Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Paul Messaris


Animation has risen from a commercially and aesthetically marginalized medium to one that is gaining recognition as an art form worthy of adult appreciation. Three realms of this recognition are: the Museum of Modern Art's film department, which has supported animation in a variety of ways since its inception in 1935; exhibitions of the art contributing to Disney animation, which began in 1932; the market for artworks related to animation, which has grown from early gallery sales in the late 1930s to a broad base of collectors in the 1980s and 1990s. Exhibit materials, critical reviews, news coverage, and interviews with animation art market participants provided a basis to analyze these sites of aesthetic legitimation in terms of the barriers to acceptance animation faced, the strategies employed to overcome them, and the effects of legitimacy on the current state of animation. Curators, critics, and dealers have overcome prejudices that animation is merely a children's mass medium by locating original pieces of production art within animation that are like fine art. Some have argued that animation's basis in technology and mass production should not disqualify it from serious attention as art, nor should emotional satisfaction be a lesser aspect of aesthetic appreciation than disinterested analysis of form. Whereas commercially produced animation has gained both respect and economic vitality, independent and foreign animation has primarily gained prestige within the boundaries of festivals, museums, and art house theaters.