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Enviro-toons: How Animated Media Communicate Environmental Themes
AuthorPike, Deidre M.
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Enviro-toons: How Animated Media Communicate Environmental Themes adopts an ecocritical approach to exploring environmental themes in contemporary U.S. animation. As such, it exemplifies a newly emerging strain of green cultural criticism that considers the texts of popular culture while rooting itself in ecocritical literary theory. Animations geared for adult or mixed audiences are examined in light of Joseph Meeker's considerations of tragic and comic discourse modes and Mikhail Bakhtin's folk culture, carnivalesque, and distinctions between the epic (a fixed monologue) and the novel (an open dialogic exploration). This study proposes a loose taxonomy of animation with environmental themes--enviro-toons--situating these texts along a continuum between the monologic and dialogic texts, to borrow Bakhtin's terms. The term monologic as used here indicates animated texts with dualistic social or political agendas evidently intended to indoctrinate the masses. The designation of dialogic enviro-toon refers to a text that exemplifies multiple-voiced and pluralistic perspectives. Aiding this textual analysis is Scott Slovic's taxonomy of the rhapsodic (celebratory) and jeremiad (warning) forms in the rhetoric of the literary nature-writing genre. Finally, this work also considers animation as a form, in light of media scholar Marshall McLuhan's categories of "hot" or detailed, high-resolution media like 3D version of Avatar and "cool" or low-resolution media, like The Simpsons Movie and South Park, digitally crafted to look like the figures are roughly cut from construction paper. A close reading of Disney-Pixar's Wall-E offers a glimpse into a text that straddles the border of monologic and dialogic media. The messages and forms of enviro-toons considered together provide a rich means of better understanding and characterizing the genre.