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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Pixarticulation : the voice in contemporary animated cinema Montgomery, Colleen


Since releasing the first animated feature film Toy Story in 1995, Pixar has radically altered contemporary animated filmmaking/viewing practices. Yet, inasmuch as Pixar’s popularization of digital rendering technologies has had a profound impact on the visual aesthetics of animation, the studio’s use of the voice—on both a narrative and extratextual level—is also at the forefront of a profound aesthetic and economic reshaping of the aural, and more precisely, vocal landscape of contemporary animated cinema. Whereas Pixar’s parent corporation, The Walt Disney Company, is a critical focal point in animation studies, as Chapter One outlines, Pixar has remained largely absent from scholarly discourses on animation. As a corrective to this critical lacuna, Chapter Two proposes a triangulation of animation/Disney criticism, psychoanalysis, and media theory, for thinking Pixar’s use of the voice. Chapter Three contextualizes this analysis, providing a critical overview of American animation history, emphasizing Mike Budd, Max Kirsch, and Janet Wasko’s writing on Disney’s corporate and artistic practices. Moving towards a theory of Pixar animation’s relationship to the voice, Chapter Four outlines the studio’s history and relevance to contemporary animation. Drawing from Michel Chion and Mladen Dolar’s psychoanalytic theories of the voice (and cinema), Chapters Five and Six present two case studies that elucidate the textual dimensions of Pixar’s voices. The first of these centres on Toy Story and Toy Story 2, both of which feature a complex mix of mechanical, acousmatic and ventriloquial voices, while the second case study focuses on Monsters, Inc. and its interrogation of the symbolic, linguistic and cultural functions of the scream and laughter. Finally, Chapter Seven examines the extratextual use of the voice as a part of Pixar’s promotional discourses, intensive, synergistic branding strategies, and cultivation of a broad audience demographic. This chapter calls upon Barbara Klinger and Martin Barker’s respective discussions of the role that promotional materials play in influencing a text’s reception, and Noël Carroll’s writing on intertextuality, proposing that the use of the voice in Pixar’s marketing campaigns structures an intertextual, multi-tiered mode of reception for reading its films—a process which I here term ‘Pixarticulation.’

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