ANIMAFEST PRO | ANIMAFEST SCANNER VII | SYMPOSIUM FOR CONTEMPORARY ANIMATION STUDIES | Panel 1 - HEAVY LIKE THE WORLD: ANIMATION IN THE WORLD OF CHAOS
Animated Anxieties: Apocalypse as Both Warning and Desire - Jack McGrath (The University of Newcastle, Australia)
Visions of the apocalypse are commonplace in animated films and in film and the Arts more broadly. Imagery of disturbing dystopic futures can serve as a warning to the consequences of human action / inaction and decisions of the present. By analysing animated films, animated special effects within live action and new media dioramic works, the role of these apocalyptic visions can be mapped against cultural and societal anxieties and our deep-seated fears. While these visions can serve as important warnings of the gravity of our decisions, they too can fuel fetishized imaginings of a world in which our true “mettle” will be tested and where the “outsider” will thrive amidst the collapse of society as we know it.
Since the origins of storytelling itself, the “end of days” story is a ubiquitous element in the meta narrative of humans. Notions of apocalypse are found in folk stories, religious texts and early paintings. Examples include: Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights”; the post-war hysteria in the age of the nuclear bomb that inspired almost an entire genre of animated films (including Anime); Harryhausen’s “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms”; the anxiety of the Cold War that influenced “When the Wind Blows”; the diorama works of Jack & Dinos Chapman that present alternative past, present and futures; and the modern-day concerns of climate change and environmental collapse in “The Day After Tomorrow”; and in the author's own work. This cautionary tale of the future has been brought to life through animation time and time again.
While these works may be intended as dire warnings of future potentialities, they too can act as “disaster porn”: bringing excitement for and anticipation of societal collapse. The banality and disappointment of normal life making way for a cataclysmic new world in which one’s worth will ultimately be tested; an opportunity for the repressed “ordinary” individual to break from authority and finally prove their worth as survivor or warrior. This subversion of the genre reveals the limitations of animation and the risk of fantasising and fetishizing global crises.
Jack McGrath is a filmmaker, stop-motion animator, director and lecturer with 20 years of experience producing visual content. Jack has a background in Fine Arts from the University of Sydney and has lectured in film and animation for a number of years at the University of Sydney and The University of Technology Sydney. He has written and directed a wide range of short films that have been screened around Australia and internationally. Jack is a lecturer in animation in the School of Creative Industries at the University of Newcastle, Australia. His research investigates the liminal zone between traditional stop-motion animation and emerging digital technologies. With his background in stop-motion animation, Jack is interested in hybrid animation workflows and the potential for incorporating and merging new technologies with traditional animation.