Academic Conferences at, BFX 2015 Conference

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Mannerist, Functional and Post-Dolby Sound Design in Animated Cartoons
Paul Taberham

##manager.scheduler.building##: Executive Business Centre EB701
Date: 2015-09-27 10:15 AM – 11:45 AM
Last modified: 2015-09-23


While animation is predominantly understood as a visual medium, animation sound design has a distinct aesthetic which deserves further consideration. The proposed paper will advance the claim that there are at least three discernable modes of sound design in animation, these will be termed the “mannerist”, “functional” and “post-dolby” modes. Each mode will be detailed in turn, through close analysis and also with the use of specialist terms introduced by the film sound scholar Michel Chion.

In short, the mannerist mode of cartoon sound design can be characterized by a flamboyant use of sound effects which are often both synchronized but also intentionally different to the depicted image. Often, the mannerist sound design creates an audio-visual metaphor such as the Roadrunner dashing from the screen accompanied by the sound of a shotgun. The mannerist style of sound design often switches quickly between different styles of music. It was pioneered by the Warner Brothers sound designer Treg Brown but can be found today in cartoons like Spongebob Squarepants.

The functional mode of cartoon sound design is far more minimal than the mannerist mode, and can be found in animated sitcoms like The Simpsons and Family Guy. Here, sound design is notably sparse, only draws attention to what is narratively significant, and is seldom intended to be the object of attention or humour in the way it is in the mannerist mode.  In the post-dolby mode, full use is made of the finely-detailed sound design afforded to filmmakers following the revolution initiated by the introduction of dolby sound equipment. This mode is typically found in the work of CGI studios such as Pixar.

Collectively, these identified modes will aid in understanding the range of aesthetic options available to cartoonists, beyond the visual.


Sound, Animation, Classic Animation, CGI Animation, Dolby