New book illuminates growing field of animation

Animation has come a long way, as represented by the latest Disney movies Chicken Little, the gee-whizzer story of a feisty little chicken who has to save the world from the falling sky, and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, based on C.S. Lewis’ series.

However, as Chris Gehman, a graduate student in York’s MFA Film Production Program, points out, animation also has a rich life beyond the cinema screen.

Right: Cover by Franci Duran, second-year student in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts

“The animated image is proliferating outside of movie theatres – on the Web, cell phones, television, video billboards and in art galleries,” said Gehman. “Although animation is an active and growing field, there is still little serious published material about it.”

In his new book, The Sharpest Point: animation at the end of cinema, Gehman explores the world of animation with alumnus, artist and co-editor Steve Reinke (BFA ’86). The anthology brings together 26 contributors from a wide range of disciplines and practices who share contemporary strands of thought about animation as an art form, a technological practice, and an object of theoretical investigation.

“Our book is unique in that we approach animation from the perspective of contemporary art, instead of as an autonomous branch of cinema, which is how professional animators tend to see their work,” explained Gehman. “In our research, we were concerned with the ways in which animation illuminates the limits of film theory and definitions of cinema, and how its function and meaning changes in different contexts – for example the gallery-based art world, commercial movie, the Web and experimental film. Also, some of the artists discussed in this book are obscure or generally overlooked in the animation world.”

The illustrated book features historical and theoretical essays and profiles of artists who use animation in a variety of contexts. Contributions by Daniel Barrow, Jude Norris, Jim Trainor and Libby Hague comprise text and images from a specific body of work. Essay topics range from hand-made to Web-based animation and compositing. The editors take an active role in the conversation through contributions of their own.

With a minimalist bent, the book cover is designed by Franci Duran, who, like Gehman, is a second-year student in York’s graduate program in film. A graphic designer by profession, Duran previously designed two other books about Canadian film and video artists for the Images Festival.

Gehman is an independent filmmaker, curator and critic based in Toronto. His productions, encompassing animation and other forms of frame-by-frame construction, have been exhibited globally. Steve Reinke is an artist, writer and videomaker whose work is distributed in the US, Belgium, and the UK as well as Canada. 

The Sharpest Point: animation at the end of cinema (ISBN 0-920397-32-8) is published by YYZ Books, the Ottawa International Animation Festival and the Images Festival. For more information, visit

This article was submitted to YFile by Mary-Lou Schagena in the Faculty of Fine Arts.