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In this beautifully written and deeply researched study, Hannah Frank provides an original way to understand American animated cartoons from the Golden Age of animation (1920–1960). In the pre-digital age of the twentieth century, the making of cartoons was mechanized and standardized: thousands of drawings were inked and painted onto individual transparent celluloid sheets (called “cels”) and then photographed in succession, a labor-intensive process that was divided across scores of artists and technicians. In order to see the art, labor, and technology of cel animation, Frank slows cartoons down to look frame by frame, finding hitherto unseen aspects of the animated image. What emerges is both a methodology and a highly original account of an art formed on the assembly line.
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