Film Strip image from Wikimedia Commons

Film Strip image from Wikimedia Commons

Monday, December 27, 2010

Dan Bashara on UPA Cartoons and Pre-War Modernism

Please join the Chicago Film Seminar on Thursday, Jan 13 (please note new date) at 6:30 pm to welcome Dan Bashara for his talk "Useful in the Abstract: UPA Cartoons and Pre-War Modernism." Bashara is a PhD candidate in the Screen Cultures program at Northwestern University. Bruce Jenkins from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago will provide the response. The CFS will be held, as always, in the Flaxman Theater, Room 1307 of the School of the Art Institute's building at 112 S. Michigan Ave.

Thursday, Jan 13 at 6:30pm
Dan Bashara, "Useful in the Abstract: UPA Cartoons and Pre-War Modernism"
Respondent: Bruce Jenkins (SAIC)
For more information on this and other CFS events, please visit our website at

Bashara describes his talk as follows:

In histories of animation, the fabled "modern" style of the post-WWII American cartoon, perhaps best exemplified by the film studio United Productions of America and its Oscar-winning characters Mr. Magoo and Gerald McBoing Boing, is often treated as an outgrowth of mid-century modernism. With their simplified, geometric shapes and flat planes of bold colors, UPA cartoons appear during the postwar proliferation of Abstract Expressionism and minimalist design, supposedly adapting these innovations to the medium of animation. This paper aims to resituate UPA animation within the historical context of Precisionism, a form of modernist painting that developed in America in the 1920s. I argue that 1950s animation did not emerge fully formed from the mid-century design boom, but rather is a resurgence of this earlier modernism and its attendant concerns of order and the establishment of a new, more efficient mode of vision. In so doing, I aim to expand our idea of the cultural work the postwar cartoon was presumed to do, and to highlight its more "serious" engagements with an often overlooked iteration of American modernism.

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