Eisenstein on Disney
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Eisenstein on Disney (1986) is a book by film critic Jay Leyda that collects and reprints the various literature that Sergei Eisenstein produced about Disney. Eisenstein composed the majority of the text in 1941 after his introduction to the Hollywood culture industry. It was published much later than most of Leyda's other seminal works on Eisenstein and it presents a unique side of this highly theoretical Soviet film director who is an outsider to American pop culture.
Key Theoretical Concepts
This is a problem of Aesthetics which is concerned with the correlation of the rational and the sensuous in art. The binary separation of these two lines of aspiration creates a remarkable tension of unity of form and content characteristic of great art. Eisenstein focuses on Disney as a subject for analysing the Grund-problem and finds several notable features.
Eisenstein finds that Disney's approach to the Grund-problem appeals to pre-logical beliefs in totemism. For Eisenstein, Disney's use of the principles of totemism traces a process of moving between three stages of psychological development. In the first stage, man and animal are the same. This view of the world does not differentiate between the subjective and the objective. The second stage of totemism is noted by a simultaneous double existence of identical identities. He cites the Bororo people of the Brazilian rainforests who believe themselves to be a particular kind of red parrot native to Brazil. The third stage is characterized by the sophisticated strata of valuation where certain animal characteristics are observable in human behavior, such as the "wiley" coyote, the "daffy" duck and the "messy" pig.
The Protean nature of Fire
Eisenstein understands the very idea of the animated cartoon to be "like a direct embodiment of the method of animism." For him this animism is like fire and the attractiveness of fire lies in its infinite changeability, like an embodiment of the principle of eternal becoming. Fire is also seen as a spectacle of worship that is free from moral evaluation. Eisenstein makes a critical connection between fire and ecstasy. He sees the pursuit of ecstasy as a futile pursuit of sensation, since one cannot truly sense that which is intangible in its very nature.