The Society for Animation Studies – A Brief History
The Society for Animation Studies (SAS) was founded in 1987 by Harvey Deneroff. He had earned his PhD in 1985 and became interested in putting on an animation conference after attending what was then the Society for Cinema Studies conference at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He found that while there were academics interested in animation studies, it seemed to be the “neglected stepchild of film and television”, a notion that many animation scholars have felt over the years. He took it upon himself to gain the support of a small group of academics and filmmakers and formed a steering committee which would plan annual conferences and a membership newsletter. Harvey later described the founding of the group in Jayne Pillings’ A Reader in Animation Studies (1997):
“Armed with a grant from the Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists, IATSE Local 839… a mailing was sent out, and membership started coming in from the United States and Canada, as well as from Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The UCLA Animation Workshop (along with the UCLA Film & Television Archive) and Carleton University (with the Ottawa Animation Festival) put in bids to host the first SAS Conference, which took place in 1989 at UCLA. (Carleton hosted the 1990 conference).”
SAS, through its annual conferences and newsletter, has not only provided a focus for animation studies, but has led to papers and articles on animation appearing more regularly at academic conferences and scholarly journals. It also led to the publication of the first peer reviewed publication in the field: Animation Journal (founded by SAS member Maureen Furniss).
There are now several journals dedicated to animation, not least Animation Studies, the society’s own Open Access peer reviewed journal, and the Open Access blog Animation Studies 2.0. Even at the early conferences there was a wide range of topics being covered – there was a lot of history to catch up with. (This can be found in the past conference archive on the site here).
Membership numbers have grown steadily ever since that first SAS conference in 1989, demonstrating how much demand there is for such a group. Over the past three conferences we have seen our membership swell to include over 350 individuals worldwide. Though we often still feel neglected in comparison to film studies we have made great strides in such a short time fulfilling many of Harvey’s goals of publications, conferences, web forums and the dissemination of quality research. We expect to increase these activities over the next few years. With new forms of outreach through our website and social networking the Society for Animation Studies has surely become the first port of call for anyone interested in animation scholarship in its many forms.