Keynote Speakers

animated purple leaf

THEN | Thomas Lamarre

Wartime Animation: The Vicissitudes of Liveliness

This talk proposes to situate animation of the 1930s and early 1940s at the intersection of three lines of transformation. First, there was the emergence of new technologies of animation and new ways of organizing animation production, which spurred dreams of producing feature-length animated films whose liveliness promised to rival that of cinema, and to push beyond the boundaries of the cinematic. Second, this situation also saw animation to begin to range across received boundaries of media — across media forms such as comics, films, magic lantern, radio, records, toys, and games, and across domestic and public sites of consumption. Finally, animation explored new ways of imaging and enacting human-animal relations, at a historical moment increasingly characterized by imperial conquest and total war with their ideologies of dehumanization and bestialization. Working across these three lines of technological, socio-medial and geopolitical transformation, I hope to address some of the troubling legacies that continue to haunt animation as well as the radical possibilities yet to be explored.


Thomas Lamarre teaches in East Asian Studies and Communications Studies at McGill University. He is author of numerous publications on the history of media, thought, and material culture, with projects ranging from the communication networks of 9th century Japan (Uncovering Heian Japan: An Archaeology of Sensation and Inscription, 2000), to silent cinema and the global imaginary (Shadows on the Screen: Tanizaki Jun’ichirô on Cinema and Oriental Aesthetics, 2005), animation technologies (The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation, 2009) and television and new media (The Anime Ecology: A Genealogy of Television, Animation, and Game Media, 2018).

Tuesday, June 19, 9am

De Sève Cinema, 1400 de Maisonneuve W

NOW | Amy Ratelle

Nihilism and Nostalgia: The Burdens of BoJack Horseman

BoJack Horseman has been characterized as “one of the wisest, most emotionally ambitious and [...] spectacularly goofy series on television” (Nussbaum, n.p.). The surreal programme revolves around the titular main character, a washed-up former star of a hacky 1990s sitcom, and aims to skewer the entertainment industry through the lens of a middle-aged (horse)man’s midlife crisis.

Yet, BoJack Horseman is far more than a stereotypical “sad guy” show. BoJack himself carries many burdens, from his own depressive and suicidal tendencies to our own cultural expectations of celebrity culture. As a horse, he is uniquely suited to bear them; indeed, horses in general have long embodied multiple and oftentimes conflicting human values such as status, wealth, nobility, military power, and brute strength (Ratelle 18). Thus, it’s no coincidence that this particular existential crisis is situated in the equine body. As Randy Malamud puts it, we use animals just for this purpose, “in a range of ways – some benevolent, some silly, some violent – in the service of our own cultural drives, desires, fantasies and obsessions.” As such, and as I will outline in this talk, BoJack Horseman becomes the perfect (literal and figurative) vehicle to explore both the present cultural zeitgeist as well as longstanding tensions and transitions in human-nonhuman relations, played out through and against the animal body.


Amy Ratelle is the editor of Animation Studies, the online peer-reviewed journal of the Society for Animation Studies (SAS). She received her PhD in Communication and Culture, a joint programme between Ryerson University and York University, and degrees in Film Studies from Ryerson University (BFA), and Carleton University (MA). Her monograph, Animality and Children’s Literature and Film was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2015. Her research areas include animation, animality studies, children’s literature and culture, and critical media studies. She is currently an academic administrator at the Faculty of Arts and Science at the University of Toronto.


Nussbaum, Emily. “The Bleakness and Joy of ‘BoJack Horseman.’” The New Yorker (August 8 & 15, 2016): n.pag. Available online: Accessed April 3, 2018.

Malamud, Randy. An Introduction to Animals and Visual Culture. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Ratelle, Amy. Animality in Children’s Literature and Culture. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

Wednesday, June 19, 9am

De Sève Cinema, 1400 de Maisonneuve W

NEXT| Mihaela Mihailova

These Virtual Delights Have Virtual Ends: The Posthuman Female as a Digital Effect | The Harvey Deneroff Keynote

Drawing on the media history of the posthuman female body as a site for simultaneously negotiating gender roles and technological progress, this talk offers a close reading of cyborg, non-organic, and biologically enhanced women and/as digital effects. I examine a range of works, including Ex Machina (Alex Garland, 2014), Ghost in the Shell (Rupert Sanders, 2017), and Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017), the science-fiction television show Altered Carbon, and the Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain video game. My analysis deconstructs the mechanisms whereby the computer-generated artificial bodies featured therein replicate conventional sexist fembot tropes. I argue that such media texts cast sexualized digital Galateas to affirm (digital animation) technology’s capacity to fulfill White male heteronormative fantasies while leaving little room for feminist and queer representation. At the same time, depicting the computer-generated female body as a sexual object serves to solidify a sense of the digital effect’s tangibility, threatened by the heightened artificiality of the effect itself. Both within the narrative and in paratextual discourse, tying technological progress to male sexual wish-fulfillment becomes the digital posthuman female’s benchmark for authenticity..

Grave as these symptoms may be, however, I refuse to pronounce the posthuman female condition incurable. Instead, I look to the future of digital animation as exemplified by virtual reality and multimedia experiences such as the “NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism” art installation (2016), dedicated to issues affecting women of color, and Björk’s Family (2017), an interactive VR film about a woman’s journey towards empowerment. It is such female-driven reprogramming of digital technology that may hold the key to unlocking emerging media’s potential to (en)gender progressive politics of representation.


Mihaela Mihailova is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Film Studies in the Department of English at Michigan State University. Mihaela's research interests include animation, film and media theory, early Soviet cinema, contemporary Eastern European cinema, video games, and comics. She has published articles in animation: an interdisciplinary journal, Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema, Post Script: Essays in Film and the Humanities, and Kino Kultura. She has also contributed chapters to Animating Film Theory (ed. Karen Beckman) (co-written with John MacKay), Animated Landscapes: History, Form, and Function (ed. Chris Pallant), and the forthcoming volumes Drawn from Life: Issues and Themes in Animated Documentary Cinema (eds. Jonathan Murray and Nea Ehrlich) and Animation Studies Reader (eds. Bella Honess Roe, Nichola Dobson, Amy Ratelle, and Caroline Ruddell). She is currently working on a book manuscript, "Animating Global Realities in the Digital Age." Through a comparative analysis of contemporary studio animation and visual effects produced in the United States and Russia, the project examines how animated media’s relationship to reality articulates national ideologies in the era of digital globalization.

Thursday, June 21, 3:30 pm

De Sève Cinema, 1400 de Maisonneuve W