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Translating Literature into Moving Pictures: Literary Adaptation & Animation

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Organizer: Audrey Louckx

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From its very beginning, animation, like cinema its sibling medium, drew inspiration from literature in the hope of bringing to life timeless tales and beloved stories. Across the world, animation history has been paved with groundbreaking productions adapted from the traditional canons of world literature: Lotte Reiniger’s  Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) inspired by One Thousand and One Nights in Germany, Disney’s first fairy-tale and nursery-rhyme-inspired short films and first feature films in the 1930s in America, The Snow Queen (1957) inspired by the eponymous European tale in Russia, Panda and the Magic Serpent (1958) inspired by the Chinese Legend of the White Snake in Asia, etc. From the start, animation reinforced what Belgian scholar Michel Serceau calls the “dynamic relationship between literature and cinema” (in Dutel, 2020, p. 13) proving that translating literature into moving pictures is a process that goes beyond plain illustration — which has sometimes been associated with authentic or ‘serious’ literary adaptation. As animation scholar Gianalberto Bendazzi put it: “In a way, every adaptation is a parody, or a re-stylization, like in painting, every painting is a stylization or a caricature” (in Rall, 2020, p. 17). Similarly, recent developments in the literature on adaptation have displayed a movement away from hierarchical and fidelity theories. Adaptation in all its forms is inherently constitutive of our contemporary mediascape in which intermediality and transmedia storytelling are the name of the game (Hutcheon, 2013; Dutel, 2020). But animation “is an ace up your sleeve, because [it] can invent things that you don’t have to look for in the reality […]. [It] is world-building from scratch” (Bendazzi in Rall, 2020, pp. 18-19).
Considering with Hutcheon that “adaptations are deliberate, announced and extended revisitations of prior works” (2013), this seminar seeks to question adaptation practices in animated cinema as a process through which literary texts keep being constructed.
This seminar invites submissions on any form of animation (2D, cell and ‘traditional’ animation, 3D, CGI and VFX, stop-motion, claymation and puppet animation, also including animated documentaries) and any animator, director or studio from high-profile to lesser-known productions. The submissions may cover any form of adapted literary texts including both fiction and non-fiction.
Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

Animated films exploring the boundary between adaptation and appropriation;
Animated readaptations or remakes of previous literary adaptations;
Animated films exploring the evolution of literary characters;
Animated films highlighting transcultural literary adaptations;
Adaptation as a world-building practice;
Animated adaptations as part of transmedia storytelling;
Serialized adaptation;
Novelizations of animated literary adaptations.

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