‘Movements that are drawn’: A history of environmental animation from The Lorax to FernGully to Avatar

Abstract

This article surveys the history of environmental animation and charts the aesthetic possibilities it offers for environmental representation, in order to prompt a reconsideration of indexical media’s dominant role in environmental communication. Given animation’s formal capabilities, it has the potential to depict imperceptible, indeterminate and interactive environments. Distinct representational practices have emerged in animated environmental films: the visualization of environmental mutability, the representation of environmental interaction and the revelation of the environment as a construct. This article defines three periods of environmental animation: the 1960s to early 1970s, the late 1980s to early 1990s, and 2005 to the present, and analyses how these practices transformed during each cycle. Early short films pioneered the depiction of a mutable environment. In the second period, mutability became less significant, but feature films expanded the possible modes of environmental interaction. Most recently, films have begun to reflect on the environment as a visual construct.

Written by Nicole Starosielski.


Starosielski. 2011. ‘Movements that are drawn’: A history of environmental animation from The Lorax to FernGully to Avatar.