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The Tactile, Physical Labor of Classic Cartoonmaking

Animation director Michael Sporn has posted a fantastic treasure trove of images from the Golden Age MGM animation studio. The thing that I love most about these photos—and what makes them so different from any modern form of 2D animation production—is the tactility of the work.

The energy of classic Hollywood cartoons was initiated by the intense manual labor needed to produce the films. Every step of animation production required some kind of physical exertion or interaction with a physical object, from jumping on a desk to act out a scene to mixing paints with a blender to searching through boxes of sound effects to making facial expressions at a desk. With computers, we can never return to such an era of cartoon filmmaking—and, in fact, we shouldn’t—but these photos are lovely memories from an earlier period.