, 2004; Ratatouille, 2007) knows what he's talking about. The implications of his lapidary observations in the epigraph above seem unassailable:

Animated films are performances.

Animated characters (whether Betty or Mr. Incredible) are actors who may convey strong emotions.

The audience responds emotionally to the acting.

The animated characters and therefore the emotions originate with the animators.

The animators create the performances and therefore are the "real" performers.

These observations are simple enough, but, like all things that we would rather think about as merely entertaining, animated film performances are far from simple. They're hard to make, even now with all our technological savvy, and they are products of the tentacular global media-culture industry. Cartoon stars rival human ones as recognizable celebrities and in the avidity of their fans. As do human stars, cartoon characters create a sense of being live and present in the film experience. The settings, landscapes, and stages they occupy are fictional worlds that we like to believe in, all the while knowing them to be fantastic.

In this chapter, I am interested especially in the ways in which animated beings such as Betty, Mickey, Popeye, and others are so easily rationalized as film performers. Admittedly this is counterintuitive. Although nothing is too outlandish, stunning, or hard to swallow for them, they still seem normal, like other screen actors. They just happen to be animated. Watching them, I enjoy a powerful sensation of recognition and a potent sense of their presence. They are drawings, but are they also movie stars? This dissonance is the most fundamental conundrum. How can inanimate drawings or objects act, or perform at all?

The first thing to point out is that Bird's comments refer to two aspects of performativity. The behaviors, actions, and expressivity of the actors, as well as the dramatic situations, narrative flow, plots, and depictions presented in the films, are part of the performance in animation. This is what happens in exhibition, that is, what we see being done on the screen. So Betty performs in the animation when she moves, acts, and dances the hula. Thus this performance is primarily audiovisual. It is an enacted event in a self-sufficient diegetic world. In animation, no performance occurs until the drawings, clay models, or whatever begin to move.

Bird points to viewers' emotional reactions as they experience watching the film in real time. But he also refers to the animators' earlier work of making the film, which involves the performance of animation. These are the continuously unfolding processes that begin before the film is made and continue after its first performance. What happens on the screen doesn't stay on the screen. For this reason, I agree with Bird that the animators' work is a performance, but I qualify it as a conditional performance, the condition being that the film will be completed and projected to its viewers. Alexander Sesonske got it right when he said,

Neither these lively creatures [toons] nor their actions ever existed until they were projected on screen. Their projected world exists only now, at the moment of projection-and when we ask if there is any feature in which it differs from reality, the answer is, "Yes, every feature." ... For there is no past time at which these events either did occur or purport to have occurred. Surely not the time the drawings were made, or the frames photographed; for the world I know and see had not yet sprung into existence then. It exists only now, when I see it; yet I cannot go to where its creatures are, for there is no access to its space from ours except through vision.

The performance in the film, contrarily, is both a result and a springboard. It is dependent on, but separate from, the performance of animation, which comprises these conditional performances by the animators but also implicates the responsive performances by the viewers as their reflections, conversations, affection for the characters, and other reactions develop over time. In the case of Betty, we might also note the history of the Fleischer studio before the initiation of the character; the poaching of "real" performers' traits (those of Palace headliner Helen Kane, a.k.a. the Boop-Boop-a-Doop Girl, in particular); the history of representing and the reception of female entertainers; the techniques such as rotoscoping applied by the filmmakers; the distribution of economic power via film distribution; and the marketing and merchandizing juggernaut that produced the effigy on my bookshelf. Moreover, the elements of Betty's acting, the way she targets her performances to a vaudeville-like theater audience within the films, her interactions with "live" characters (including Max, her putative creator), and the setting of the animated character within the "real" world via photographic backgrounds are just a few streams that may contribute to Boop's incredibly dense performativity.

Thus the encompassing performance of animation refers to the whole contextual process from inception to its open end. Often it is known only by inferences, for instance, through speculation about what the animators were doing and why, and how audiences were responding. Performance isn't a sender-receiver communication model but rather a galaxy of relationships, many of which remain unknowable.

Bird's model places the site of performance solidly with the filmmakers (the original context for the quotation is an introduction to a book on acting for animators). That, however, is not the only option. I will stress the part that film viewers also play, inscrutable though it may be, since they must assent to the films' offers to perform-by paying attention, by "getting into" the show via laughter, singing along, or applauding, and by embracing the characters as show people. And by buying tickets and DVDs or subscribing to streaming services.

Bird notes that expressive communication is the major aim of cartoon performance. These performances are instrumental, meaning that they convey emotions. They are bound to specific times, places, and material conditions of production and circulation and so have an impact on their original audiences. But cartoons are also frameworks that fan backward, outward, and into the future. Historical consumers of these films, then as now, experience them within their own diverse and evolving understanding. The physical print of the film might be the same, but a cartoon viewed in wartime movie houses in 1942 was experienced far differently by those audiences, who likely viewed it as a performance of patriotism, than it is by today's audiences-especially students-who see the characters performing propaganda and racism. From the standpoint of historical reception, these are entirely different performances of the same physical film.

Because acting is crucial, however, let's begin with Bird's concept of performance, which contains the most profound irony. Indeed, according to traditional theories of stage acting, dramatic irony is the basis of performance, since the actors, while performing, are not themselves but a believed-in character. The Hamlet onstage is also the drama major down the hall. Experiencing a temporary forgetfulness, spectators may imagine, contradictorily but without great confusion or anxiety, that they're watching characters and not actors whose bodies just disappear. It's as though viewers are in two places simultaneously, within the fiction and outside it. Disney's characterizations depended on this classical model, which in fact is allegorized in Dumbo (Samuel Armstrong et al./Disney, 1941). The elephant protagonist is convinced that a magic feather is the source of his flying power. It works in the performance because, in fact, he can fly when he holds it with his trunk. We moviegoers, thanks to our superior position inside the narration, know that Dumbo's ability derives from his pure soul and his aerodynamic ears, not from his magic feather. These two beliefs are equally valid, and yet they are incompatible (a stern ethical lesson that the film drives home at the end, opting for the nonmagical explanation). Similarly, we are aware that Betty behaves and enchants like a real actor. We also know that she is different from non-animated screen actors, although she herself seems to be unaware that she's not human.

The Disney animators often described Mickey Mouse and other characters as though they were people. A 1935 memo to the animators asked the question that was preoccupying the studio then, "What Makes and Breaks Personality"? The anonymous supervisor concluded that animal and inanimate objects had to be humanized, not just physically but mentally as well. Sounding like Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein, who had visited the studio, the author observed, "A memorable shock is produced by the mixture of the fantastic and impossible with the believable." The studio was obviously wrestling with the problem of imparting credulity to its characters while retaining their cartoonish charms. The memo discussed Mickey's transformations in Band Concert (Wilfred Jackson/Disney, 1935) as an example of how only "a few human touches and minor traits can vitalize a general character into a personality." Band Concert demonstrated how Mickey's persistent conducting during a violent storm, as well as his oversize uniform with sleeves falling over his hands, "makes him living and unforgettable." The film also demonstrated a foundational concept about animation performance: that it bears the marks of allegory, metaphor, and irony. Mickey's inept appearance is at odds with his masterful and unexpected talent as a conductor.

Perhaps most intriguing in Bird's observations is the issue of personal investment, implying both a psychological and ethical involvement of spectators in performance. What is the process that reifies the animators' feelings in their work so that audiences later will understand and feel those emotions on their own? For that matter, how do audiences invest themselves in the animation experience? What Bird describes initially seems to be a performative situation, but is it really?

One performance studies textbook offers this definition: "Performative events require a performer, a text, an audience, and a context. At the base of all definitions of the performer is a performer who is a human, whose instrument is his or her own body." According to another definition, "a performance is an activity done by an individual or group in the presence of and for another individual or group." Another scholar reflects that if we ask what makes performing arts performative, "I imagine the answer would somehow suggest that these arts require the physical presence of trained or skilled human beings whose demonstration of their skill is the performance."


Stipulating that the performing agent must be a human body sharing a physical space with an attentive audience seems to nip in the bud the existence of performing cartoon characters made of drawings, objects, clay, or pixels. Yet Betty Boop is presented and accepted as a human performer. She certainly seems to be performing "texts" for us, the audience, in a specific time and place (context). No one would disagree that she has definite skills and uses her body as an instrument. Too bad she's a toon, following the impeccable nomenclature for the animated laborers introduced in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (Robert Zemeckis, 1988).

Are toons human? No, because they do not have biological human bodies in our physical world. We can't physically feel them or interact with them. They may not-and usually do not-possess human form. They are works of fiction, like Captain Ahab. Yes, if "human" is a metaphor, an attitude, a belief, or a cognitive category whose boundaries are contingent on definitions and functions that we recognize as human. Of course Ahab is human, but the whale is not. Nevertheless, the protagonist effectively demonstrates the ability of people to see animals as embodying human conditions and behaviors. We easily impute humanness to Captain Ahab, but we also humanize Moby Dick the whale when we, sympathizing with Ahab, assign to it the human attributes of evil and bloodthirstiness.

From this we gather that equating "body" with "physically human" is too narrow; germs and splinters are foreign bodies, and there are bodies of stars, of essays, of legislatures. There are cultural beings embodied as human, such as Santa Claus and Mother Goose. Our pets, which for many of us are more like people than like animals, or Donald Duck, who is more human than he is duck, and toons all have personhood without being biologically human. Although they are not lived bodies and may not have human forms, these characters coexist in our lived world thanks to the embodying function of various cognitive, anthropomorphic, and social processes. Then there's the pathetic fallacy.

Perceiving moving lines, colorful shapes, blobs of clay, piles of sand, furry puppets, and even plain forms in motion on-screen as animated bodies-of humans, animals, and any number of other beings-is a complex process. Cognitive psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists, art historians, cultural theorists, theologians, and the tweedy professoriat have advanced explanations. John Ruskin called it the pathetic fallacy. He was referring to the tendency of some writers to project feelings and interpretations onto inanimate objects and nature. An old mill, for example, might also be the bosom of a sheltering home, and indifferent Nature or Hope might be immanent in a cloud formation. But he could just as easily have applied the term to animated matches, caricatured people and animals, or simple geometric shapes that move in certain ways. Especially if they are associated with stories, sound, and speech, animated characters may be arranged by filmmakers in ways that let us understand them as humorous (or sympathetic, disgusting, or threatening) humanoids (I give you South Park). Cartoons and their actors are as capable of supporting such projections as other media forms are, plus they carry forward a long tradition from popular graphic arts.

Is Betty Boop a "performer?" Some theorists would have to veto Betty's performativity because of their requirement for human physical coexistence with a human audience. This goes beyond the fact that she happens to be black-and-white and two-dimensional. The living human requirement disqualifies non-animated mediatized expressions such as sound recordings, film, and radio and television broadcasts. Animated performances seem to fail the "live performer copresent with a live audience" test as well. This is not a coincidence, since the test's hidden agenda is to affirm the "intrinsic," "essential," "unique," and "live" properties of theater performance. But wait. Cinema does not fail the test if we simply stipulate that performers need not be human beings, and that the performers may have presence without being physically corporeal. More important than the humanity of the on-screen performer is that of the audience members. Animated films, like all entertainments, are made with the assumption that they will be viewed by some gathering of spectators and auditors. In the classic period of cartoons, this screening was in a movie theater, where a "living" human audience understood that a performance was in progress. The performativity occurs in the unfolding of the event for moviegoers, not in the "blood" of an actor.

The performativity of animation can't be separated from performance in non-animated cinema (the subject of lively ongoing discussions). The cartoon performance occurs in the real time and space of exhibition, but the performance of animation is a composite phenomenon of mind and material that happens in a common space to which animators and audiences have read-write access. I call this zone of fascination and fantasy the Tooniverse. Paradoxically it inducts and repels us while asserting and disavowing its existence by calling attention to its constructedness. No individual constituent (animation studios, material forces such as the motion picture distribution system, or audiences) is solely in control in this movie-made world, which resembles other ephemeral realms of art and culture, such as the worlds of theater, literature, and visual and sonic experience. The Tooniverse is a collaborative construction because it's coanimated by the filmmakers and viewers.

Although ironic representation underlies all animation performance, there are different creative approaches to it. Bird is a proponent of what I'll call embodied acting. The popular wisdom is that it was introduced by Disney, after which it quickly replaced older styles of acting. Historically, this approach was influenced by the teaching of Stanislavsky and developed into "the Method," popular in 1950s stage and films. Embodied acting is still dominant today in feature animation. Actually, Brad Bird is one of its exemplars. Another approach, however, is figurative acting, which never disappeared and now thrives, especially in Japanese anime, in animated television series in the tradition of Beavis and Butt-head, The Simpsons, and South Park, and in much online animated work.

Disney, after he had begun espousing an embodied approach to screen acting, belittled what I'm calling the figurative approach as shallow or primitive. But figuration remained a potent alternative practice for developing personality. Even after Disney's forays into embodied personality animation had been critically acclaimed, "not everybody used it," as Chuck Jones observed. According to the famed Warner Bros. director, "I don't know how many ways there are to animate, but in our pictures, Bugs and Daffy and all our characters were defined by the movement. None of them are funny to look at if you've never seen them in movement. It's like good actors. Woody Allen or Charlie Chaplin aren't funny to look at, but they are funny by the way they move. That's the whole point about character animation. But that's one way of animating." The figurative acting Jones describes emphasized movement that conveys signifying gestures and pantomime typical of broad humor and slapstick rather than emotive personality, character nuance, and emotional expression. The characters, often derived from comic art graphic traditions and from popular theater (vaudeville, burlesque, music hall), accentuated dynamism and immediate legibility. The embodied approach to acting, however, asks actors to look within themselves and use their own intense feelings to engender dramatic bodies for their audience. Actors develop a character, coming to understand its motives, life story, and psychology, in order to materialize it as something that observers will accept naturally, with barely a second thought.

Figurative Performances

Figurative performance is extroverted. Characters behave as recognizable "types," marshaling a small range of instantly identifiable facial and body expressions. They rehearse their distinctive movements and characteristic gags in film after film. They elicit surprise and shock but mostly laughs as they move the gag-laden story along. We appreciate them as we understand clowns or slapstick comedians with distinctive yet familiar styles. James Naremore might agree that figurative acting is ostensive; performers display character by showing off. These performances are formally presentational, meaning that the actors often face the audience and display their talent as though putting on a show. Cartoon characters convey thought and emotion through conventional distortions of their bodies, for example, by stretching and squashing themselves. Sometimes they feign actual presence in the movie theater, acknowledging the audience by gesturing, speaking, or singing to the "camera." The acting is skin deep. So throughout the 1930s, for instance, when characters shout, "Mammy," as they do countless times, everyone would have understood this as a reference to Al Jolson's minstrel singing. Such performances work against audiences ignoring the toons' constructedness and getting "into" the characters, which was a goal of embodied performance. Early cinema's exploitation of "attractions" and its affinity for slapstick relied more on what Andre Gaudreault calls monstration (being shown) than it did on narration (telling). Tom Gunning's observation that early films "reach out and confront" spectators catches the dynamism of figurative performance's antiabsorption aesthetic. Theorists of drama following Brecht, and of film following Eisenstein and Bresson, have promoted acting styles that were extroverted in this sense. Eisenstein was especially smitten by the figurative reflexivity and kinetic performance in these cartoons and rhapsodized about black-and-white "plasmatic" Mickey, who was always moving and morphing like an amoeba: "Here we have a being represented in drawing, a being of a definite form, a being which has attained a definite appearance, and which behaves like the primal protoplasm."

In the early 1930s, the best-known animation actors were Mickey Mouse, Betty Boop, Popeye, and Farmer Al Falfa. Bosko, from Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising at Schlesinger's, and Oswald, produced by Walter Lantz at Universal, rounded out the field. All became cartoon stars through their figurative performances. This was the tradition out of which Disney grew and against which he reacted. Most performances in these cartoons resembled gags that one might see in a comic strip, in a short film comedy, or live on the vaudeville stage, where such routines were, in Naremore's words, "threatening to disrupt coherence at every level of the performance, deriving laughter not only from the foolish inconsistency of the characters but from a split between actor and role." Emotion and empathy, in this other concept of performativity, were less important than immediacy, surprise, visual gags, and witty repartee. Although it was all about performers' bodies and physicality, neither the animators nor their customers expected to learn anything about their toons' depth of being.

Not that animated performances in the figurative mode were bereft of emotion; they simply expressed it using different devices. Performances arising from even the most rigidly conventionalized forms may still convey feeling by way of vocabularies of masklike signs and gestures. The Song of the Birds (Dave Fleischer/Paramount, 1935), for example, uses emblematic displays and music to show the robin parents grieving over their wounded chick. Emotion is conveyed by a chorus of neighbor birds aligning in a semicircle around the parents and singing a mournful song. It resembles a stage apotheosis (Figure 1). Embodied approaches, on the contrary, would try to invoke subjectivity, identification, and empathy to achieve the same empathetic response. FC[figref 1]/FC

A Disney film in which the performance is mostly figurative is The Moose Hunt (Burt Gillett/Disney, 1932). Pluto, though he speaks in a human voice three times in the film, acts as a stereotypical dog doing his canine business, for example biting fleas, peeing inappropriately, and so on. In one scene he pretends that he has been shot by Mickey and winks at the film viewer to show us he's playacting. Distraught, Mickey, after miming his grief over Pluto in a very stagy fashion, looks at the audience and pleads to the "camera," asking, "Is there a doctor in the house?" Elsewhere there are movie references, as when Mickey commands Pluto to "speak" and the dog drops to one knee and replies, "Mammy!" When Pluto ends his charade, he puckers his lips and says to Mickey, "Kiss me," evidently re-performing another movie line that audiences would have recognized but that is now lost in the fog of the past (is it Ronald Colman? John Gilbert? Garbo?). The characters draw attention to their roles as performers in a cartoon. In Mickey, viewers might have seen a hybrid of Charles Lindbergh, Douglas Fairbanks, and Buster Keaton.

The eponymous king in King Neptune (Burt Gillett/Disney, 1932) is a jolly, rotund protagonist who also was the archetype for Father Noah, Old King Cole, King Midas, and Santa Claus in later movies. The supporting cast members are generic mermaids and pirates, including a stereotypical gay buccaneer in a lavender shirt. At this time the Disney studio's approach to acting was more or less similar to that of other studios. As Disney became more invested in alternative characterization strategies in the later 1930s, his actors drifted away from this figurative presentation. Accordingly, Eisenstein's ardor for Disney cooled as he perceived the new style to be less "plasmatic."

Betty Boop was a most interesting amalgam of figurative and embodied performance. She isn't a completed character, but she does have a personal background, individuality, and some agency. Heather Hendershot has noted the bivalence and considers Betty simultaneously a "design motif" and a "designed product." As a movie viewer, I have no difficulty in typecasting Betty as a starring coquette such as Colleen Moore, Clara Bow, Marilyn Monroe, Cameron Diaz, or Reese Witherspoon. Betty's acting, however, has few characteristics of the embodied style: her movements, gestures, and expressions are formulaic; she is not introspective; we don't bond with her as a thoughtful being. We are aware perhaps that she is a marketing franchise. Nevertheless, her performances generate a sense of presence. "Perhaps, at least to a certain degree," observes Joanna Bouldin apropos of Betty, "the material and sensuous connection between image and original is maintained in animation, albeit a complicated, morphed and multiplied connection."

The wonderfully strange Betty Boop's Rise to Fame (Dave Fleischer/Paramount, 1934) illustrates those contradictory connections. A journalist comes calling on cartoonist Max (played by Max Fleischer) to interview the cartoon star. Max obligingly dips his pen into the inkwell and lightning sketches the animated flapper. Riding on his pen from paper to desktop, she subtly transforms from two to three dimensions (Figures 2a and 2b). Betty introduces three scenes showing some of her star turns-actually, clips from two-year-old Paramount cartoons. The show over, she dives back into the inkpot and the reporter gets a splash in the eye.

Now, on the merely commercial level, one might dismiss the omnibus film as what the trade called a cheater, a clever if somewhat lazy attempt to pad a nine-minute cartoon with just a few minutes of new animation. This, however, would be a mistake. Typical of examples of figurative performativity, Rise to Fame replicates in its story line the process by which each subperformance develops from previous ones. Borrowing the Hollywood biopic form, it purports to show how the protagonist grew from her formative appearances on stage and screen into today's movie star. Her celebrity is signaled in several ways in addition to the film title. For instance, the reporter isn't interested in creator Max's life or remarkable talent, only in Betty's star story. She is a professional actor-a vaudevillian-whose job it is to sing, dance, play movie roles, and mold herself into a spectacle. The films she selects to document her "rise" are not titles that might have embodied an autobiographical legend based on her ethnic roots, such as Minnie the Moocher (Dave Fleischer/Paramount, 1931), in which we meet her immigrant parents, or Any Rags (Dave Fleischer/Paramount, 1932), in which we see her at home in a tenement. Rather, Betty selects cartoons in which she's a chameleon-like showgirl. She shifts through identities in nested performances. We see Max's new performance (his creation of Betty), which enacts a story (the implied biography), and Betty's new performance, which encapsulates her old performances. Her distinctive character evolves as we get to know her through these concatenations of talents appropriate for an entertainer from the louche world of burlesque (and animated cartoons). If she were performing in the embodied style, we would have been invited to understand her as an autonomous being much as we would with other contemporary film stars. We might learn more about how her class or ethnicity influenced her behavior. We want to know why she's so attracted to the hula and African American jazz.

Betty is in part a star by association. She shows us how she is a figuration of "the star" by importing celebrity charisma into her Tooniverse. Her personality is an infectious composite of acquired details, more like a collection of poached traits than a complex expression of inner drives and motives. As a figure, she lacks an interior core of emotion or individual expressivity. She does her "imitations" stage act in clips from Stopping the Show (Dave Fleischer/Paramount, 1932) and successively appropriates the mannerisms, accents, and song stylings of Kane, of Ziegfeld Follies chanteuse Fanny Brice, and of the cabaret singer Maurice Chevalier, her fellow employee at Paramount. It is the historicized performances in the old film clips that authenticate her current existence. Rise to Fame builds in plenty of pretend memories. The photographs of Brice and Chevalier speak to Betty in voices that sound like the originals, as though these recognizable "real" people remember and accept her as a "real" showbiz protΘgΘ. In their conditional performance, the animators clearly assumed that their audiences would get the references.

The animators tried to excite their audiences by constructing worlds that acknowledged mainstream cinema but also retained vestigial connections to powerful traditions in live performance, with which their viewers were probably very familiar. Many pre-World War II audiences were as experienced as consumers of vaudeville and radio broadcasts as they were of the movies. (Max Fleischer, for example, was a popular radio personality.) Animators and audiences alike related to theaters as intermedial zones that combined stage acts, live music, and song with cinema, and where the boundaries defining film acting and between on- and offstage became blurred.

Animators used figuration to create the impression that cartoons were anticinema, or at least outside its rules. They mocked the movies and movie stars and poked reflexive fun at themselves as film workers. They relied on graphic conventions that put their toons' bodies through gyrations to show off their nonhuman anatomical rubbery quality, their imperviousness to physical attacks and dismemberment. Characters like Bosko masqued to an incessant visual rhythm syncopated to the jazzy sounds coming from the orchestra pit and early soundtracks. Eisenstein saw in such acting the potential for resisting Stanislavskian notions of embodiment (which he despised), and for world domination by Hollywood's brand of performativity and probably capitalism itself.

Alongside Disney's mid-1930s quest to endow cartoon characters with personality, individuated character, and what the animators liked to call the "illusion of life," other studios continued introducing characters that they hoped would compete with Mickey but also continued to produce figurative performances. For example, the gags with book and magazine titles and trade names that become animated caricatures, as in Speaking of the Weather (Frank Tashlin/Schlesinger, 1937), expect the viewer to match the joke to the popular media image. The many caricatures in films such as The CooCoo Nut Grove (Friz Freleng/Schlesinger, 1936) referenced celebrities (such as bandleader Ben Bernie) and their parodies (Ben Birdie). Many of these persons have long since faded from the radar screen of popular culture, leaving the joke structures behind without the ironic force of the original star figurations.

Standardized character model sheets not only helped the animators working in the figurative mode to maintain a consistent look in scenes, but they also provided a formulary of poses and facial expressions. The studio apprentice system, whereby experienced animators taught standard practices to the newcomers, perpetuated ways of signifying character through pantomimed gestures that had been current for a century in theater and painting. Standardized character model sheets not only helped the animators working in the figurative mode to maintain a consistent look in scenes, but they also provided a formulary of poses and facial expressions. The studio apprentice system, whereby experienced animators taught standard practices to the newcomers, perpetuated ways of signifying character through pantomimed looks and gestures that had been current for a century in theater and painting. As it had been practiced in gaslight melodrama, the actors move from pose to pose, conveying thoughts through conventional broad gestures of face and limbs. Audiences grasp the message by training or by intuition.

The name most often associated with this approach is Franτois Delsarte. Many versions of his so-called system of expression were available to singers, actors, and public speakers. These book illustrations linking poses and gestures to conventional meanings provided a ready reference for stock facial and bodily expressions. Artists of every stripe as well as silent filmmakers such as Griffith were steeped in these poses, which were a staple of theater acting. As the animation studios became industrialized, the model sheets that catalogued the characteristic poses, the roster of facial expressions, and each toon actor's "mouth chart" enabled clarity and consistency of acting. Ken Anderson, in a typical training session for Disney animators, would sketch the various faces associated with specific thoughts. If the filmmaker wanted the character to portray concentration, for instance, he would draw the brows furrowed and the eyelids down.

The plasticity that Eisenstein admired so much in Mickey is actually a characteristic typical of figurative performance, in which the body creates its own expressive space. Betty, for instance, constantly goes in and out of temporal and dimensional zones as well as fictional spaces. When she and Max show us the paper cutouts representing the cartoons' "sets," the "fourth wall" becomes unstable and the viewer's engagement in the space is very confusing, moving from the photographic 3-D of Max's studio to 2-D background drawings and back to 3-D when the film within the film begins and the "sets" become the character's action space. Although Betty presents herself visually and verbally to the reporter and Max in his studio space, she also makes eye contact with "us" in the movie audience when she speaks to the "camera." When she's acting-that is, presenting herself as a professional performer-the display is frontal, with eye contact. It's very stagelike even when she's not actually on a stage. Like Betty herself, the films are coy (Figure 3). That lei lilting across her bare breasts is a voyeuristic temptation that never gives an unobstructed view of what lies beneath, and an emblem, perhaps, of films in the figurative mode. They promise to reveal more than they do, teasing viewers into thinking that they'll learn something about the protagonist, about cartoon stardom, and about the animation process itself. Instead, the animators lead us-without much resistance, it must be said-down a garden path of playful delusion.

Figuratively performing characters don't try to hide that they're manufactured beings; they are happy to show us the process of their making and how they got to be cartoons, often in a funny, self-mocking way. Making {apos}Em Move (Harry Bailey and John Foster/Van Beuren, 1931, rereleased as In a Cartoon Studio) is another cartoon that purports to tell all about cartoon performance. A curious woman (or is she a cat?) wonders how animation is done. A wizened doorkeeper shows us the "secret." Hilarious scenes of musical mayhem ensue as the animal-animators madly manufacture the various phases of their assembly-line product. The conceit is that the cartoonists are sketching other cartoon beings performing, merely reproducing faithful views of the living creatures in the other world they inhabit. The joke calls into question animated embodiment. (It also became the premise of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, in which the Tooniverse is the workers' literalized ghetto, Toon Town.) One Making {apos}Em Move artist-character draws a hula-dancing kitten that obligingly strikes a slightly different pose for each drawing (Figure 4). When the sketchers' sheets are flipped they synthesize an animated dance. A galloping movie camera films the pages of drawings as the animator riffles them past the lens. A "live" band with a phonograph needle hooked up to it scratches the soundtrack onto the edge of the film stock. The characters are comedians without any depth or subtlety of personality. The interest is in putting over the gag, showing their funny actions, and engaging in self-parody, not in setting forth the toons' motivated behaviors.

In A Cartoonist's Nightmare (Jack King/Leon Schlesinger Studio, 1935), the animation studio is pictured as a crazy factory populated by funny folks and caricatures (of the Schlesinger staff, perhaps). One animator stays after hours and falls asleep working on the studio's newest character, Beans. In the cartoon in progress, a monster is chasing Beans, but in a stunning dream sequence the villain drags the animator into the cell. The bad guys of previous Schlesinger cartoons capture and torment him, singing, "The tables are turned and now you're in our clutches." Beans rescues the animator by tossing him a pencil with which he can draw and erase his way out of trouble. This film is mostly a figurative performance. Beans is cute but has few personality features, and he declaims with standard cartoon poses and gestures. The villains-even more cookie-cutter-were actually drawings lifted from earlier films. There is a hint of the developing Disneyesque style detectable, perhaps, in the rounded, relatively individualized depiction of the animator. We are invited to enter the protagonist's inner life and share his subjectivity.

Rather than providing insight into a character's psyche or suggesting a moral, the narratives of films adhering to the figurative approach make their points through repetition and symbolic visuals. Some prior state or activity comes around again as something new. So it makes sense for Betty to recycle her films; for the animators in the factory to turn the performances of toons into cycled toon drawings; for the sleeping animator to cast himself as the lead in the Beans cartoon he's working on. The more repetitions such as these that we experience, the more familiarity we have with the characters' uniqueness and personalities. Not only were such recurrences familiar and satisfying to moviegoers who expected such repetitions, but they also reflexively illustrate the notion of re-performance, which is crucial to figuration.

The term re-performance was inspired by performance theorist Richard Schechner's claim that all performances are "restored behavior." Discussing social practices and rituals, which include organized public performances such as plays, performance art, and films, he deploys a cinematic analogy: "Restored behavior is living behavior treated as a film director treats a strip of film. These strips of behavior can be rearranged or reconstructed; they are independent of the causal systems (social, psychological, technological) that brought them into existence. They have a life of their own. The original 'truth' or 'source' of the behavior may not be known, or may be lost, ignored, or contradicted-even while that truth or source is being honored and observed."

Bracketing (until the next chapter) the term "living behavior," Schechner's points are salient for figurative performances in cartoons. He calls attention to the arbitrariness of the behaviors. Setting a behavior to music or filming it, for example, would be such a performative marker. Recurring performances in animation are meaningful as repetitions in and of themselves, not necessarily because they advance a narrative. They are "arrangements," that is, materials that have been transformed from ordinariness by repeating a prior behavior/performance with a different purpose, by declaring them to have a special significance, or by calling attention to their arranged status by framing, marking, or heightening them, or through other means. Schechner might describe the animators' use of repetition as a rehearsal. "It is the work of rehearsals to prepare the strips of behavior so that when expressed by performers these strips seem spontaneous, authentic, unrehearsed."

The idea of rehearsing in order to create the appearance that a behavior is unrehearsed describes another distinction between performance in and of animation. One of Schechner's conditions for a performance is that it is not extemporaneous original behavior or improvised gesturing but instead adheres to some agreed-upon map, scenario, or pattern. The conditional performance by the animators preparing the strips of behavior-that is, the stories, drawings, and mise-en-scΦne-makes the screen performance seem spontaneous, authentic, and unrehearsed, like any other screen performance. Nonetheless, the on-screen actions follow the templates designed by the animators. These "organized sequences of events, scripted actions, known texts, scored movements-exist separate from the performers who 'do' these behaviors." In animation performances, everything that happens between "scored movements" and on-screen behavior is controlled and motivated; everything in a projected cartoon is a performance, Schechnerian restored behavior. The performativity doesn't reside innately in making the drawings, in the drawings themselves, or in the reception, but it emerges during the screening as a cultural and aesthetic transaction, as well as what Bird alluded to as personal investment.

Re-performance in animation narratives was engineered into the technical basis of the medium. The process illustrated effectively in Making 'Em Move is a series of mechanical transpositions from hatching the idea, to slavishly copying the movements of the hula dancer, to photographing each drawing, to showing the finished cartoon to a rapt audience. It ends with the film fans' "reception," which consists of tearing down the movie screen. As it shows the production of drawings on the assembly line, the Van Beuren film not only capitalizes on the common animation technique of cycling, but it also demonstrates how it is done. Cycling is figurative because it re-performs the work of repeating, that is, it rephotographs the sequence of drawings. Its subject is itself.

The Fleischers' use of the rotoscope, their patented technology for tracing "live" cinema motion onto cels to produce animation drawings, is another example of what Schechner might call the "work of restoration." One kind of performance is transformed into another, as illustrated in Rise to Fame. Betty re-performs-"restores"-the hula scene that she first did in Betty Boop's Bamboo Isle (Dave Fleischer/Paramount, 1932) by reanimating it. The earlier film began with footage of the dancer Miri in a filmed hula performed by the Royal Samoans troupe. In the rotoscoped segment, Betty reprises the dancer's movements. Backtracking, both the Betty-Miri films were mediatized reiterations of Miri's stage act, which re-performed an ethnic ritual with religious significance for native Hawaiians as a popular spectacle (that is, it expropriated it).

Meanwhile, Betty "browns up" her body to resemble Miri's, her darkened skin thus transforming her dance into a race masquerade. It's the kind of body performance that David Graver calls the group representative, which is clearly figurative. These are corporeal identities that result from factors outside the actor, for instance, being "linked to race, class, or gender and constructed within the socio-historical discourse of culture." The many performances of blackface and minstrelsy in classic animation are instances where the actor-toon is a race hieroglyph, either as a black or a nonblack masquerading as some other. In Blue Rhythm (Burt Gillett/Disney, 1931), Mickey and Minnie are shown to be either black or in blackface, and they are cast as group representatives of "Mammy singers" and southern black women blues singers. We've already noted Betty's typage as a representative of various female bodies. Here, according to Graver, "the socio-historical body replaces character, and these theatrical representations are instrumental in defining the socio-historical bodies they display." In Bouldin's words, "we experience the authentic flesh of Betty's animated body," but this body is a figure that is compounded from layers of rotoscopically restored behaviors.

In a broader sense, restored behavior applies to the whole underlying concept of figurative performance. Each recursion transforms the underlying actions, events, and situations into something special, behaviors to note, spectacles to watch, in short, into things like movies and cartoons. Crucial to animation re-performance is the way classic cartoons referenced non-animated films but remained flagrantly off-center. Spaces in cartoons were seldom abstract patterns; usually they were landscapes or rooms. (In object animation, the spaces could be 3-D sets or the photographed physical environment.) Although gravity was routinely defied in the actions performed, up was up and down generally remained down. Most importantly, the characters behaved as movie actors. Despite the glorification of the Tooniverse as an alternative world to Hollywood-and no one could deny that it was-the cartoonists nevertheless kept one eye on the forms of narrative and visual exposition and on the performative styles that were being practiced in the mainstream. This explains why even the looniest stories, the silliest cartoon images, and the most outrΘ gags are still comprehensible as short movies.

We may also explain the generic nature of classic studio animation as a function of re-performance. Schechner writes that restored behaviors, analogous to the infinite rehashing of animation stories, sources, and actions that recur in film after film, "can be worked on, stored and recalled, played with, made into something else, transmitted, and transformed.... Performance in the restored behavior sense means never for the first time, always for the second to nth time: twice-behaved behavior." The nested performances within the performances in our samples attest that these are not random scenes but recursive events re-created for a purpose. Modestly, they were created to entertain and amuse us, but there was more. Rise to Fame, for example, might be seen as an observation about how cartoons capitalize on existing templates for their inspiration, genre formation, and the medium's rampant disregard for originality. The film also invites thoughts on how celebrity is established through the complicity of journalists, fan magazines, and voyeuristic moviegoers.

Because re-performance is by definition a second-order restatement of something else (the original performance), it's always figurative, with the components of its construction more or less discernible. Therefore, the restored behaviors in the films implicate the conditional performances of the animators at work and the audiences watching. This figural performativity invites readings of the films that point out the underpinnings of the industrial system constituting their material being. The stories similarly re-perform social structures and attitudes, such as patriarchy, family relationships, and sexual identities. As an illustration, the characters in these films are typecast according to their gender. Betty's animators use caricatural exaggeration of female sexuality to define her. Making 'Em Move represents the female protagonist as a stereotypical curious feline. The animators in that film are all male, while the model for their drawings is a female to be looked at. The only female in A Cartoonist's Nightmare is Beans's mother, who enables his jailbreak by melodramatically delivering a cake with a file in it. Classic animation in the figurative mode generally treated women as, well, figures. Clearly Disney tried to break the mold with Snow White (whose design Betty Boop's designer Grim Natwick contributed to, ironically) and more individuated adolescent feature-film protagonists that appeared later. Eventually, perhaps because of oversaturation and marketing, these attempts became subsumed into the quintessential stereotype of femininity: "Disney princesses."

H1Embodied Performances

Embodied acting is introverted. It is the philosophy and practice of creating imaginatively realized beings with individuality, depth, and internal complexity. The Disney studio pursued it as part of Walt's vision, no doubt, but it was also a means of differentiating their productions from those of others. Don Graham, the founder of Disney's in-studio art school for animators, provided a thumbnail history in which he claimed that cartoon acting developed only after the new technology of sound was mastered (by Disney, of course). He counted music as crucial, especially since the Disney sound films had little or no speech for the first two years. The goal was simply to create laughs in the audience by "the excitement of the action and sound." Graham observed that Minnie in The Barn Dance (Walt Disney, 1929) was the first character to develop a personality: "Precocious, like many little girls, Minnie had developed a little ahead of Mickey. In it she had acted like a little flirt." Mickey emerged in The Plowboy (Ub Iwerks/Disney, 1929), the first film in which he "ceased to be a mouse and became a person."

The association with personality and sound is important, as is Graham's passing comment that cartoons didn't talk much. In fact, compared to other short films of the 1930s, although there was abundant singing and musical accompaniment in animation, there was surprisingly little dialogue. It was surprising because the voice is one of the most obvious ways to embody a character on-screen. Instead, animators turned their attention to bodily motion and gestures as ways to express personality. What Graham doesn't mention is that the new approach at Disney was motivated by a desire not only to innovate a new form, but also to compete with their personality-packed rival, Betty Boop. She was not necessarily a fully embodied character, but from 1931 to 1934 she could be found at the nearest Paramount theater displaying a believable, beguiling personality.

The story has been told and retold of characterization experiments with embodied acting in the Silly Symphonies, beginning with the individualized cast of The Three Little Pigs (Burt Gillett/Disney, 1933). Jones put it succinctly: "It started with the three little pigs. Most people don't realize that Three Little Pigs in 1933 was the first picture with three characters that looked alike and were differentiated by the way they moved and the way they spoke. From that point on, acting came to animation." Disney's animators in the 1930s set their sights on turning their cartoon characters into embodied actors. "It was the uppermost thing, and it all came about because Walt wanted to make the cartoon characters believable to the audience," said animator Wilfred Jackson a bit disingenuously. "Right from the start, he didn't want them to be just something moving around on the screen and doing funny things. He wanted the audience to care what happened to the characters, and to believe them as real beings, not just as a bunch of funny drawings." Around 1934, the staff gradually began implementing the new approach. Former supervising animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston recalled, "Several people at the studio enrolled in acting classes, seeking a greater understand of the disciplines of the theater." Certainly much of this theatrical training would have been traditional and Delsartian. There is abundant evidence that Stanislavsky was also in the air at Disney.

This performance practice at the Disney studio had a specific theoretical underpinning in the lectures and writing of Konstantin Stanislavsky (1863-1938). Animators seized upon this approach at the same time it was catching on in Hollywood as their inspiration and guide to embodied animation. Intended as a way to educate stage actors, the Stanislavsky method-later called "the Method"-emphasizes studying and "living" the role, incarnating the character by living it oneself. "An actor is under the obligation to live his part inwardly, and then to give to his experience an external embodiment," Stanislavsky wrote. Conjured through techniques variously called embodying, passage, ownership, engagement, or emergence, this character was an epiphenomenon, a transcendental, phantasmagorical being. From the audience member's perspective, attention shifts from the actor as a person on the stage or screen to the character "brought to life," a state implied by catchy expressions such as "Meryl Streep is Margaret Thatcher." This way of acting aimed to increase the degree of performance irony by decreasing the distance between the actors' stage presence and their embodied characters.

Animator Vlad "Bill" Tytla, for one, studied the book by Richard Boleslavsky, Acting: The First Six Lessons, published in 1933. Boleslavsky had trained under Stanislavsky at the Moscow Art Academy and taught "the system" at the school he founded in New York in 1923. His most famous graduates were Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler. Meanwhile, Boleslavsky was directing pictures in Hollywood in the 1930s. In November 1936, Walt Disney initiated weekly evening classes to begin the character studies for the Snow White feature. Describing these story sessions, Barrier writes, "The work ... resembled a Stanislavski-style rehearsal, as Disney and his writers tried to get the action right, leaving the exact words till last. (In these transcripts, especially, story work on Snow White resembles the staging of a play more than the writing of one.)" Barrier commented on Tytla's animation of Grumpy: "This acting was, however, cartoon acting, and, as Tytla demonstrated, such acting could go well beyond what Boleslavsky and Stanislavski had in mind, and not just in the circumstances of its production. A method actor was supposed to make visible to his audience through his face and body the movement of his character's thoughts and emotions; the actor could not reveal his character through dialogue alone." Animator Marc Davis recollected of those days, "We would all study the acting of Laughton [probably a reference to Charles Laughton in Les Miserables, directed by Boleslavsky in 1935]. We all read Stanislavsky."In Thomas and Johnston's memoir, the many references to animation acting frequently invoke Stanislavskian notions of embodiment without mentioning him by name. This approach was always contrasted to the older figurative style. For instance, they wrote:

It seemed such a short time ago that [the artists] were animating spindly legged, weightless Mickeys and Minnies with their superficial little relationships. Occasionally there had been a glimmer of things to come in pictures like Elmer the Elephantand Country Cousin, where there had been a special character who had strong feelings about what was happening, but for the most part this was all new, and it seemed as though it had blossomed overnight. Now we sat entranced as Walt talked about these seven little men who were becoming as much flesh and blood as the person sitting next to us; and while the problems they faced in their make-believe world were extraordinary, we could grasp them and could feel them ourselves.

What evidence within the films is there that the staff was experimenting with these typologies of performance, channeling their own thoughts, feelings, and emotions to round out their characters rather than applying some recurring graphic template (α la early Mickey)? From surviving transcripts of studio discussions, for example, we know that the Donald Duck character was planned with distinctive individual features. The memo on personality discerned that, in Orphan's Benefit (Burt Gillett/Disney, 1934) and The Band Concert, Donald presented "a memorable mixture of physical (walk, posture, fighting attitude, voice) and mental (conceit, arrogance, persistence, retaliation), of general and individual[,] of human and animal traits. All this rounded out combination makes for a rise of Duck's personality entrenched in the mind of millions." The integration of motion, gesture, and dialogue was not gratuitous but appeared on the screen to have been inner-directed. "All stages of Duck's conflict with orphans and with Mickey's band are well motivated; all his physical actions and pantomime reveal consistently Duck's character with new shades and individual touches in every picture." These notes were addressed to a new breed of artisan, the "character animator," whose job it was not only to draw but also to articulate the acting basis for the performances within the increasingly industrialized process. One of them described the personality that he saw in the duck in 1936:

There is nothing "half way" about Donald. He is either very angry or very happy and seldom stays in a neutral mood for long. He is a show-off, boastful and cocky[,] and is happy only when he is up to some mischief or is having his own way. If the least thing goes wrong or crosses him he flies into a rage out of all proportion to the situation. However, his bark is much worse than his bite. He seldom really advances toward a fight, but prefers to jump around in one place and hurl violent threats. Once in a while, however, things overtake him, then he usually gets the worst of it. But no matter how beaten and torn he may be he retains his fighting spirit to the end.

These beings are not diametrically opposed to the extroverted ones made using the figurative approach, whose exteriors correspond to a recognizable type or attribute. Nor are they superior to them, or an advanced evolution. The animators were just aiming for something different.

Disney personnel, with the sanction of the upper-level management, no doubt, tried to distance themselves from the earlier style of their own work and that of their competitors. Director Dave Hand advised young animators, "We have been pretty stock-minded in the past. We always made a walk in the same way. That is one thing Don [Graham's] action analysis classes are doing-at least did for me. A few years ago there were only two walks-a regular walk and a Felix walk. Then we began to think and now we find a walk for every different kind of person." This, in fact, was one of Graham's refrains: that the animator must understand the character before drawing it. He insisted that movement was communicated not only in drawings and space but also through the artist's understanding of its feelings, motives, and emotions, which elicited empathy. He observed that when they were successful, animators could convey the paradoxical impression of realism combined with fantasy: "The characters still were cartoon drawings, with proportions far removed from real growth forms, yet their actions had a feeling of being real," he wrote, referring to The Flying Mouse (David Hand/Disney, 1934).

This sense of reality in the action was pure illusion-but satisfying. It opened up a world of fantasy in which anything could happen-and still be real. Mice could fly; bats could sing songs. But such actions are real only within a framework of fantasy. A brilliant pantomimist through his human actions may convincingly suggest a bird flying or a fish swimming. Not one of his own body shapes resembles the bird or the fish; yet his actions are convincing and seem real. And so with all the cartoon characters. Their actions and their physical proportions are truly not real in a world sense, but they may be so animated as to seem real.

Graham suggests here that cartoon characters may be what we would now call avatars, abstractions of external beings within the film. They may perform the animators or viewers as their proxies. Avatars don't necessarily resemble their original beings; in fact, they usually don't. Dumbo's companion, Timothy the mouse, for example, is our avatar because he's the source of our knowledge that Dumbo doesn't need the feather to fly. The presence of such stand-in characters on-screen facilitates moviegoers' participation in the performance, thus enabling it "to seem real."

Without knowing it, Graham was echoing the observations of French sociologist Marcel Mauss, who in a 1935 speech to a professional society identified the characteristic ways that humans moved as "techniques of the body." He was an early advocate of the view that bodies and their defining gestures are culturally constructed. Differences in walking and swimming are cultural, he maintained, and the activities vary among societies. They are based on biomechanical abilities, to be sure, but they are also learned behaviors that are passed around. One way he became aware of this was when, while hospitalized in New York, he noticed the nurses and girls walking in a distinctive way. He divined its origin: "At last I realized that it was at the cinema" that they had learned this walk. After repatriation, he saw the same phenomenon in France and realized that this "technique" had spread through cultural contact and "prestigious instruction," that is, learning from a trusted authority. "Returning to France, I noticed how common this gait was, especially in Paris; the girls were French and they too were walking in this way. In fact, American walking fashions had begun to arrive over here, thanks to the cinema." Graham too based his teaching on observations of movements that could be extrapolated through imitation and transposed to forms other than the sources. We might say that Graham redefined observed bodies to produce cultural meanings from them. Hence the famous classes in which the animators sketched live animals, and the less famous sessions where the animators analyzed live-action films of human actors. He asked his artists to create what Mauss called a "social idiosyncrasy," deep-seated corporeal habits of movement, gesture, and behavior that come to typify a whole society, or, in the case of cartoons, whole species. As Mauss put it, "They are not simply a product of some purely individual, almost completely psychical arrangements and mechanisms." For Graham's concept to work it had to be based on a similar belief that movements were transmutable, not simply from one society to another, but from one class of being (animal, human, imaginary) into human motion. His animators were trying to capture and re-perform these universally recognized somatic "techniques," effectively borrowing them from their owners. The moviegoers ultimately had to recognize that a character, let's say the Ugly Duckling, was believable and empathetic in part because when the drawings moved, the character swam like a duck.

Embodied performers have discernible interior as well as extrinsic traits-idiosyncrasies, Mauss might say. This completed character, as Graver described it, "is the body that Western audiences are trained to look for first and gaze at most intently. Its ready display of both inside and outside makes it a pleasing object of contemplation. This body can appear in paintings, novels, and film as readily as on the stage." By the time of The Flying Mouse, Disney's embodied performance approach is apparent. The mouse protagonist's design, unlike Mickey's, is three-dimensional and less comic-strippy. (Mickey's iconic 2-D ears do not shift perspective, even when his head rotates.) The little mouse longs to fly. A fairy (apparently a cynical one) grants his wish-except that she gives him bat wings. The Faustian bargain results in banishment from the communities of bats and birds alike, as well as from his mouse family. The studio's self-analysis made it clear that personality drove the narrative: "Flying Mouse builds the initial situation and its consequences from the dominant characteristic [of the mouse] badly and blindly desiring to fly like a bird. The disastrous effect of the acquired wings-a complete isolation of the mouse and horrible companionship with the bats-is a logical inevitable result of the essential characteristics of the mouse."

The Tooniverse here has been made habitable by the mouse, his friends, and his enemies. It's implied that a fictional world extends beyond the frame. The actors cast convincing shadows that situate them within their physical environment. The performers in The Flying Mouse speak natural-sounding dialogue and make eye contact with each other but never look at the film audience or acknowledge that there is one. We are privy to the motives, thoughts, and emotions of the protagonist through his humanoid facial expressions, full-body gestural acting, and the ability to eavesdrop on his thoughts. The actions are also believable because the plot motivates them. The main business is couched within a fairy's spell, setting it off as magic and subjective, giving us a glimpse into the youthful imagination of the mouse that wants to fly. When he tries out his leaf wings, crashes into a puddle, and his siblings laugh at him, we see pain, humiliation, inspiration, and resolve cross his face, with appropriate body language and music, all within the span of a couple of seconds (Figure 6). Graham taught that the timing and clarity of these communicative moments in the animation were part of the conceptualization of the work: "Gestures don't happen in animation; they are drawn purposefully." Terms implying three-dimensionality, like scene and staging, enter the studio's conversations. He acknowledged that the viewers' immediate acceptance of the scene was essential to embodiment. "First," Graham continued, "each [gesture] must be clearly staged or presented to the audience. If a gesture, no matter how subtle, is not grasped by the audience the whole scene and conceivably the whole picture may be lost." A fully emotive, interiorized, transcendent body-technique of acting has emerged.

Walt Disney's comments in the sweatbox sessions with his animators reveal that he was deeply invested in achieving embodiment by hybridizing animal and human behaviors to achieve what Graver called a completed character-but Disney did not want it to be too complete. Watching a rough cut of the film that would be released as Alpine Climbers (1936), Disney told the director, Hand, "Where the eagle takes off, they get him too human, and he doesn't look funny. He should have done an eagle action that paralleled a human action instead of a human action. I think the public is used to and expects the cartoon to up and walk, but when you get the animal thing that gives you a parallel to something in the human, yet it has the animal to it, then it's funny." Disney here seems to anticipate what would be theorized decades later as the "uncanny valley." This refers to the unpleasant eeriness felt when one is confronted with a replica that mimics its human analog too closely for comfort. As Disney put it intuitively, regarding Clara Cluck's operatic performance in Mickey's Grand Opera (Wilfred Jackson/Disney, 1936), the animal's body had to maintain sufficient distance from that of a human: "The funniest part of the old hen when she sings in the Opera picture is when she sounds like a hen. When she becomes too human she's not funny." Eventually Disney conflated the embodied acting approach with narrative. "I look for a story with heart," he told Bob Thomas. "It should be a simple story with characters the audience really can care about. They've got to have a rooting interest.... Everything should be related to human experience in storytelling."

Modern instruction for cartoonists routinely teaches them this style of character animation as acting. Animators perform movement to perform emotion. Ed Hooks tells students, "Humans empathize with emotion. The audience is why actors act and why you are animating in the first place. The goal of the animator is to expose emotion through the illusion of movement on screen. What the character is doing on a moment-to-moment basis is vitally important, the points of empathy with the audience involve emotion, how the character feels about what he is doing. Empathy is as essential to dynamic acting as oxygen is to water." According to Bird, "If the public could watch the faces of the best animators when caught up in the act of drawing an emotional scene, they would see artists as fully invested in the moment as the best live actors. The difference is that an animator stays in that moment, often working for weeks to express an emotion his or her character takes only seconds to convey on-screen."

It is evident from watching the Disney short films from the decade that the studio's vaunted push toward naturalism on all levels included efforts on the part of the animators to incarnate their nascent characters, find the right movements and expressions, and then get that interiority to emerge in their drawings. The thought process, reflected Graham, is the most important motivating force. Characters' actions must be generated by primary thoughts and feelings. The catchall phrase for this aim in the studio was "personality," a performance that combined emotion and intellect:

-Emotionally-by arousing human appeal, sympathy or antagonism, by playing on spectator's feeling of justice or injustice, anxiety, satisfaction, etc.

-Intellectually-by bolstering the character, with idea-theme, revealed in the actions, feelings and attitudes of the character. Thus character acquires a deeper all human meaning for all nations and classes.

The characters, as they give their performances as on-screen moving beings, act out the emotions and movements of the animators. As "Streep is Thatcher," the animators are the characters. They try to "live" them much as human actors, through study, rehearsal, and introspection, get into their roles. They clothe their characters in a vesture of psychology, personality, appearance, and body language. But, as the studio guidelines suggest, these character traits are not the animator's unique personality but a universalizing impulse that, rather immodestly, allows the animator's self-embodiment to inject into the films deeper meanings for humanity.

We are familiar with the anecdotes and funny photos of animators acting out parts, hamming it up for each other and studying themselves in mirrors to transmute their own mannerisms and expressions into their toons. According to Graham, Walt acted out every part in Snow White for his animators. Disney also hired professional actors to perform the parts before film cameras as inspiration. Applying Naremore's terms, this facilitated the representational, mimetic, or naturalistic style of acting, which corresponds to what we're calling embodied. Clearly, the animators imbibed deeply this philosophy of acting. Hand, supervising director of Snow White, recalled when asked by Michael Barrier about relying on formulas:

Well, when you say "formulas," I know you don't mean a circle for a head or a pear-shaped body, you mean a formulized character, the characteristics in the character. We used to sit as a group, in the large sound stage we had at that time, and people would get up and act out their impression of a particular character. The most interesting thing to me in the whole studio is something that's quite hidden, to make a character come alive, be born. Come to life dimensionally, not the way some of it's done.

The studio concept of embodied animation here is building on the early convention of the animator's self-figuration in the film (the "hand of the artist" motif). But instead of overtly placing the filmmaker's avatar in the film as a participant, the animators are still present, though they are participating as embodied characters within the narrative. In the industrialized enterprise, of course, the unique animator has given way to the collective consciousness of the team, where each member contributed to defining a unified character. Hand continues, "Every key animator had to know that character, and it was a great deal of effort to get every animator to know the character completely. I don't know if you appreciate the amount of creative effort that comes out of an animator to make the character live a certain way. Not Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Pluto; they had few subtle shades. These Snow White characters that actually have these little idiosyncrasies, little twists and turns and little walks. Every animator had to know how to do it."

Disney's Clock Cleaners (Ben Sharpsteen/Disney, 1937) is a signal achievement of animated embodiment, not only because of its hilarious panache, but also because of its autocritique of that mode of production. The narrative is as simple as can be: three cleaners are maintaining a city clock, which responds to them as an antagonist. The film is structured with episodes showcasing each of the three protagonists, framed by introductory and concluding scenes. Each character begins his episode as a fully embodied, idiosyncratic being with a distinctive, recognizable personality and an inhabited body. Our impression is that they are at home performing the routine of their daily lives. Mickey Mouse is the efficient, assured foreman of the group. Donald Duck is an enthusiastic worker whose short temper quickly gets in the way of the job. Goofy is a nonchalant na∩f going about obliviously. The quotidian story adds the dramatic ingredients of a recalcitrant nesting stork and the anthropomorphic clock with its own voice and personality. It's a unique performance of an incident that will only happen once in the lives of these characters, but their responses are consistent with their overarching behavioral styles.

Mickey first encounters the stork asleep on its nest. Though the mouse's simple face limits his expressivity, his supple body language makes up for it. He tries to evict the stork, but the big bird's weight is a match for Mickey's strength, and his whole body strains against the resistance. The stork turns the tables and ejects Mickey, who, reverting to his former figurative style, directs a silent plea toward the "camera" to give the audience a standard gesture of despair.

Donald's chore is to clean the clock's giant mainspring. It takes on a life of its own and pokes him with a steel prod. Donald objects with enraged repartee, and the spring, voiced by a mouth harp, responds metallically. Donald's pugilistic moves and salty language are manifestations of his hot-blooded temper. Finally, the spring flings him into a gear that transmits the rhythmic beat of the mechanism into his body, which uncontrollably ticks with every tock.

Goofy's job of dusting the bell is interrupted by the sculptural figures that signal the hour, Father Time and the Statue of Liberty. Suspicion dawns gradually on his limited mind, as if illustrating Graham's advice to the animators to picture thought. After a blow to the head by Lady Liberty's torch, he pumps himself back upright by pressing his hands down on the air. He then launches on a careening somnambulistic tour of the vertiginous exterior of the tower.

In addition to being hilarious, Clock Cleaners suggests that the studio knew what it had achieved in embodied performativity. The film acknowledges that quest by parodying the figurative approach. This is clearest in Goofy's encounter with the automatons, since those personifications have no personhood or interiority beyond what they allegorize. They are "animated," but in a very limited way, since they are only capable of tracking and raising or lowering their hammers. Ironically, Goofy, initially embodied, loses his self-animation as he skids across the beams in his coma. He becomes an automaton. Mickey and Donald both lose their agency as the stork and the mainspring, respectively, take control of their destinies.

The clockwork finally ingests all three cartoon heroes. They end up in the cogs of the same gear that had captured Donald and they share the same fate. The relentless rhythm of the mechanism takes over their bodies and, even after they're free from the spring's grasp, they continue into the finale, twitching to the clock's beat.

The story, then, shows neoteny, a reverse evolution from fully embodied to disembodied characterizations. Mickey, Donald, and Goofy travel back to the days of figurative performance in cartoons. The system itself has become a figure for the clockwork industrialization of the animation process that asserts its own implacable regime under the ironically opposed signs of Time and Liberty.

Clock Cleaners also illustrates how interacting with their environment defines embodied characters, whose Tooniverse provides an imaginative setting for their behavior and reactions. Graver, who emphasizes the importance of embodiment as an aspect of theater's fictional world-making, describes the relationship between actors' interiority and their fit into an accommodating environment: "In looking for the worlds in which the actor establishes a corporeal existence we are looking for more than just worlds in which the actor has meaning. We are, rather, looking for worlds in which he or she has a body. More than just an object or image, a body has interiority, exteriority and autonomy. A body's interior hides its unseen, volitional mechanisms, the motivating forces that drive its observable behavior."

The concept of embodiment as existence within a coherent fictional world is crucial to Disneyesque animation. The "action" is derived not only from moving the body in space, a main concern of figurative acting, but also from protecting the integrity of its somatic boundaries. This is the body that our cartoon heroes lose when the story line denies them their mastery inside the space of the clock. Sometimes this means preserving the body's outline (preventing it from stretching or being squashed into oblivion, for instance). At other times it's a question of keeping the body distinct from other animated forms in the scene, or of defining it as separate from or integrated within its graphic background.

Clock Cleaners also demonstrates how figurative and embodied performances do not inhabit opposite poles. Animators don't need to choose between their characters slipping on a banana peel or delivering a soliloquy: they can do both, to a degree. These films don't abjure the slapstick of figuration; rather, they incorporate it as an extension of character.

Animation's Many Bodies

The animators and Graham were pursuing a Stanislavskian ideal of embodiment, trying to inject human thought, motion, and emotion into their formerly figurative hieroglyphs, but the result was more complicated than they intended. They constructed lifelike movements and gave their characters the illusion of sentience, free will, and human frailty without visible strings to the animators or their techniques. Inadvertently, though, they introduced ambiguity and increased the likelihood of unintentional meanings. The more the animators succeeded in vitalism, the less control they had over how the characters would be understood and used by the films' audiences. Indeed, we may read characterization against the grain. The situation approaches contemporary performance art inasmuch as character may be seen a vehicle for presenting the actor's body, as well as the other way around. So viewers have the opportunity to reverse engineer cartoon characters to ascribe their own personalities, ideas, and meanings to them. This casts Bird's statement at the beginning of this chapter in a new light. We can see how his defense of animators as actors may be a reaction against the public's tendency to think that the cartoon characters' emotions are spontaneous, natural, and-the worst outcome from his point of view-completely autonomous from the animators' work. In fact, these performances are not antagonistic; they're mutually consensual.

The animators embody not only their characters but also their future viewers, since the goal of their conditional performance-the entire artistic and commercial point-is to entertain their customers. I, like most viewers, know that the performance I'm watching is a human-made creation, so, if I want, I may reflect on the filmmakers, on their lives as workers, as people, and as lived bodies. Viewers' and animators' embodiments are thus reciprocal, which is not to suggest that their intentions and interpretations are the same. This is why we recognize the presence behind the screen of such distinctive personalities as Otto Messmer, the Fleischers, Ub Iwerks, Chuck Jones, Frank Tashlin, Tex Avery, and others in the pantheon of cartoon auteurs without having met them. We grasp why it pleases fans to believe that "Uncle Walt" animated Mickey Mouse. We indulge in corporeal impressions of these animators' presence because they are being re-performed by their avatars.

In fact, embodiment isn't located in only one place or the other. It pertains to the viewers' presence in the fiction as much as to the animators or to the characters. Don't we routinely experience works of fiction, music, or games by being both immersed within them and yet disengaged? The performance participants' experience is what Schechner (in another context) calls the "me ... not me" paradox. On one hand, I have the strong sensation of for-me-ness, that the film was made with me in mind. I may enter "into" it, that is, into the Tooniverse. I become engaged in the story, laugh at the gags, and feel acrophobia on the dizzying heights of the cleaned clock. Part of "me" is up on the screen participating in the performance, at least as an active witness. It's the effect demonstrated in A Cartoonist's Nightmare when the animator hero, who is both my and the animator's avatar in the film, is grabbed by a cartoon villain and dragged into the film within the film. We see similar scenarios in Sherlock Jr. (Buster Keaton/Metro, 1924), The Purple Rose of Cairo (Woody Allen, 1985), and in the music video Take On Me (Steve Barron, animation by Michael Patterson and Candace Reckinger, 1987)-to cite only three possible examples that show how cinematic space ingests fictional spectators. That this is possible depends on the viewers, with the aid of these proxies, experiencing the screen as a porous membrane through which they may psychically travel.

On the other hand, I also know that it's really "not me" up there; I'm just enjoying a movie in a theater (in the 1930s), watching an activity staged as a performance, presented to me by someone trying to entertain me. I am in the characters' minds and bodies as Mickey, Goofy, and Donald perform for me on the clock tower, but simultaneously I know that the characters are not me. In fact, there is always the ironic possibility of my projecting myself into any story or world this way, identifying with characters in any medium.

Gunning wrote of the roots of this aspect of the cinematic experience in the first days of the medium, noting the sensation of "I know very well ... but all the same" recorded by cinema's first observers. He concludes that since "the film image combined realistic effects with a conscious awareness of artifice," the medium played on viewers' desire for astonishment, curiosity, and wonder at the marvelous apparatus. Like the effect of a trompe l'oeil painting, in early cinema, "the realism of the image is at the service of a dramatically unfolding spectator experience, vacillating between belief and incredulity." Gunning's observations are significant for our discussion of embodiment because the spaces he describes are not simply formal constructions but are experiential and co-generated by the spectator. He writes, "The first spectators' experience reveals not a childlike belief, but an undisguised awareness (and delight in) film's illusionistic capabilities." Psychologically, the screen was permeable, which is a fundamental aspect of the diegetic worlds of both early cinema and the Tooniverse. As in all the arts of illusion in the nineteenth century, participants are drawn in, "absorbed," in Gunning's term (following Michael Fried), and simultaneously pushed back by their knowledge of the artifice. Erwin Feyersinger has proposed metalepsis as a narratological concept to articulate this ability to be "me ... not me," that is, both inside and outside the fiction. He states, "A metalepsis combines the representations of contradictory concepts; two worlds that are perceived as mutually exclusive are connected at the same time. The perception of the viewers is important[,] as their knowledge of reality and common sense determines whether two worlds are understood as mutually exclusive or not."

The significance of this nuance is crucial: it's not simply either me or not me, two poles of conflicting belief systems; it can be both at once. This clarifies how animated worlds are so utterly estranged from us yet are still comprehensible. We laugh at events in the Tooniverse that would be catastrophes if seen on live television. "Although the 'worlds' that animation depicts contain cultural referent, they can be represented in contexts that do not mirror our understanding or experience of the world we live in," observes Buchan. Thus when we watch the cartoonist, who stands in for us in the film, being drawn into his cartoon (in both senses), we understand exactly what is happening without ever thinking that it's really happening to us. It is this logical paradox that operates when we accept that what we are seeing is happening spontaneously and "live" on-screen (in), all the while knowing that we are witnessing the unfolding process of a scarcely concealed construction (of). We don't fluctuate between these impossible views but rather entertain them together, however irrational and defiant of the laws of physics that may be. That's another reason we normally don't mistake the incoherent Tooniverse for the real world. This is not as radical as it might sound. We often experience conflicts between our behaviors and beliefs, and our minds are routinely in two places at once-when we're driving the car while mentally taking care of office business, for example. Think of it as a doorway effect. We tend to organize our behavior and to compartmentalize our memories according to the physical space we occupy. We change our frames of mind when we enter the jury room, the restaurant, the classroom-or the movie theater. Similarly, we change our anticipation and belief systems when we cross the border of the cinema world, whether that world is animated or not.

Performance in animation, since it highlights "the transgression of borders: ontological borders in the case of metalepsis; imaginative, aesthetic, or ideological borders in the case of animation" (Feyersinger) may apply not only to the shifting spaces of cartoons but to acting as well. Vivian Sobchack refers to the "cinesthetic" subjects of film viewing, sort of ghostly bodies that are generated by the discrepancy between the knowledge of our everyday physical selves (lived bodies) and imagined screen characters. She claims "that it is the lived body (as both conscious subject and material object) that provides the (pre) logical premises, the foundational grounds, for the cinesthetic subject, who is constituted at the movies as ambiguously located both 'here' off-screen and 'there' on-screen." Sobchack's schema helps us appreciate the immediacy of the scenes high upon the clock tower. Although Goofy is in no danger of injury if he were to fall-he's an indestructible toon-and I am in no physical danger as I watch in the movie theater, I still feel somatic anxiety, sweaty palms and all, during those scenes of giddy heights. My kinesthesia tells me that the moving cinesthetic body is in trouble. Animation partakes in what Steven Shaviro has described as the contradictory aspects of the film experience as too quick to allow for detached contemplation yet lacking the concrete presence of space and objects, either of which would defuse the experience of being there. "Film's virtual images do not correspond to anything actually present, but as images, or as sensations, they affect me in a manner that does not leave room for any suspension of my response," according to Shaviro. "I have already been touched and altered by these sensations, even before I have had the chance to become conscious of them." A truly metaleptic experience, though, which I believe marks watching animated films, does not need this split-second sequencing to work; we entertain the opposites simultaneously. We live in these cartoons as we do in other films, without reflecting on the absence of blood actors or on the stacks of drawings that made the toons, precisely because the films are constructed to showcase the irony between the corporeal and the intangible in the Tooniverse.

A simplified way to describe these phenomenological states of screen consciousness is to consider embodiment as a belief system. These cinematic, cinesthetic bodies are not material, but they are real. They are beings we believe in, although the beliefs may not be enduring or strongly held. They are like imaginary playmates that we pretend are real while knowing in our heart of hearts that they are not. For some, Santa, the Tooth Fairy, Mickey Mouse, and Bugs Bunny are actual folks. This was the point of Chuck Jones's anecdote about an encounter with a child: "The six-year-old boy protested when I was introduced to him as the man who draws Bugs Bunny, 'He does not! He draws pictures of Bugs Bunny.'" Jones was quick to endorse the kid's articulation of the toon as a re-performed believed-in body: "He was absolutely right, and I can think of no happier career than as a man who drew pictures of such a fabulous character." Most of us, though, maintain a passive knowledge base (called common sense) that's available for consultation if there's any doubt about what's real and what isn't. Thus reality has a proximity factor. Something may be very, very close to being real without absolute assurance. Real, but with a shadow of a doubt.

Embodied animation actually presumes several bodies. There is "me," the lived body watching the film off-screen. Then there are the believed-in bodies performing in the Tooniverse, that is, Betty and the others that appear on-screen, but which are really epiphenomena. They exist in my consciousness of our shared worlds. The animators have embodied them according to their vision of the characters, and I have fleshed them out to make parallel, but not necessarily identical, corresponding bodies. I believe in the toons' presence and in their liveness. I laugh at them, I fear for them, I experience their direct address to me, and I imagine their responsiveness to my desires. I understand what their actions mean, their cultural references, their humor, their interiority, and their motives. I get their jokes. These cinesthetic bodies are visible in animation. I understand, though, that they are absent because they are actually pictures made by the animators a while ago. We grant them proximal liveness. The beings come close to being real, but since my belief in their living status is not absolutely complete, they just miss the mark.

Then there is another body, the presumed "me" for whom the animation was intended. When the filmmakers visualized me watching their film, I was one of their pretend bodies. Contemporary animators are taught to practice what developed spontaneously during the studio period: to imagine the reception of their target audiences. Hooks perfectly describes how an animator embodies the future viewer when he or she "works alone, playing for the audience in his head, which becomes a surrogate for the intended audience.... The audience is the co-creator of the show. The animator, then, is sitting in for the audience that isn't there, the audience as he imagines it, and he is guessing at its response." Conditional performance-one might even call it pre-performance-thus involves not only imaginatively experiencing the drawings' movement before they're projected to an audience, but it also involves the animators' ability to see the audience's reactions in their mind's eye. This is highly theatrical. As stage actors perform the same material night after night they are constantly anticipating the effect they'll produce later in the performance and planning adjustments they'll make the next time. They may be acting in the present moment, but they are also mentally preparing their performance for future audiences. "I always think of the actor as not only doing, but standing aside and watching what he is doing, so as to be able to propel himself to the next thing and the next thing and the next," one stage artist has said.

This is scarcely different from the performance of animation, when the animators' work for future imagined viewers takes place far in advance. The animators made it that way, having previewed the flow of movement and imagery as it will appear on the screen and how I, the future consumer, will view and perhaps understand it.

There also are the animators' lived bodies, which are physically absent during the screening but functionally present in my inferences. I know of them and I believe they created this work. Therefore, they're present as a material explanation of how the film came to be. I am prompted sometimes by the reflexive clues to their existence they've intentionally left for me (like "Easter eggs" in videos and games).

Although Disney aimed to be the paragon of embodied animation, as we've seen, the studio created a hybrid mode of performance that retained figurative elements. The contemporaneous films of Chuck Jones at Schlesinger's Warner Bros. studio also illustrate how embodiment could overlay primarily figurative performances. His series with the character Inki, a young cannibal, relied on formula expressions and perpetuated racist iconography based on the Sambo stereotype. However, in The Little Lion Hunter (Chuck Jones/Schlesinger, 1939), Inki has moments of acted-out reflective interiority and we have a fleeting glimpse of individuality. The characters of the puppies in The Curious Puppy (Chuck Jones/Schlesinger, 1939) and Sniffles in The Egg Collector (Chuck Jones/Schlesinger, 1940), although usually cited as unfortunate examples of Jones's "cute" Disney-wannabe period, are in fact good examples of his assimilation of the concept of embodied performance. His characters develop feelings through thoughtful expressions and gestures, as well as through finely observed body movements. For those of us fortunate enough to have met some animation legends, we know that Jones, when he was the lead animator of Bugs Bunny, was Bugs, that Friz Freleng was Yosemite Sam, and that Messmer was Felix the Cat.

The Tooniverse is a meeting place where the performances of the toons (the characters "there," on-screen, but also off-screen as my imagined beings), the animators (also "there," but off-screen and in the past), and my embodying performance (physically "here," off-screen, and cinesthetically "there," on-screen, in the present) come together to create a compelling sense that Betty, the flying mouse, Donald, and their animated compatriots are not drawn actors but films of drawn actors. Walter Benjamin considered this space a "play-room," connoting an innocent, liberating space associated with childish imagination. According to Miriam Hansen, "It names an intermediary zone not yet fully determined in which things oscillate among different meanings, functions, and possible directions. As such, it harbors an open-ended, dynamic temporality, an interval for chance, imagination, and agency." Stanley Cavell, writing of cinema performance in general, also expressed well the marvelous ambiguities of animated bodies in their special space: "It is an incontestable fact that in a motion picture no live human being is up there. But a human something is, and something unlike anything else we know." The cinematic bodies of toons too are somethings in their world, whether or not they're human. They are strange yet familiar. This junction is neither accident nor coincidence. Although he was not writing specifically about animation, Shaviro's observation that cinema's sensorial immediacy resides in "a netherworld of simulacra and traces" describes well the realm of cartoon embodiment. The filmmakers were re-performing in the cartoon world templates that invite belief and embodiment in the ecology of everyday life-or at least how it is represented in the movies.

It clearly doesn't matter if the cartoon character is a cuddly mammal (Beans), a reptile (Gertie), or an amphibian (Flip, Michigan J. Frog). Embodiment may occur regardless of the character's cuteness factor, or whether it's a drawing, a photographic record of a performance, or a distorted video. Carrie Noland encountered this situation in her thoughtful consideration of Bill Viola's performance/video piece The Quintet of the Astonished (2000), which has visually and temporally altered images of humans. "It could be argued that what we witness when we observe Viola's videos is not a performance that actually took place and that therefore it is incorrect to designate his subjects as 'performers,'" she writes. Inadvertently, she partially reiterates a situation that parallels the experience of animation characters. I say partially, because she correctly observes that the videos are not performances that took place before their presentation. However, she incorrectly concludes that consequently the subjects are not "performers." As in toon performances, which are not records of prior performances, Viola's subjects perform for the viewers/participants as they walk through the gallery installation. As paradoxical as it seems at first, each and every showing, as with animated films, is itself an original performance. Furthermore, those viewers are cocreators of the performative work. Nolan continues,

From this perspective, the bodies we see on the screen are not real bodies but only digital photographic reproductions of real bodies manipulated by postproduction technologies to appear in guises otherwise not exposed to view. Yet, however distorted the images may seem, they have not been digitally transformed. That is, the bodies filmed did indeed execute the twitches, tremblings, and contractions that are only visible to the observer when the execution of their movements has been slowed down. In short, a trained actor's body has actually executed the movements that radical deceleration allows us to see. Furthermore, it is to those bodies and their movements that we, as spectators, kinesthetically respond. True, many of the actor's facial gesticulations and upper-body movements have not been voluntarily produced and are therefore not "performed" in the sense of constructed as part of an intention to express a particular categorical emotion. But these movements are nonetheless human movements available as potentials belonging to the human kinetic disposition. They cannot be considered skills per se, but they are the building blocks of skills. They are decidedly not products of digital remediation, pure manipulations of playback that no human body would be capable of performing.

Although it is difficult to separate embodiment from nonhuman performances and "products of digital remediation," in fact, that is exactly what happens in the normal experience of animation. Although classical cartoons often simulate humanlike movements, gestures, and the body's socially accepted "techniques," often they do not. Even the movements in abstract animated films, such as Begone Dull Care (Evelyn Lambert and Norman McLaren/National Film Board of Canada, 1949), which consists of lines and colors applied directly to film stock, invite embodiment and perhaps sentiment. Despite "that no human body would be capable of performing" in such a film, these dynamic abstractions evoke the kinesthetic responsiveness cherished by phenomenological aesthetics. Clinging to the primacy of the physical human body in performance is understandable, but we realize too that this very attitude is an acculturated anthropocentric practice, one that animation performance undermines and routinely discredits.

The great irony of Disney's desire to achieve emotional depth and emotive power in his films is that, although his films were wildly successful commercially, beloved by generations of moviegoers, and formatively influential on the industry, aesthetically his urge was something of a noble failure when it came to remaking animation in a new image. The figurative mode still vies with and often overwhelms the embodied. He did not seem to grasp that embodiment did not take place by funneling resources into the most skilled animated acting possible, or that personality could not be created on-screen by skilled drawing alone. Whether identification and engagement took place was ultimately something that happened with the movie watcher-or not. Certainly, the finely tuned gestures of, say, Geppetto at work carving his puppet-boy or the relationships between the large and small desk lamps in Luxo Jr. (John Lasseter/Pixar, 1986) facilitate viewers' entries into those animated worlds. But then movie fans also humanized, befriended, and passed into the worlds of the early figurative Mickey, Betty, and, much later, the South Park kids and amateur Flash animations. The reason stems from the ability and propensity of humans to embody anything they want: imagine kids playing with sticks as dolls, Brer Rabbit fooling Brers Fox and Bear with a tar baby, or the Tom Hanks character in Cast Away (Robert Zemeckis, 2000) befriending the volleyball he named Wilson. McLaren succeeded in getting moving lines scratched onto film to "act" kinesthetically in Begone Dull Care. Other examples include the Gumby, the TV hero of animated clay (plasticine), and Blu's animated graffiti, which is discussed in chapter 6.

Feature films utilizing the figurative approach to animation continue to thrive. The Triplets of Belleville (Sylvain Chomet, 2003), for example, depends on our recognition of caricatures and stereotypes (fat Americans, obsessed mamas, sports nuts) as much as on embodied characterizations. Circularity and rehearsed behaviors define the family dog's individuality, as it coordinates its barking with the train schedule. Yet no one would argue that these figural characters are lacking in personality.

Of course, the world of animated cinema, as well as cinema in general and even the actual world, were expanded and enlightened by Disney's experiment, but I am also thankful that he didn't succeed in leaving his mark more than he did. The funny thing is, his films contain many scenarios of embodiment that taught viewers that performances don't happen in screen acting but rather in the cinesthetic world shared by animators, toons, and audiences. I've mentioned Dumbo's feather as an allegory of belief. Although the story eventually explains the elephant's flight as the result of a peculiar aerodynamics (earodynamics), I'm glad that believing in magic feathers is still an option.