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TV & Film

Fantasy/Animation

Updated 23 days ago

TV & Film
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Christopher Holliday researches animation history and digital media at King's College London (UK). Alexander Sergeant is a Lecturer in Film and Media Studies at University of Portsmouth (UK), specialising in the history and theory of fantasy cinema. Each episode, they look in detail at a film or television show, taking listeners on a journey through the intersection between fantasy cinema and the medium of animation.

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Christopher Holliday researches animation history and digital media at King's College London (UK). Alexander Sergeant is a Lecturer in Film and Media Studies at University of Portsmouth (UK), specialising in the history and theory of fantasy cinema. Each episode, they look in detail at a film or television show, taking listeners on a journey through the intersection between fantasy cinema and the medium of animation.

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Fantasy/Animation

Latest release on Nov 23, 2020

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Christopher Holliday researches animation history and digital media at King's College London (UK). Alexander Sergeant is a Lecturer in Film and Media Studies at University of Portsmouth (UK), specialising in the history and theory of fantasy cinema. Each episode, they look in detail at a film or television show, taking listeners on a journey through the intersection between fantasy cinema and the medium of animation.

Episode 62 - James Bond Title Sequences (1962-2015) (with Ed Lamberti) (Part 2)

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The names Bond…James Bond in Episodes 61 and 62, as Chris and Alex tackle the official Eon James Bond 007 film series by casting their eyes over a longstanding staple of the franchise - the celebrated credits sequences. Beginning with Dr. No (Terence Young, 1962) and culminating in Spectre (Sam Mendes, 2015), listen as they place in rank order their ‘Top 24’ title sequences, judging their audiovisual spectacle, structural elements and broader connections to traditions in animated fantasy (Part 1 focuses on Bond films #24 to #13, while Part 2 counts down from #12 to their #1 ranked 007 title sequence). Joining them for this extended double-header is Dr. Ed Lamberti, an independent researcher in Film Studies who has been a teaching assistant at King's College London, a screenwriting mentor at the London Film School, and who is currently Policy Manager at the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). In 2019, Ed published his monograph Performing Ethics through Film Style, which discusses the ethics of Emmanuel Levinas alongside films directed by the Dardenne Brothers, Barbet Schroeder and Paul Schrader. He is also the editor of Behind the Scenes at the BBFC: Film Classification from the Silver Screen to the Digital Age (2012), and the assistant editor of the upcoming V. F. Perkins on Movies: Collected Shorter Film Criticism (2020). Listen as the trio examine elements of design, movement, rhythm and pacing in the Bond titles; the gendered imaginaries and Anglophonic fantasies of race that support the sequences’ progress of imagery; authorial figures such as Maurice Binder, Robert Brownjohn, and Daniel Kleinman; questions of coherency and the relation between image and soundtrack; and the broader structural role of the credits across the Bond series. Quite simply, nobody does it better.

Nov 23 2020

1hr 12mins

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Episode 61 - James Bond Title Sequences (1962-2015) (with Ed Lamberti) (Part 1)

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The names Bond…James Bond in Episodes 61 and 62, as Chris and Alex tackle the official Eon James Bond 007 film series by casting their eyes over a longstanding staple of the franchise - the celebrated credits sequences. Beginning with Dr. No (Terence Young, 1962) and culminating in Spectre (Sam Mendes, 2015), listen as they place in rank order their ‘Top 24’ title sequences, judging their audiovisual spectacle, structural elements and broader connections to traditions in animated fantasy (Part 1 focuses on Bond films #24 to #13, while Part 2 counts down from #12 to their #1 ranked 007 title sequence). Joining them for this extended double-header is Dr. Ed Lamberti, an independent researcher in Film Studies who has been a teaching assistant at King's College London, a screenwriting mentor at the London Film School, and who is currently Policy Manager at the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). In 2019, Ed published his monograph Performing Ethics through Film Style, which discusses the ethics of Emmanuel Levinas alongside films directed by the Dardenne Brothers, Barbet Schroeder and Paul Schrader. He is also the editor of Behind the Scenes at the BBFC: Film Classification from the Silver Screen to the Digital Age (2012), and the assistant editor of the upcoming V. F. Perkins on Movies: Collected Shorter Film Criticism (2020). Listen as the trio examine elements of design, movement, rhythm and pacing in the Bond titles; the gendered imaginaries and Anglophonic fantasies of race that support the sequences’ progress of imagery; authorial figures such as Maurice Binder, Robert Brownjohn, and Daniel Kleinman; questions of coherency and the relation between image and soundtrack; and the broader structural role of the credits across the Bond series. Quite simply, nobody does it better.

Nov 23 2020

1hr 25mins

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Episode 60 - Christopher Robin (Marc Forster, 2018)

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Heffalumps and Woozles take centre stage for Episode 60 of the podcast, as Chris and Alex take a trip deep into Hundred Acre Wood to confront Christopher Robin (Marc Forster, 2018) (not to be confused with the earlier A.A. Milne biography Goodbye Christopher Robin [Simon Curtis, 2017]…), and its pleasures of nostalgia. For this latest Listeners’ Choice, they discuss the role of illustration and illusionism in relation to Disney’s earlier Winnie the Pooh animated adaptations; how imagination and impossibility manages the film’s treatment of childhood fantasies, and the extent to which this is mirrored in elements of Christopher Robin’s digital/analogue production; the politics of niceness and the film’s gestures to a Trump-era “nicecore” cinema that delights in kindness and the intrinsic value of ‘being good’; the construction of a malleable, fluid virtual urban space to form bricolage architecture (particularly in its CG portrayal of postwar London); what Christopher Robin has to say about coming back to family, returning home, and simply seeing the world differently; and how doing nothing often leads to the very best kind of something.

Nov 09 2020

1hr 17mins

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Episode 59 - Sherlock Jr. (1924) (with Peter Adamson)

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Episode 59 heralds Chris and Alex’s first foray into silent film comedy via the work of performer Buster Keaton, looking at his feature Sherlock Jr. (Buster Keaton, 1924) that celebrates the dreams and psychology of a movie theatre projectionist. Joining them as the lights go down is Peter Adamson, Professor of Late Ancient and Arabic Philosophy at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) in Münich and King's College London, and host of the successful History of Philosophy without any gaps podcast that examines the “ideas, lives and historical context” of both major philosophers and more lesser-known figures. From Buster Keaton’s gag structures to the unruliness and absurdity of early nickelodeon audiences, this episode of the Fantasy/Animation podcast covers distinctions between theatrical vaudeville performance and the ‘staging’ of action afforded by the film medium; how Sherlock Jr. relates to classical film theory’s post-romantic emphasis on dreams and psychology to explain the emotion and aesthetic experience of moviegoing; experiments with editing and the power of the ’cut’ in Keaton’s comedy; the cyclical arrangement of comic narrative structures; Keaton’s expressive relationship to both silent-era animation stars (such as Felix the Cat) and the sentimentality of contemporaries like Charlie Chaplin; and how Sherlock Jr. offers the potential to think through the division between ‘film philosophy’ and ‘philosophical cinema.’

Oct 26 2020

1hr 13mins

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Episode 58 - Roobarb (and Custard) (1974) (with Birgitta Hosea)

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The anarchy and artistry of British television animation provides the springboard for Episode 58 of the Fantasy/Animation podcast, which welcomes London-based media artist, animator and curator Professor Birgitta Hosea (who is also the Director of the Animation Research Centre at the University for the Creative Arts) to talk about Roobarb (Grange Calveley, 1974) directed by English animator Bob Godfrey. Godfrey’s particular connections to the UCA (he established the Animation course at the university back in 1969) were the subject of the recent Cartoon Animation - Satire and Subversion event earlier this year that examined the animated medium’s more radical histories through Godfrey’s surrealistic and pointed creations. For this episode, listen as Chris and Alex join with Birgitta to identify Godfrey’s particular relationship to political cartoons in Britain, notwithstanding his marginal and underrated status within animation history. Other topics include the honesty and transformative energy of cel-animation embodied in the programme’s streaky, “boiling” aesthetic; the importance of white cartoon space within the visual style of Roobarb, and how this connects to traditions of overdetermining/underdetermining with fantasy storytelling; questions of imperfection in relation to the very technology of drawing; the power of Richard Briers’ voiceover and anthropomorphic characterisation; and what Calveley’s cartoon tells us about the way self-reflexivity can - and does - operate in the animated fantasy.

***To donate to The Bob Godfrey Collection, please click here***

Oct 12 2020

1hr 11mins

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Episode 57 - Rango (2011) (with Neil Brand)

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Performer, composer, silent film accompanist and television presenter Neil Brand is the special guest joining Chris and Alex for Episode 57 of the podcast, which celebrates the musical beats and Mariachi owls of Rango (Gore Verbinski, 2011). Listen as they discuss how this curious 2011 computer-animated film revels in the power of telling tales alongside its broader relationship to folk ballads; Rango’s cinephilic evocation of canonical Hollywood Westerns and U.S. cinema history; themes of ambition, isolation, and aimlessness, and how this ties into a film whose existentialist narrative is predicated on the question of inevitability; Rango’s musical score that functions as a bridge between landscape and character; and what Gore Verbinski’s film tells us about what audiences might want from contemporary fantasy/animation (namely highly sophisticated anarchy rather than structures that organise, and a fantasy better realised onscreen that we can ever imagine!).

Sep 28 2020

1hr 22mins

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Episode 56 - Bright (David Ayer, 2017)

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The latest Listeners’ Choice episode sees Chris and Alex turn to Netflix and the much-maligned yet curiously provocative feature film Bright (David Ayer, 2017), whose narrative of racism, police corruption and latent magical forces is set against the backdrop of an alternate fantasy vision of contemporary Los Angeles. With a budget of $90 million, Ayer’s social discourse via fantasy (the script was written by Max Landis) was critically-derided despite being Netflix’s most downloaded feature within its first week of release. There is certainly much to say about Bright’s heavy use of metaphor that points a number of fingers at systemic violence and racial hegemony through themes of respect, tolerance and acceptance. Listen as the discussion in Episode 56 takes in Bright’s evocation of Hollywood buddy movie story structures and the popular police procedural; categories of the fantastic, the allegoric and the parodic, and how allegory functions as a deconstructive impulse against fantasy’s pursuit of reconstruction; the depiction of Elftown and the film’s portrayal of whiteness; Orc clan politics, Will Smith’s racial coding and the role of the Other; and how Bright offers a complicated - and, at times, highly uneven - possible world that presents its modern urban fantasy setting as a social class commentary.

Sep 14 2020

1hr 13mins

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Episode 55 - Hugo (2011) (with Eric Smoodin)

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Chris and Alex dust off their knowledge of early film history for Episode 55 as they examine Martin Scorsese’s adventure Hugo (2011), a playful mystery set in 1930s Paris that takes audiences through the special effects and spectacular stagecraft of pioneering filmmaker Georges Méliès. Joining Chris and Alex amid the architecture of the Gare Montparnasse is Eric Smoodin, Professor of American Studies and Cinema and Technocultural Studies at the University of California, who has published monographs and edited collections on Walt Disney, Frank Capra and Hollywood film history, as well as a new book Paris in the Dark: Going to the Movies in the City of Light, 1930–1950 (Duke University Press, 2020) that sketches a picture of French film culture of the 1930s and 1940s. Listen as they situate Hugo within the history of cine-clubs, cinéphile subcultures and local exhibition practices of early twentieth-century Paris; the significance of Méliès as a filmmaker within the entwined genealogies of fantasy and animation; the pleasures of digital artificiality and VFX fakery in Scorsese’s historical depiction of the French capital; the intertextual invitations made by the film to the spectatorial experience; the interrelationship between cinema as a machine, animation, and the automaton; and how Hugo offers a lavish - if highly imagined and typically conservative - 3D vision of early filmgoing as a powerful unifying force.

Aug 31 2020

1hr 12mins

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Episode 54 - Watchmen (2009) (with Drew Morton)

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In an alternate 1985, Chris and Alex sit down to watch the recent comic book feature film Watchmen (Zach Snyder, 2009), a neo-noir/superhero blockbuster that adapts the popular DC Comics series for the big screen. They are joined in this Cold War-era tale of Soviet Union-United States relations by Drew Morton, Associate Professor of Mass Communication at Texas A&M University, Texarkana, and author of Panel to the Screen: Style, American Film, and Comic Books During the Blockbuster Era (University Press of Mississippi, 2016), as well as a number of articles and chapters on motion comics, media convergence and comic book adaptation. Topics up for discussion in Episode 54 include Watchmen’s pivotal place within Hollywood comic book feature films of the 2000s; formal issues in adaptation and the graphic decompression of time and space; digital technology and the spectacle of Baroque aesthetics (including director Zach Snyder’s balletic slow-motion visual style); the film’s depiction of psychologically repressed superheroes and noir-esque vigilantism; and how Watchmen presents a crucial case study for thinking about the movement of media products within a broader transmedia flow

Aug 17 2020

1hr 17mins

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Episode 53 - Pan's Labyrinth (2006) (with Deborah Shaw)

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Episode 53 journeys into the irregular and twisting world of Spanish fantasy cinema, with Chris and Alex joined in their discussion of Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, 2006) by Deborah Shaw, Professor of Film and Screen Studies at the University of Portsmouth, and a specialist in Latin American cinema whose publications include The Three Amigos: The Transnational Filmmaking of Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro González Iñárritu, and Alfonso Cuarón (Manchester University Press, 2013), as well as the edited collections The Transnational Fantasies of Guillermo del Toro (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), and Latin American Women Filmmakers: Production, Politics, Poetics (I. B. Tauris, 2017). Topics up for examination this episode include the potency and power of the film’s national-historical setting, and its knotted relationship with the perennial allegory of Fascism; the narrative role of magic and belief within the construction of villainy and antagonism; the ‘monstrosity’ of Guillermo del Toro’s VFX and the formal style of its monstrous aesthetics; the rhythmical dimension of how del Toro treats time, chronology and history; and the global circulation of Pan’s Labyrinth that is enabled by its palatable mainstream vocabulary of CGI and populist effects imagery.

Aug 03 2020

1hr 6mins

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Episode 52 - Persepolis (2007)

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For the first in a special series of listener selections, Episode 52 has Chris and Alex get to grips with Persepolis (Vincent Paronnaud & Marjane Satrapi, 2007), taking inspiration from social media suggestions that were submitted around the broader theme of diversity and inclusion. Adapted from Marjane Satrapi’s own autobiographical graphic novels Persepolis and Persepolis 2 (originally published in November 2000), Persepolis provides a stark - and often humorous - depiction of national trauma told through Marji’s own experience as she navigates the Iranian Revolution and overthrow of the Shah regime and Pahlavi dynasty; is exiled to Austria, before returning to Iran where she marries (and divorces); and climaxes with her arrival into France. Listen as Chris and Alex discuss Persepolis’ vexed relationship to the animated documentary (and its critical categorisation); discourses of Orientalism and the depiction of intrusive Western culture; the ambivalence of animated space and the black-and-white style of the film’s comic book aesthetic; how Persepolis might be understood as an example of the “dark fantastic”; and what Paronnaud and Satrapi’s film tells us about animation’s wider ability to bear the weight of social reality,

Jul 20 2020

1hr 15mins

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Episode 51 - Beetlejuice (1988) (with Jingan Young)

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Episode 51 travels back to the late-1980s to look closely at Beetlejuice (Tim Burton, 1988), a film that uses stop-motion, practical effects, prosthetics, make-up and bluescreen to complete its fantasy story of netherworlds, outsiderdom and life after death. Joining Chris and Alex is special guest Jingan Young, playwright, screenwriter, journalist and academic who is the editor of ‘Foreign Goods’ (the first collection of British Chinese plays published in the UK) and a regular contributor to The Guardian and Hong Kong Free Press, who has also recently completed a PhD in Film Studies at King’s College London. Listen as they discuss the tonally abrasive qualities of Tim Burton’s film and its shifts into haunted house horror; narratives of conquest, and how this connects to Beetlejuice’s take on white privilege and U.S. national identity; Michael Keaton’s performance and the figure of the trickster; the racialised use of music and questions of neo-minstrelsy; and how the film’s satirical-political edge gives the animated fantasy a bit of extra bite.

Jul 06 2020

1hr 13mins

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Episode 50 - Princess Mononoke (1997) (with Rayna Denison)

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For the podcast’s half century, Chris and Alex tackle a tale of rising tensions between nature and culture, gods and humans, by looking at Studio Ghibli’s animated fantasy feature Princess Mononoke (Hayao Miyazaki, 1997). Joining us in this battle of tradition and modernity is anime scholar Dr. Rayna Denison, Senior Lecturer in the School of Art, Media and American Studies at UEA, and author and editor of a number of books, chapters and articles on Japanese animated cinema. These include Anime: A Critical Introduction (2015) and, more recently, an anthology of essays on Princess Mononoke (2018). Listen as they discuss the exchange between the supernatural and historical fantasy (including the film’s dialogue with jidai-geki period cinema); the framing of fantasy as a form of intrusive modernity to identify threats to the magic of nature made by industrialisation; the formal overlaps between director Hayao Miyazaki and filmmaker Yasujirō Ozu through their stylistic evocation of the environment; ferocious female representation and the depiction of gendered labour; Princess Mononoke’s relationship to traditions of narrative ‘thinning’ within fantasy storytelling; and how the film’s use of digital imagery (including its application of the ‘Toonshader’ software) can be used to understand Studio Ghibli’s ambivalent relationship to computer graphics during the 1990s.

As mentioned in the episode introduction, please visit the recent Fantasy/Animation blog post that offers a significant range of resources that amplify non-White voices and celebrate the creative and scholarly achievements of people of colour. These sources support vital conversations around diversity and inclusion that we will continue to hold across the website, blog and podcast.

Jun 22 2020

1hr 15mins

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Episode 49 (Bonus) - Live from Portsmouth Bookfest (Q&A with Graham Humphreys)

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Recorded live at the Portsmouth Bookfest on Tuesday 25th February 2020, this bonus episode of the podcast has Alex flying solo as he interviews artist and illustrator Graham Humphreys, best known for designing the iconic film posters for horror features The Evil Dead (Sam Raimi, 1981) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984). Tune in to hear Graham reflect on his forty years of experience working in graphic illustration as one of the UK’s celebrated poster artists, and introduce his new book Hung, Drawn and Executed (2019) that collects together his artwork, paintings, drawings and colour studies.

Jun 16 2020

1hr 19mins

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Episode 48 - Waterworld (1995) (with Simon Brew)

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Episode 48 is a mid-1990s feast of action, water, and a drenched Kevin Costner, as Chris and Alex attempt to stay afloat for their visit to Waterworld (Kevin Reynolds, 1995), the ill-fated post-apocalyptic action adventure that has earned its place in U.S. film history seemingly for all the wrong reasons. The special guest for this instalment is Simon Brew - founder and editor at Film Stories magazine/podcast - who joins Chris and Alex to discuss the pleasures of high-concept blockbuster filmmaking in the 1990s; Waterworld’s notoriously troubled production that dominated the Hollywood trade press before, during and after its release; the industrial context shaping Reynold’s film (including its application of physical sets in an era of encroaching digital technology and computer animation); the challenges of world-building on water; VFX connoisseurship and audience reception; and how the environmentalist discourse regarding melting polar ice caps pushes the Waterworld away from disaster/science-fiction territory and into science fact.

Jun 08 2020

1hr 12mins

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Episode 47 - Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)

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Episode 47 bobs along on the bottom of the beautiful briny sea, with Chris and Alex gliding far below the rolling tideand through the bubbly blue and green for this latest episode of the podcast, which this week looks at musical fantasy Bedknobs and Broomsticks (Robert Stevenson, 1971). In addition to the film’s political agenda and 1940s wartime setting, the discussion also takes in both the Hollywood cinema and Disney Feature Animation contexts (including its formal resemblances to Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book); what Bedknobs and Broomsticks’ depiction of an illusory and imaginary London means for the organisation of fantasy against its fictional reality; the integration of musical numbers and questions of utopia; national identity and the representation of Nazism; the variant relationships between animation and sport as equally stylised practices; and how Robert Stevenson’s film gestures to postwar British cinema and the “spiv” cycle. Oh, and there’s a couple of references to Bruce Forsyth too.

May 25 2020

1hr 11mins

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Episode 46 - Aladdin (2019) (with Myles Robey)

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For Episode 46, Chris and Alex take a magic carpet ride through the pleasures and problems of the recent musical fantasy Aladdin (Guy Ritchie, 2019). Joining them for a discussion of exactly how (and indeed if) it adapts Disney’s highly successful 1992 cel-animated musical is the film’s VFX Editor Myles Robey, whose work also includes the Harry Potter franchise and feature films Skyfall, Muppets Most Wanted, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and the recent 1917. Listen as they examine the production pipeline of a Hollywood blockbuster, including Previs, Postvis and the development of “Sketchvis” approaches in Ritchie’s remake; the application of live-action footage as a visual effect within a heavily digital feature; the logic of location shooting and the ‘grounding’ of computer graphics; Aladdin’s connections to the Classical Hollywood musical and its spectacle of staging; and the relationship between Will Smith’s star persona and screen performance.

May 11 2020

1hr 19mins

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Episode 45 - Hercules (1997) (with Edith Hall)

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Bless my soul, we are definitely on a roll with Episode 45 of the Fantasy/Animation podcast, which continues the Disney Renaissance theme in its take on Hercules (Ron Clements and John Musker, 1997). To make sense of the visual culture of antiquity manifest in Disney’s cel-animated musical fantasy and its adaptation of Greek myth, Chris and Alex are joined by Edith Hall, Professor of Classics at King’s College London and a specialist in ancient Greek literature and cultural history. Listen as they discuss the film’s reworking of Hercules, Hades and Philoctetes alongside questions of tragedy, comedy and images of slavery; its combination of celebrity culture with Greek heroism and masculinity; the politics of Disneyfication operating in Hercules as a process situated between authenticity and animated representation; the visual character designs of British political cartoonist Gerard Scarfe; and its exhibitionist use of computer graphics in its portrayal of the multi-headed Hydra.

Apr 27 2020

1hr 1min

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Episode 44 - The Emperor's New Groove (2000) (with Astrid Goldsmith)

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Voted for by the Fantasy/Animation community on social media as the inaugural #feelgoodfananim, Episode 44 of the podcast looks at the Walt Disney studio’s cel-animated feature The Emperor's New Groove (Mark Dindal, 2000). Chris and Alex are also joined by their very first returning guest, award-winning animator Astrid Goldsmith (a.k.a. Mock Duck Studios), to discuss the troubled production history, buddy narrative and anarchic comic structures of a film that marked a seismic formal shift in the familiar Disney style. Or did it? Listen as the trio make their way through The Emperor’s New Groove’s adherence to the Disney formula and its ambiguous relationship to the Disney Renaissance, while remembering the landscape of Hollywood animation in the 1990s where the film began life as “The Kingdom of the Sun”. Other topics include the fantasy of The Emperor’s New Groove’s strongly self-reflexive register and complex use of voiceover narration; character design, anthropomorphism and talking llamas; and what happens if you pull the wrong lever.

To all our listeners, stay safe and remember, no touchy!

Apr 13 2020

1hr 13mins

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Episode 43 - Dungeons & Dragons (1983-1985)

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Take a trip on a magic theme park ride with a Ranger, Barbarian, Magician, Thief, Cavalier and Acrobat as Chris and Alex turn once again to the small screen, this time to discuss Dungeons & Dragons (Kevin Paul Coates, Dennis Marks and Takashi, 1983-1985). Premiering on American television with CBS and animated by Japanese company Toei Animation, Dungeons & Dragons is a high fantasy cel-animated series that follows the tribulations of six young children as they strive to escape from a mythical realm. They are guided on their quest by the Dungeon Master, who allocates each of the characters a key role in the battle against evil forces, embodied by the wizard Venger and a five-headed dragon Tiamat. Topics include the structures of serial narration and worldbuilding, and how these elements map onto the real-world Dungeons & Dragons game as a set of props; the issue of ‘play’ both inside and outside the programme as part of its broader ludic impulse; the series’ ‘limited’ cartoonal style (including traditions in Syncro-Vox voice production); and the pleasure in fantasy storytelling of simply going along for the ride.

Mar 30 2020

1hr 18mins

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