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

Nicholas Sammond, Author

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Performance, Page 84

Animation piecework was an exhausting job, and by the end of the 1930s, the animators completing the actual labor of animation organized unions, seeking labor reforms within the industry. One complaint was a lack of credit. While their producers and directors were often named in credit sequence, animators were left to do the grunt work in anonymity—like the brooms in the famous Sorcerer's Apprentice sequence from Fantasia (1940).

From its inception, American commercial animation self-reflexively performed its own labor. The Van Beuren short Makin 'Em Move (1931) is a good example, bringing the fantastic body of the cartoon minstrel together with a fantasy of cartoons produced by cartoons for cartoons. Here, the minstrel as the fantastic embodiment of labor is made literal in the comic performance of what appears to be sweatshop working conditions. Note that the cartoon animators produce degraded versions of themselves, mere stick figures who perform a tired melodrama.
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