"Touching the Unreal" follows the structure set out by Scott McCloud in Understanding Comics to argue that understanding cartoons is serious business and requires that we define the art form, outline its basic tenets, and theorize how the mind understands it. The dissertation argues for a new definition of 3D computer generated cartoons, beginning with the most basic definition applicable to all forms of animation and taking into account new technological developments before arriving at the 3D cartoon narratives of today. The dissertation outlines the basic facets of 3D cartoon narratives in terms of narrative and aesthetics, arguing that, in spite of the technological changes required to produce the art form, narrative strategies have not changed significantly from 2D to 3D cartoon narratives. Rather, the 3D cartoon narrative aesthetic is focused primarily on synthetic, sculptural materiality to create a tactile, haptic viewing experience unavailable in any other form of animation. The dissertation advances theories of how the mind understands 3D cartoon narratives, starting with how these films guide the spectator to pre-determined conclusions based on character identification, flow theory, and mirror-neuron cognition. As a result of their narrative, aesthetics, and reception, these films constitute a new form of posthumanism and operate as a node in the modern viewer's web of distributed cognition, enchanting viewers through the ability to touch the unreal, synthetic images common to the modern world. "Touching the Unreal" contributes to the media field by providing a definition for 3D computer animation in all of its facets as genre, narrative, aesthetics, and ideology.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Texts and Technology
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Campus-only Access)
Snow, Nathan, "Touching the Unreal: The Definition, Narrative Strategies, and Aesthetics of 3D Cartoon Narratives." (2018). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 5910.