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What animation sounds like: Drawn to Sound book launch


Jane Munro
13 October 2010
Animation has delivered many memorable and widely recognised cinematic moments – from the global expansiveness of Happy Feet to the wonder and creativity of Spirited Away – but what is it about this film genre that captures our imaginations so fully?

Dr Rebecca Coyle, head of School of Arts and Social Sciences at Southern Cross University believes the role of sound and music in animation is at the same time a critical element for the success of an animated film and also an under-researched and under-represented subject in animation literature.

To redress the knowledge vacuum Dr Coyle enlisted some of the world’s most successful animated film writers and scholars to share their knowledge in the field of sound and music in her new book, Drawn to Sound.

“The result is a book that demonstrates the audio in these productions is critical to the ways that characters are portrayed, action and humour are emphasised, activities are foreshadowed and anticipated, and emotional engagement is assisted for the audience,” Dr Coyle said.

“The audio is not just about music either, but brought about by performance of dialogue, sound effects and design. Music includes theme music, songs and performance numbers and scored cues that are heard behind the voices and as segues for scenes.

“Animation needs music and sound to operate effectively because it is such a contrived form, that is, the characters and locations are generally contrived from scratch, and the sound operates to help construct those characters and locations and activities.

“Animation scholarship and publishing tends to be very oriented around the image track, however by marginalising the sound and music, we deny the importance of the emotional and narrative and marketing contributions of them in the films.

“The book is attracting interest as a result of the realisation that there is not much work in the area already. Also, the contributions from authors writing about animation from several sources, including significant studios in various countries, shows how animation continues to be an important form in today's cultural context.”

Drawn to Sound will be launched this weekend in Sydney by Deborah Szapiro who is co-director of the UTS:Sydney International Animation Festival, lecturer in the Master of Animation at UTS and an award-winning animation producer.

Ms Szapiro describes Drawn to Sound as a book that has ‘assembled an insightful collection of essays that expands the reader’s understanding of the narrative power of sound and music in the animated feature film’.

“At last, a scholarly text that opens our minds and ears to hearing the animated film.”

Drawn to Sound focuses on feature-length films released since World War II from producers in the USA, UK, Japan and France. Films include: Animal Farm (1954); Happy Feet (2006); Yellow Submarine (1968); Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005); Spirited Away (2001); and Les Triplettes de Belleville (2003).

Published by Equinox Books, Drawn to Sound will be launched on Saturday, October 16 at 4pm at Gleebooks in Sydney.

Photo: Dr Rebecca Coyle launches her new book, Drawn to Sound.