Animation and the American Imagination
A Brief History
by Gordon B. Arnold
November 2016, 282pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3359-5
$65, £50, 57€, A90
Please contact your preferred distributor for pricing.
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3360-1
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Animation—in many forms, from hand-drawn to computer-generated—has served as an extremely powerful medium for a wide range of audiences.

Providing a detailed historical overview of animated film and television in the United States over more than a century, this book examines animation within the U.S. film and television industry as well as in the broader sociocultural context.

From the early 1900s onwards, animated cartoons have always had a wide, enthusiastic audience. Not only did viewers delight in seeing drawn images come to life, tell fantastic stories, and depict impossible gags, but animation artists also relished working in a visual art form largely free from the constraints of the real world. This book takes a fresh look at the big picture of U.S. animation, both on and behind the screen. It reveals a range of fascinating animated cartoons and the colorful personalities, technological innovations, cultural influences and political agendas, and shifting audience expectations that shaped not only what appeared on screen but also how audiences reacted to thousands of productions.

Animation and the American Imagination: A Brief History presents a concise, unified picture that brings together divergent strands of the story so readers can make sense of the flow of animation history in the United States. The book emphasizes the overall shape of animation history by identifying how key developments emerged from what came before and from the culture at large. It covers the major persons and studios of the various eras; identifies important social factors, including the Great Depression, World War II, the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s, and the struggles for civil rights and women’s rights; addresses the critical role of technological and aesthetic changes; and discusses major works of animation and the responses to them.


  • Documents the evolution of U.S. animation, from its origins in newspaper cartooning at the beginning of the 20th century to the digital creations of the late 20th century and beyond
  • Reveals social influence on animation across history, including issues of race and gender
  • Identifies a new preoccupation of the American public with animation and reconsiders popular animated films and TV shows in this light
  • Discusses major figures, themes, and studios involved in the production of American animated film and television
  • Identifies major achievements and controversies in the history of animation in the United States
Gordon B. Arnold, PhD, is professor of liberal arts at Montserrat College of Art, Beverly, MA, where he teaches film and animation history. His previously published work includes Praeger's Projecting the End of the American Dream: Hollywood's Visions of U.S. Decline and Conspiracy Theory in Film, Television, and Politics.


"[A] solid and straightforward overview of a century of animated films."—Choice, June 1, 2017

Top Community College Resource, June 2017—Choice, June 29, 2017
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