This chapter uses Mary Pickford and Alma Taylor as a site on which to explore the discursive history of the girl-child on-screen and the changing role of women in Britain and the United States in the early part of the twentieth century. Building on the work of Gaylyn Studler, who positions Pickford as a child-woman, ambiguously inscribed with the characteristics of both and reflective of the Victorian anxiety toward new womanhood and the adolescent girl, the chapter suggests that Pickford’s and Taylor’s tomboyish performances serve a similar function. This tomboyism, absorbs, reflects, and reframes a range of desires and discourses through a figure culturally associated with maturation and growth. The chapter argues that the figure of the tomboy is an important representational apparatus through which early cinema works to ameliorate fears around the changing position of the girl and provides an important transnational link between two of cinema’s first stars.
The “tween” population (youth between eleven and thirteen years of age) has become an increasingly vital and distinctive demographic for American cinema, both as a target audience and as subjects for stories. This chapter chronicles the evolution of the tween in American culture through the rise of middle schools, which codified the age group in the mid-twentieth century, and reveals a subsequent correlation with the film industry’s making and marketing of movies meant to appeal to tweens. Certain concerns are evident across the films about these characters—family reunification, romantic curiosity, and influential friendships—that speak to the burgeoning interests of early adulthood for their protagonists. At the same time, those interests reveal the ongoing perceptions of the adults who make the films, indicating the delicate liminal state that early adolescence poses for everyone who lives through it.
This article argues that the Frog and Toad books function as useful literary “primers,” not just for young children, but for college students as well. It also shows that Frog and Toad Together (1972) by Arnold Lobel provides an accessible introduction to critical reading practices and multiple theoretical paradigms. Following the practice of formalism, and particularly of New Criticism, the starting point for analyzing Frog and Toad Together is to look closely at how literary elements convey unity and complexities. One of its complexities is that nearly all the descriptive details, whether about setting or character, come from the visual text. The effect on Frog shows the problematic nature of Toad's assertion of superiority. The ideological constructions of culture and society about children often block deeper critical thought about children's literature.
Karin E. Westman
This article describes J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series' (1997–2007) generic hybridity, focusing on elements of the school story, bildungsroman, and fantasy in the texts. It specifically illustrates how Rowling plays with generic forms and boundaries toward a similar theme: the value of moral agency, born from sympathy for others. The implications such generic hybridity has for a fourth genre are provided. The bildung that Rowling emphasizes is Harry's moral and emotional development, as her choice of narrative style places the emphasis upon subjective, internal experience as much as external actions within the world. Throughout his school years at Hogwarts, all that Harry can be certain of is uncertainty, as he struggles to make the best decision within a complex and competing array of choices. Rowling reveals the dual role children's literature currently serves in contemporary culture, particularly contemporary British culture.
This article explores the work of two generations of children in a Boston family who created their own books by taking the history of Johann David Wyss's The Swiss Family Robinson (1812, 1814) as the starting point. The Swiss Family Robinson is surely one of the most adapted and adaptable of childhood texts, and so proves a perfect site for this inquiry. The Hales offer a particularly vivid instance of literary salvaging. The Swiss Family Robinson is explicitly named and frequently alluded to in the Hale children's homemade books, and sea travel, shipwrecks, and deserted-island survival stories are a favorite genre for these children. The Swiss Family Robinson calls attention to the ties between the construction efforts that build their island home and the work of imagination. Its island world celebrates domesticity, ingenuity, and abundance, and equates colonial power with the power of the imagination.
This article shows that the works of Dr. Seuss, the most beloved bard of children's nonsense—and especially The Cat in the Hat (TCITH) (1957)—can be read within the context of the dramatic cultural changes which paved the way for and grew out of the rebellions of the 1960s. Seuss's anarchic nonsense fostered a sensibility conducive to the New Left ideal of participatory democracy. A carnivalesque setting is a locus of social formation that fosters an atmosphere within which controversial topics and utopian desires may be confronted. TCITH also awakens in its readers the possibility of seeing themselves in a profoundly new way, and this is achieved through exposure to existential dilemmas and enigmas typical of nonsense. Seuss's texts arguably bestowed political agency on that generation “most critical of the Vietnam War,” whose perhaps unwitting parents supplied them with Seuss texts in piles throughout their formative years.
This chapter outlines the history of the Children’s Film Foundation, a unique body that, for nearly thirty years, produced films specifically created for an audience of children in the United Kingdom and beyond. At the heart of the CFF’s work was a deeply held conviction that childhood was a formative stage of development that was open to external influence, which films could positively impact to help shape future citizens for the better. The chapter considers the various attempts the Foundation made to produce “improving” films and how the underpinning conceptualization of childhood constructed changed in response to changing societal trends. By the use of primary evidence, the chapter also assesses the success, and failure, of the CFF in achieving its intentions.
In the popular consciousness, children’s films and happy endings are regarded as virtually synonymous. With close analysis of a wide range of international films, this chapter explores the theoretical underpinnings of the happy ending and argues in favour of greater ambiguity in the genre of children’s cinema than the term implies. It begins by examining the narrational properties of the happy ending and how narrative style in children’s cinema is constructed to incorporate happy endings. It then discusses how the concept applies to a number of children’s films across a broad historical period, from the “utopian” endings of films such as The Wizard of Oz to more ambivalent productions from countries such as the United States, Britain, Australia, and Kenya.
IAbstract: This chapter focuses on the relationship between children’s films and avant-garde movements, with an emphasis on avant-garde films. The period it covers spans almost hundred years, from the 1920s to the present, and considers different genres and films from four countries: France, Germany, Russia, and the United States. After a definition and contextualization of the notion of “avant-garde” in general and “avant-garde film” in particular, the chapter first elaborates on early animation films and their relationship to avant-garde tendencies. It then examines the influence of the avant-garde on children’s films produced in the 1920s and 1930s. Next, the chapter discusses references to the avant-garde in children’s films produced in the 1950s and 1960s, followed by an analysis of two contemporary children’s films, which still show their directors’ interest in avant-garde filmmaking. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the relevance of this topic for future research in the realm of children’s film studies.
This chapter summarizes the history of science fiction comics from early newspaper comic strips through comic books up to recent graphic novels. Noting that science fiction comics are prominent in many national traditions, such as Japanese manga, it argues that the formal elements of comics have played a specific role in the construction of fandom, and that these elements can play a distinctive role in the representation of tropes and icons central to the science fiction genre. Overall, the chapter argues that comics have maintained a more significant and persistent role in the history of science fiction than is commonly recognized.
Two narrative scripts are employed in the coming-of-age story in South Korean films. The well-being script depicts a protagonist who, by the close, has reached a state of contentment with life and is ready to move forward in positive ways. This type is often comedic, especially when the protagonist is male. The dysphoria script, in contrast, depicts a protagonist who struggles against abjection and at the close has failed to thrive and has no prospect of doing so. The final outcome may be suicide. Both scripts are further informed by pertinent conceptual metaphors of development or growth:
Pamela Robertson Wojcik
This chapter examines some of the numerous moments in 1930s films when kids encounter the police. In films starring the Dead End Kids, Shirley Temple, Jane Withers, Jackie Cooper, kids are seen freely wandering urban streets, having encounters with adults, and frequently running into the police. Rather than treat the children as innocents who need protection from the streets, these films view kids as miscreants and troublemakers; their presence on city streets taken for granted, but not welcome. These narratives trouble traditional notions of childhood by representing children as tough, street-smart, experienced, and not tethered to family or institutional life. At the same time, they offer a different view of police, showing them as neither wholly benevolent nor as threats, but as largely ineffectual figures. Crucially, they show cops and kids as adjacent figures in the public sphere, mutually aware of each other and in frequent contact.
Although Lotte Reiniger’s films are both animated and often based on fairy tales, her films, perhaps surprisingly, are not often explicitly associated with children. This chapter seeks to interrogate the relationship, or lack thereof, between Reiniger and children’s culture, by focusing on a number of key areas. First, Reiniger is perhaps best known for her animated films based on fairy tales, and this chapter will seek to position Reiniger alongside, or within, a long-held societal and cultural association between fairy tales and children. Second, Reiniger’s films are animated, and despite being extremely wide-ranging and multifaceted, animation is often, like fairy tale, aligned with children’s culture. Finally, the chapter moves beyond these arguments to consider Reiniger and children’s films in relation to notions of craft and play. What sets Reiniger’s animation apart from most other animation associated with children is her method. Reiniger uses the time-consuming technique of silhouette paper cut-outs. Her method is a distinctly “crafty” one. Craft and play are self-evidently also associated with children’s culture in some cases and will provide a lens through which to examine the relationship between Reiniger’s films and/as children’s culture.
Katharine Capshaw Smith
This article opens up the literary, aesthetic, and cultural contexts of the Harlem Renaissance by discussing how children were imagined within this movement and by examining in particular Langston Hughes' The Dream Keeper (1932). It also argues that both literature and children were crucial vehicles for social change. Hughes' poetry collection, The Dream Keeper, is a landmark publication within the field of American children's literature. This collection contains poems that remain frequently anthologized, and reflects the genius of the artist and the range of his attention and productivity during the 1920s. It enables us to understand the significance of childhood to black cultural reinvention in the 1920s and 1930s. Additionally, the collection conveys the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance and speaks to the particular position of children within that movement. Hughes' poetry seeks to bridge divides between the old and the young, between the folk and the progressive.
One of the major “comedian comics” of the 1940s and 1950s, Danny Kaye is indelibly associated with children, through both his role as a UNICEF Special Ambassador (1954–1987) for Children and the child-friendly comedy of his films. This chapter begins by surveying aspects of that comedy, Kaye’s comic persona, and its appeal to children, with emphasis on his secondary career as a recording artist (which from the early 1950s was particularly aimed at child audiences). Though in some ways an untypical Kaye film, Hans Christian Andersen (dir. Charles Vidor, prod. Samuel Goldwyn, 1952), is central to Kaye’s career and charisma, especially in his scenes with children, who were seen as the original audience for Andersen’s stories. The chapter concludes with an in-depth discussion of the film as both a children’s narrative built around the storyteller’s relationship with children and a parallel adult melodrama centred on the hero’s impossible passion for the ballerina Doro.
This article reviews the documentary evidence against Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables (1908) to argue that the figure of the adopted (white, Canadian) child—and the British child emigrants and aboriginal Canadians who this figure erases—encapsulate ideas about belonging and acceptance within the home and within Canadian national identity. The title of Anne of Green Gables indicates the primary context for Anne's identity as the member of a community—that of the house and the family in the house. Its plot spans the distance Marilla travels from understanding the child who is to enter her home as a farm worker in terms of the child's economic worth to understanding the child as an emotional resource. Additionally, its iconic status as a text in and of Canada suggests the naturalized power of this image of the happy daughter of a happy house.
James R. Mason
Disney films are synonymous with children’s films, yet many adults also watch them, with or without children. Adult relationships with Disney films change, and the films that Disney releases change, but audience understandings about what a Disney film is can be inflexible. Using an innovative mixed methods approach, this chapter draws on a wider piece of research that first identifies common themes and attributes across 390 Disney films released between 1937 and 2015, drawing out issues relating to genre and representation. It then turns to adult audiences and their understanding of and relationships with Disney films, drawn from a sample survey and focus groups involving over 3,500 participants. Audience preconceptions and the reasons for adult enjoyment of or antagonism to Disney films is explored, considering how adult perceptions are matched by Disney’s actual film output.
This chapter traces the early aesthetic development of music-image relationships in the animated films of the Walt Disney Studio. While practical concerns largely informed Disney’s initial approaches to integrating sound and animation, the resulting cartoons yielded unique artistic effects. In these films, the constant coordination of images and sounds appears to be organized according to principles of music, including meter, form, and phrasing. Disney creatively mobilized these unique diegetic spaces in its first sound productions. Beginning with the parallel Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony series of short-subject cartoons and eventually culminating in feature-length productions such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Bambi, Disney’s so-called Golden Age productions collectively signalled the emergence of a new mode of presentation: the animated musical.
Peter C. Kunze
lidAbstract: The Disney Renaissance, a period of creative revitalization and corporate expansion, has long dominated the history of a larger rejuvenation in US animation production across film and television in the 1980s and 1990s. Perhaps the most important of the feature animators was Don Bluth, a former Disney animator who launched a new animation studio to carry on the Disney legacy and pose the first serious threat to Disney’s domination of feature animation. In focusing on his career, this chapter challenges the hegemony of Disney in animation history and complicates received notions of Disney’s contributions to contemporary children’s film. In so doing, it aims to recover a major contributor to children’s film whose work remains obscured by the legacy and continuing relevance of his former employer and rival.
This article examines the ways in which Walt Disney created a cinematic empire by selling his creations as “good for children.” It links them to classic children's literature and incorporates popular child-rearing wisdom. The article also investigates the ways in which the animated film Dumbo (1941) functioned as a dialog with World War II. Dumbo was released a little more than a month before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the cultural field into which the film entered, at least in terms of understandings about children and child-rearing, was in transition. The world of Dumbo counterposed the overweening social policing of the conformist elephants against the blind self-interest of the union-organizing clowns, and it marked a humble, talented, and unique Dumbo as the happy medium.