When Imaginary Cartoon Worlds Get the “Documentary Look”: Understanding Mockumentary Through Its Animated Variant
Abstract: Due to their clearly imaginary narratives and to the presence of animation itself, animated mockumentaries make the viewer aware of their fictionality from the start. Therefore, these animated works constitute the clearest example of mockumentary being not a genre, but rather a narrative style capable of transcending the boundaries of genres, media, and individual poetics. Through the analysis of Ash Brannon and Chris Buck’s feature film, Surf’s Up (2007), and of The Simpsons’ episodes “Behind the Laughter” (Mark Kirkland, 2000) and “Springfield Up” (Chuck Sheetz, 2007), in this article I argue that the mockumentary style does not consist solely in the adoption of documentary aesthetics and structures, but also in the deployment of elements (such as booms left “accidentally” in view, glances in the direction of the camera and so on) that I will call fictionality clues. I will demonstrate that, whereas in hoaxes or credible live-action mockumentaries the presence of these hints might be dismissed as due to the need of alerting the viewer to the film’s effective ontological status, in the case of animated mockumentaries they would be redundant, if used just for this purpose. Thus their occurrence in these works suggests that they are central to the mockumentary as a form.