Mickey Mouse, Betty Boop, Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny, Felix the Cat, and other beloved cartoon characters have entertained media audiences for almost a century, outliving the human stars who were once their contemporaries in studio-era Hollywood. In Animated Personalities, David McGowan asserts that iconic American theatrical short cartoon characters should be legitimately regarded as stars, equal to their live-action counterparts, not only because they have enjoyed long careers, but also because their star personas have been created and marketed in ways also used for cinematic celebrities.
Drawing on detailed archival research, McGowan analyzes how Hollywood studios constructed and manipulated the star personas of the animated characters they owned. He shows how cartoon actors frequently kept pace with their human counterparts, granting “interviews,” allowing “candid” photographs, endorsing products, and generally behaving as actual actors did—for example, Donald Duck served his country during World War II, and Mickey Mouse was even embroiled in scandal. Challenging the notion that studios needed actors with physical bodies and real off-screen lives to create stars, McGowan demonstrates that media texts have successfully articulated an off-screen existence for animated characters. Following cartoon stars from silent movies to contemporary film and television, this groundbreaking book broadens the scope of star studies to include animation, concluding with provocative questions about the nature of stardom in an age of digitally enhanced filmmaking technologies.
"This excellent book is destined to be a classic in the field of animation studies. I have enjoyed every minute of reading it. By looking at stardom as a concept in relation to animated characters, it strengthens our understanding of the idea of stardom within cinema studies. The book also plays a hugely important role in understanding what actually brought audiences to the cinema in the first place. This is groundbreaking research and should broaden our understanding of cinema history as a whole, not just animated or live-action cinema history."
Amy M. Davis, University of Hull, author of Handsome Heroes Vile Villains: Men in Disney’s Feature Animation
"McGowan’s argument that animated characters can and should be considered stars is both original and timely. This book will provide a distinctive and much-needed contribution to film studies."
Malcolm Cook, University of Southampton, author of Early British Animation: From Page and Stage to Cinema Screens
"[A] never less than fascinating analysis of the lives of animated actors, separate from their performances…this book excels as a fascinating history of who these celluloid celebrities were."