Then and Now: 100 Years of Independent Animated Documentary

By Melissa Ferrari July 20th, 2018 marks the 100 year anniversary of the first animated documentary, Winsor McCay’s The Sinking of the Lusitania in 1918. In celebration of 100 years of this genre, we take a look back at McCay’s masterpiece and celebrate some of the fantastic independent animated documentaries that have since been featured at the Slamdance Film Festival. While the question of veracity remains a point of contention for nonfiction animators even today, the genre pioneered by Winsor McCay still allows for vast creative potential. Practically, animation is a particularly invaluable tool for independent and DIY makers. While the conventional live-action documentary might turn to archival imaging or the daunting task of creating a tasteful live action re-enactment, animated documentarians can single-handedly depict any time, person, or place in the past, present, or future with just a pencil and paper. The use of animation has a variety of advantages: animations can convey what can’t be captured photographically while still providing compelling, emotional imagery. Filmmakers can depict events that aren’t physically visible to the eye, historical events that weren’t captured on film, vulnerable documentary subjects that need to maintain anonymity, events that take place in the mind (such as emotions or dreams), or even speculative futures. As an independent animated documentary, The Sinking of...

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