World Festival of Animated Film /
3 to 8 June 2024
World Festival of Animated Film / 3 to 8 June 2024
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ANIMAFEST PRO | ANIMAFEST SCANNER XI | Panel 3: Humor in Animation

Discovering Queerdom and the Mystery of the First LGBTQ Animated Comedy - Jeremy Speed-Schwartz (United States)

05/06 WED 11:30-12:00 KIC

LGBTQ+ representations in animation exist throughout the history of cinema, but often marginalize queer characters as brief jokes or put-downs. By 1940 many of these representations had ceased completely due, in part, to the Hayes Code in the United States. A memo written in response to an animated short in 1934, code enforcer Joseph Breen wrote ‘in this office, we insist that any reference whatever to effeminate types be taken out.’ Increasingly authoritarian governments in many countries with animation industries further limited expression of homosexuality internationally. Animation’s growing association with children as an audience through the 1950s and 60s further made queer representations scarce. With the end of the Hayes Code in 1968, there was greater allowance for representation of queer characters in American-made animation. This coincided with a rise in film festivals focused on animation, which presented an opportunity for independent shorts to find an audience looking for experimental, political, and subversive works. In the wake of the Lenny Bruce-narrated short Thank You Mask Man (1971), and Fritz the Cat (1972) new forms of animated comedy emerged that deconstructed society’s views of gender and sexuality, often based on improvised or live-recorded soundtracks. Queerdom (1978) reflects these trends while centralizing a queer character for the first time in animation. The short features a man questioning his sexuality and beginning a relationship with another man, all told with a stream-of-consciousness narration. The film’s credits are deliberately obscured, making it difficult to identify everyone involved in production. This paper uncovers the production crew behind Queerdom and the often-unseen connections between the commercial animation industry, standup comedy, and pornographic cinema. The production of Queerdom traces a path from Pyongyang to New York to Zagreb, and tells a story of outsider art, politics, and edgy comedy that run through Queerdom’s 20-year production history.

Jeremy Speed Schwartz is an animator, historian and interactive artist. He is the director of The Museum of Animation, an organization dedicated to teaching the techniques and history of animation in all its various forms. As a founding member of the art collective ‘The League of Imaginary Scientists’, Jeremy has created animated and interactive work for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, The Art Museum at the University of Memphis, and the Sundance Institute. Jeremy is the co-author of the upcoming edition of A New History of Animation from Thames and Hudson. He lives in Atlanta, GA and teaches at Kennesaw State University.