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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Jacqueline Ristola, Film and Moving Image Studies

Cartoon Networks: Animation and Conglomeration From Turner to AT&T

Monday, August 8, 2022 (all day)

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Daniela Ferrer



When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


This dissertation examines how the aesthetics of popular American television animation transformed as its distribution shifted from cable to digital platforms across eras of media conglomeration from the 1990s to the present. I argue that the understudied object of television animation offers new perspectives on the history of the American television industry. To accomplish this task, I use the methodology of 'looking for loops' to trace the media logic of media conglomerates as they manifest in cultural production. This dissertation focuses specifically on animation made for television, typically called limited animation, as the production of this specific form of animation is indelibly entwined with its distribution on the medium of television. Logics of conglomeration here refer to specific assumptions that shape media production within conglomerate structures.

Chapter 1 analyzes American trade press archives to illustrate how animation's transition from film to television in the 1950s radically altered animation aesthetics. It demonstrate how television animation's 'limited animation' techniques' responsible for television animation's signature look' created archives of footage that content-hungry cable networks could remix in the 1990s. Chapter 2 discusses the popular animation cable channel Cartoon Network over its history from the 1990s to the mid-2000s in order to analyze how content curators develop animated worlds to facilitate intellectual property cross-overs in the U.S. and Mexico. Chapter 3 analyzes press reports and platform interfaces to demonstrate how corporate strategy in the streaming era of the 2010s restructures the production and distribution of animated programs. Chapter 4 symptomatically reads cultural production under conglomerate ownership of AT&T, tracing how these productions reflect corporate ambitions and anxieties around digital media distribution. The conclusion ends the dissertation by situating animation's role in what tech and media giants project as the future of media: the 'metaverse' It demonstrates how animation helps realize these ideas of virtual space, using platform studies and queer phenomenology to argue that the metaverse expands animation into a framework for building media platforms.

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