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Birth of an Industry: Blackface Minstrelsy and the Rise of American Animation - Softcover

 
9780822358527: Birth of an Industry: Blackface Minstrelsy and the Rise of American Animation
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In Birth of an Industry, Nicholas Sammond describes how popular early American cartoon characters were derived from blackface minstrelsy. He charts the industrialization of animation in the early twentieth century, its representation in the cartoons themselves, and how important blackface minstrels were to that performance, standing in for the frustrations of animation workers. Cherished cartoon characters, such as Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat, were conceived and developed using blackface minstrelsy's visual and performative conventions: these characters are not like minstrels; they are minstrels. They play out the social, cultural, political, and racial anxieties and desires that link race to the laboring body, just as live minstrel show performers did. Carefully examining how early animation helped to naturalize virulent racial formations, Sammond explores how cartoons used laughter and sentimentality to make those stereotypes seem not only less cruel, but actually pleasurable. Although the visible links between cartoon characters and the minstrel stage faded long ago, Sammond shows how important those links are to thinking about animation then and now, and about how cartoons continue to help to illuminate the central place of race in American cultural and social life.

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Review:
"Nicholas Sammond's study provides a detailed, thoughtful, exhaustively researched examination of the process by which the early animation studios cast about for technical and semiotic models to inform their new art form and drew upon the complex and conflicted vocabulary of blackface minstrelsy to do so."--Christopher J. Smith"Journal of American History" (09/01/2016)

"Birth of an Industry is a welcome addition and valuable contribution to the ongoing academic discussion of the relationship of ethnic tensions to the art and business of animation."--Christopher P. Lehman"African American Review" (06/01/2016)

"Sammond's impressive Birth of an Industry condenses and stretches various links among the evolving art, labor, and business of early animated film."--T. Lindvall"Choice" (04/01/2016)

"Moving effortlessly among theories of comedy, critical race theory, performance studies, animation criticism, and both Marxist and Freudian analyses, Sammond has produced a comprehensive study of the rise of American animation."--Diego A. Millan"Studies in American Humor" (06/01/2017)

"Birth of an Industry offers a timely, valuable, and theoretically distinguished intervention."--Malcolm Cook"Animation" (10/24/2016)

"With Birth of an Industry, Nicholas Sammond demonstrates that the specter of racialized caricature and its attending performative power dynamics have a longer and more pernicious continuum through which race, industry, and the nation understood and affected one another."--Allyson Nadia Field"Media Industries Journal" (10/30/2017)

"Few authors . . . have proved minstrelsy's connections to early animation as carefully and convincingly as Nicholas Sammond in his thoughtful text Birth of an Industry."-- (05/01/2017)

"Sammond's work in The Birth of An Industry is notable and fascinating. . . . By unpacking each component of the production and representation of minstrel animation, Sammond builds the space needed for an insightful discussion."-- (02/15/2017)
About the Author:
Nicholas Sammond is Associate Professor of Cinema Studies at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Babes in Tomorrowland: Walt Disney and the Making of the American Child, 1930-60, and the editor of Steel Chair to the Head: Essays on Professional Wrestling, both also published by Duke University Press.

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