In a short, but concise talk during the 2015 Animafest, the renowned animation historian Giannalberto Bendazzi brought forward some of the problems related to animation scholarship.
Known for his animation bible, Cartoons: One Hundred Years of Cinema Animation, Italian animation historian Giannalberto Bendazzi was the keynote speaker during Animafest Scanner in Zagreb's Animafest, and he seemed to have a few things to say.
Now in the process of publishing a new 3-volume book on animation (1500 pages overall, publication date 4 November /Focal Press), Bendazzi finds animation as an exclusively art form (market considerations aside).
The play with lines and form appeals to his ideal of animation - and Bendazzi is an arid fan of German/UK experimental artist Max Hattler.
In his keynote speech, though, identified two main problems with animation scholarship: the language barrier and the copyright problem. The diversified output of animation output (in French, Russian, English, Italian, Croatian) was subsumed to the needs of national animation schools during the early stages of scholarship.
But now that the research field in animation has widened, English scholarship seems not to have taken care of the old writings -and translations are virtually non-existent. The consequence is that animation scholarship seems each time to keep reinventing the wheel.
Animation writers often have the additional problem of copyright which, especially for non-US films, is an exercise in hunting in itself. Independent animation work of the past being an obscure sport for most of the times, the resultant heirs of the artists did not even know the value of the works -and cannot be convinced to provide stills, film excerpts for academic research.
Sometimes an animation historian need to act as an anthropologist, Bendazzi states.
S/he needs to get accepted in the tribe (or the milieu) of the ones who have done animation in the past, but were seldom acknowledged as such.
The rise of Internet and social sharing sites may alleviate this problems for contemporary works, but still animation historians and theorists (unlike film historians) need to take a hands-on approach which needs to be very wide in scope and very patient in its research -just like animation practice.