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Birth of An Industry: Blackface Minstrelsy and the Rise of American Animation

Nicholas Sammond, Author
Labor, page 17 of 21


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Labor, Page 128

As it industrialized, the American animation industry shifted from performing labor onscreen, to performing it as entertainment in public relations. In the 1930s and 40s, Disney extended this logic by offering back-stage studio tours which touted the wonders and magic of animation production. 

In the press, animation workers seemed to perform the joy of work without a care about the final product or about getting credit for their work—much like the seven dwarfs in Disney's "Heigh Ho" sequence from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). 

This scene features  the dwarves digging, carting, analyzing and storing their gems, yet they do this work almost entirely for its own sake. Their song reinforces this: "we don't know what we dig 'em for." Produced in the midst of the Great Depression, this sequence suggests a call to regain joy in work without immediate material reward.
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