The skeleton has been a key figure throughout the evolution of the animated image. Thisessay investigates how the danse macabre lies at the roots of animation, and has hence kepton reappearing as a motif throughout the evolution of the genre. The theoretical frameworkcombines film history with media-archeology and iconology. Ever since Athanasius Kircher’sfamous description of a magic lantern in the second edition of his publication Ars Magna luciset umbrae (1671), the image of a skeleton or the grim reaper has appeared time and again asthe key signifier in the process of animating (i.e., moving, resurrecting) still images. ChristiaanHuygens was, however, the first person to describe the projection of moving lantern images. Inhis notes of 1659 he included drawings, based on Holbein’s Dance of Death, of a skeleton toyingwith its own skull. As these optical instruments were also called ‘philosophical toys’, then theskeleton is the most appropriate motif, a memento mori in motion. Over the years the skeletonhas played a central role in phantasmagoric shows (an expanded media show orchestratedaround a hidden magic lantern), in the demonstration of the choreutoscope (an invention byL.S. Beale in 1866, and the first application of the Maltese cross for transporting film), and inmany early animation films such as fantasmagorie (Cohl) and skeleton dance (Disney). Fromits inception, animation has thus been used to illustrate acts of reanimation, bringing deadmatter back to life.

Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision
dx.doi.org/10.18146/tmg.413
Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY-SA 4.0) that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).
TMG Journal for Media History; Vol 15, No 1 (2012): Animatie; 25-42

Carels, Edwin. (2012). From the ossuary: animation and the danse macabre. Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis, 15(1), 25–42. doi:10.18146/tmg.413