Kirsten Moana Thompson is Professor and Director of Film Studies at Seattle University. Previously, she taught at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand and Wayne State University in Detroit. She teaches and writes on animation and color studies, as well as New Zealand and Pacific studies,classical Hollywood cinema and German cinema. She is the author of Apocalyptic Dread: American Cinema at the Turn of the Millennium (SUNY Press, 2007); Crime Films: Investigating the Scene (Wallflower, 2007); and co-editor with Terri Ginsberg of Perspectives on German Cinema (GK Hall: NY, 1996). She is currently working on several new books including Color, Visual Culture and Animation.
Areas of professional expertise: animation, color aesthetics, classical and contemporary American cinema, media archaeology, American studies, Pacific studies, German cinema, New Zealand, visual culture.
When we think of animation, we often recall the colors of childhood: the bright green sneer of the Grinch, the rich red poisoned apple in Snow White, the saturated hues of toys and candy in Monsters Inc. or Toy Story. A key device for the expression of mood, personality and character, color is one of the most emotionally powerful elements in our experience of the motion picture, and its expressivity and vibrancy have long fascinated philosophers, artists and scientists. Walt Disney believed that color was essential for animated realism, but color also plays a powerful role in our imagination. Long before The Wizard of Oz and other films with distinctive color palettes, Disney’s Technicolor cartoons played a pioneering role in color cinematography, and even before his innovations in the 1930s, animated color was part of film’s earliest history: indeed animation predated cinema as optical toys and magic lanterns. Although there has been some attention by animation scholars to color technology, there has been little discussion of color’s philosophical or affective dimensions, and no research into animation’s place in a broader visual history of color.
Stimulated by the emergence of color studies my research asks: what role did animation play in the transformation of popular culture through the arrival of synthetic color in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries?
Some of my recent work..... (click to go to links)
“Classical Cel Animation, World War Two and Bambi, 1939-1945.” American Film History: Selected Reading: Origins to 1960, eds. Cynthia Lucia, Art Simon and Roy Grundmann. New York: Blackwell, 2015: 311-325.
“Animating Ephemeral Surfaces: Transparency, Translucency and Disney's World of Color.” Refractory: A Journal of Entertainment Media. vol. 24. (June) 2014, http://refractory.unimelb.edu.au/2014/08/06/thompson/
“ ‘Quick-- Like a Bunny !’ The Ink and Paint Machine, Female Labor and Color Production.” Animation Studies, vol. 9. February (2014). http://journal.animationstudies.org/kirsten-thompson-quick-like-a-bunny/
My recent writing and teaching assess the surprising cross-mediations between Hollywood’s visual archive of the Pacific and contemporary Pacific filmmaking, tourism and visual culture. For example, in my essay “The Construction of a Myth: Bloody Mary, Aggie Grey and the Optics of Tourism,” I trace the career of Aggie Grey, an iconic hotelier in Samoa (widely believed to be one of the models for James Michener’s notorious character Bloody Mary), connecting her to a fictional character in the Broadway musical and movie South Pacific and discussing her career in relation to postwar changes in film production, tourism and air travel in the Pacific.
I have been proud to teach the first classes on Pacific cinema offered at Seattle and Victoria University, situating settler films like The Romance of Hinemoa (Gustav Pauli, 1927), or White Shadows of the South Seas (W.S. Van Dyke, 1928) within longer histories of American, French, British and German imperial expansion and competition in the region. My teaching explores the representation of the Pacific in American and indigenous literature, cinema, travelogues and postwar tourism. I teach Pacific directors like Lee Tamahori (Once Were Warriors) and Tusi Tamasese (The Orator/O Le Tulafale, Samoa), photographers like Shigeyuki Kihara (Fa’afafine; In the Manner of a Woman), and writers like Epeli Hau’ofa (Tales of the Tikongs) whose work engages with the history of these colonial representations.
Some of my publications in this area...
Gender on the Edge: Transgender, Gay, and Other Pacific Islanders, eds. Niko Besnier and Kalissa Alexeyeff. Honolulu: University of Hawaii, 2014 rev. in Journal of NZ and Pacific Studies. 4.1(June 2016): 91-93.
(Click on titles to download)
I was the cofounder of Visual Culture, an interdisciplinary group of scholars from English, History, Languages, Pacific Studies, Film and Media Studies and other disciplines which helped to organize three annual conferences and two exhibitions at the Adam Art Gallery at Victoria University and other work at Wayne State University. I continue to be committed to interdisciplinary research and collaboration at Seattle University, as well as theories, practices and modes of visuality.