Episodic nature of “Inanimate Alice”

At the end of class last week, Professor Bianco mentioned how the episodic nature of  “Inanimate Alice” structures Alice’s aging process. But beyond physical aging — over the course of four episodes she grows from being an 8-year-old child to a young woman — the episodic structure of “Inanimate Alice” parallels the dual maturing of the main character and the animators, Kate Pullinger and Chris Joseph. In each episode, the maturing of Alice and her creators is present in a consistent, evolving manner.

In regard to Alice:

  • She goes from “losing” her parents/feeling abandoned to actively seeking independence
  • Brad, though still ever present, takes on a more passive role when she encounters danger later in life
  • Boys peak her interest by the third episode
  • She seeks relationships with people outside her direct family

In regard to the creators…

  • Most obviously, the first episode is only five minutes long while the fourth is closer to 30 minutes
  • Alice’s player becomes more technologically advanced
  • Player participation is an option in the third and fourth episodes
  • Music transforms from background static to structured soundtrack that complements the conflict and resolution plot of each episode

While experiencing “Inanimate Alice,” is was easy to see the parallels between the episodic nature of this type of multimedia and the kind with which we are most familiar: television. In each episode, Alice baits her viewers with a conflict — I’ve lost my dad, I’ve lost my parents, I’m hiding in a closet for safety, I could possibly die at the top of these stairs. The story then back tracks to explain how Alice has landed herself in each of the situations. Many television shows employ the use of flashbacks to move a story forward or further flesh them out. In dramatic shows like “House” or comedies like “How I Met Your Mother,” flashbacks are often integral to the story line.

Although one can watch each episode of “Inanimate Alice” from beginning to end without stopping, it is clear where the authors might want viewers to pause for a commercial. If Alice nearly freezing to death in the snowbank were a plot of a television show, directors would have her fall into the hole, break to commercial and then return to her in panic-mode before her parents approach. Or, after Alice indicates that the top of the stairs is where she might meet her death, it would then go to opening credits. Still, “Inanimate Alice” moves forward with very few pauses. Perhaps the creators want viewers to take an active role in structuring the story on their own.

Also, there is no overlap between episodes of Alice and very little explanation as to how she moves from one place to another. I thought it was interesting that each episode didn’t pick up exactly where the previous one left off, as many television shows do. Instead, it was more like each episode was an entire season and viewers were coming back to it after the summer break. We know that the character developed since the season finale months before, but the changes will be revealed to viewers in snippets throughout following episodes; Alice is developed in this same manner, meaning viewers are privy to the most important parts of her life and not the meaningless moments in between.

— Jen Hirsch


~ by survivingshanghai on February 7, 2011.

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