School of English, Film, Theatre, and Media Studies

Prof Kirsten Thompson

School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies

Phone: 04 463 6728
Location: Room 101, 85 Fairlie Terrace, Kelburn Campus

Prof Kirsten Thompson

Teaching in 2015

FILM 205 - Film Genre
Course Coordinator

FILM 406 - Studies in Film Aesthetics
Course Coordinator


BA Auckland
MA(Hons) 1st class Auckland
PhD New York

Current Research Projects

Before joining Victoria University I was Associate Professor and Director of the Film Program at Wayne State University in Detroit.

I teach and write on animation and colour studies, as well as classical Hollywood cinema (film noir, crime films, contemporary cinema and special effects), German, New Zealand and Pacific studies. My first book, Apocalyptic Dread: American Cinema at the Turn of the Millennium examines a series of films made in the late nineties and first decade of the new century through Soren Kierkegaard's concept of dread, situating millennial cinema in philosophical, theological and cinematic traditions of fear and anxiety. My second book Crime Films: Investigating the Scene, examines the broad field of English and American Crime cinema from the gangster film to the detective story, whodunnit and film noir, and links the representation of the crime, criminal and crime solver to historical developments in criminology, the police force and forensic investigation. I also co-edited with Terri Ginsberg, Perspectives on German Film (GK Hall, 1996).

I have also published articles on animation and New Zealand cinema, and am currently working on a new book on Colour, visual culture and Animation.This new research considers animation’s crucial role in a broader visual history of colour in American culture. It explores the historical, philosophical, and technological dimensions of colour in the cel animation of Walt Disney, the Fleischer Bros., and other leading American animation studios.

Today we live in a world of colour whose normality and ubiquity we take for granted. But how did we get here? How was animation part of a broader cultural turn to colour that began in the late eighteenth century and accelerated in the nineteenth, with the industrial manufacture of synthetic pigments, such as mauve, magenta and zinc white? How was this turn further enabled by the discovery of electricity and the manufacture of plate glass technology, which together revolutionized advertising, retail, entertainment and recreation, making urban spaces brighter, more open and intensely colourful? How did animation play a leading role in colour’s dissemination in the public sphere?

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Research and Supervisory Interests

  • Animation (Classical and contemporary)
  • Colour studies
  • Classical and Contemporary American Cinema, especially topics relating to film noir, crime film, blockbusters and special effects, digital cinema
  • New Zealand and Pacific cinema
  • Affect theory and phenomenology; philosophies of film
  • German cinema

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Recent Publications


  • Classical Cel Animation and Colour (in progress)
  • Apocalyptic Dread: American Film at the Turn of the Millennium. Albany: SUNY Press, 2007.
  • Crime Films: Investigating the Scene: London: Wallflower, 2007.
  • Perspectives on German Cinema (Coeditor with Terri Ginsberg) NY: G.K. Hall, 1996.

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Book Chapters / Journal Articles

  • “Animating Ephemeral Surfaces:Transparency, Translucency and Disney's World of Color Refractory: A Journal of Entertainment Media. vol 23 (June) 2014 
  • “The Construction of a Myth: Bloody Mary, Aggie Grey and the Optics of Tourism.” Journal of NZ and Pacific Studies. vol 2. no 1. (June) 2014.
  • “’Quick, Quick, Like a Bunny’: The Ink and Paint Machine, Female Labor and Color Production.” Journal of Animation Studies, vol. 9. February (2014). Online.
  • Book Review, Sean Brawley and Chris Dixon, Hollywood’s South Seas and the Pacific War. Palgrave: NY, 2012. Journal of NZ and Pacific Studies. 2.1 (May 2014).
  • DVD Review, Lost and Found: American Treasures from the New Zealand Film Archive (2013). The Moving Image. 14.1 (2014).
  • Book Review, Russell Campbell, Observations: Studies in New Zealand Documentary. Victoria University Press: Wellington, 2011. in Journal of NZ Studies.  NS 16 (2013): 179-181.
  • “Classical Cel Animation, World War Two and Bambi, 1939-1945” History of American Film, 1929-1945, eds. Cynthia Lucia, Art Simon and Roy Grundmann. Vol II. New York: Blackwell, 2012: 358-378.
  • “‘Philip Never Saw Babylon’: 360 Degree Vision and The Historical Epic in the Digital Era” The Epic Film in World Culture, ed. Robert Burgoyne. Los Angeles: AFI/Routledge, 2010, 39-62.
  • “Experiments with Desire: The Psychodynamics of Alison Maclean” in New Zealand Filmmakers, eds.  Ian Conrich and Stuart Murray. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2007: 304-319.
  • “Scale, Spectacle and Movement: Massive Software and Digital Special Effects in The Lord of the Rings,” in From Hobbits To Hollywood: Essays On Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings eds. Ernest Mathijs and Murray Pomerance. Rodopi: Amsterdam, 2006, 283-299.
  • “Queer German Filmmaking” in Routledge International Encyclopedia of Queer Culture, ed. David Gerstner. New York: Routledge, 2006.
  • Contribution to Roundtable “Queer Film and Media Pedagogy,” Michael Bronski, Terri Ginsberg, Kirsten Moana Thompson et al, GLQ: A Lesbian and Gay Studies Quarterly 12.1 (2006): 117-134.
  • “Animation and Comedy” in Comedy: A Geographic and Historical Guide ed. Maurice Charney. Vol 1. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2005, 135-152.
  • Book review of Paul Wells’ Animation and America. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2002 in Film Quarterly 58 No. 2 (Winter 2005): 53-54.
  • Book Review of William Moritz’s Optical Poetry: The Life and Work of Oskar Fischinger. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004 in Film Quarterly 59 No. 1 (Fall 2005): 65-66.
  • Cape Fear and Trembling: Familial Dread" in Literature and Film: A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Film Adaptation, eds. Robert Stam & Alessandra Raengo. NY: Blackwell, 2004, 126-147.
  • Once Were Warriors: New Zealand's First Indigenous Blockbuster” in Movie Blockbusters, ed. Julian Stringer. New York: Routledge, 2003, 230-241.
  • “The Sickness unto Death: Dislocated Gothic in a Minor Key,” in Piano Lessons; Approaches to the Piano, eds. Felicity O’Brien & Suzanne Gemmell. Bloomington: John Libbey, 1999, 64-80.
  • “Ah Love! Zee Grand Illusion!  Pepé Le Pew, Narcissism and Cats in the Casbah” in Reading the Rabbit; Explorations  in Warner Bros. Animation, ed. Kevin Sandler. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1998, 137-153.

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Conference Papers/Invited Talks

  • “The Fugitive Figure: Bubbles, Liminality and Animation,” Society for Animation Studies (SAS), Toronto, Canada, June 16-19, 2014.
  • “Shellbacks and Cockroach Schooners: Interisland Trading and the Cases of Carl Anderson and Ebbe Thomsen” Across the Pacific: Voyaging and Migration, New Zealand Studies Association (NZSA) Annual Conference, Oslo, Norway, 25-28 June 2014.
  • Interview “Color and Visual Culture,” Radio New Zealand, May 2014.
  • “The Ephemeral Immersive Screen: Disney’s World of Color” Inaugural Professorial Lecture, Victoria University, May 27, 2014.
  • “Animate: Art and Moving Image Effects” Adam Art Gallery, Victoria University, 9 May 2014.
  • “Nostalgic Myth: Aggie Grey, Tourism and Nation, or the Americans Come to the South Pacific” Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS), Seattle, USA, March 18-22, 2014.
  • “You Never Need a Ticket to the World’s Biggest Show!’: Douglas Leigh and Animated Advertising in Times Square.” Third International Visual Methods Conference: Visual Methods in Mediated Environments. Victoria University, New Zealand, September 2-6, 2013.
  • “The Construction of a Myth: Aggie Grey, Tourism and Samoan History” New Zealand Studies Association, Nijmegen, The Netherlands, June 27-June 29, 2013
  • “Colourful Cartography and the Empire State Thermometer: The 2012 American Election, and Technological Display” Society for Animation Studies, Los Angeles, June 24-26, 2013
  • “The Ephemeral Immersive Screen: Disney’s World of Colour” Society for Cinema and Media Studies, Chicago, March 6-10, 2013
  • “ ‘You Never Need a Ticket to the World’s Biggest Show!’: Douglas Leigh and Animated Advertising in Times Square.” Film History Association of Australia and New Zealand (FHAANZ), December 2-5, 2012 Melbourne, Australia
  • “In the Laboratory with the Wicked Queen: Colour, Chromophobia and the Cosmetic in Snow White” and Chair of Panel “Colour and Myth, Aesthetics, Affect and Apprehension”, Film History Conference on Myth, Milwaukee, USA, September 26-30, 2012
  • “’Quick, Quick, Like a Bunny’: The Ink and Paint Machine, Female Labor and Colour Production.” Society for Animation Studies, Melbourne, Australia, June 24-27, 2012.
  •  “‘You Never Need a Ticket to the World’s Biggest Show!’: Douglas Leigh and Animated Advertising in Times Square” Society for Cinema and Media Studies, Boston, March 21-25, 2012
  • “Animated Twinkles and Starbursts: Radiating, Oscillating and Blinking Light in Animation” Critical M.A.S.S, Ann Arbor, MI, USA (Michigan Alliance for Screen Studies) Feb 3, 2012
  •  “The Doors of Perception: Imagination and Transformation in Classical Cel Animation in Colour” American Studies Annual Conference, Baltimore, Oct 21, 2011 
  • “Liquid Colour in Animation: Chromatic Paradoxes of Form and Abstraction,” Society for Animation Studies (SAS), Edinburgh Scotland, July 11, 2010
  • Respondent “Hollywood’s New Leases on Life: Practices of Production, Modes of Exhibition, and Patterns of Reception in the Post-Movie Age,” Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS), Los Angeles, March 2010
  • Chair and Presenter “’New Patterns for Living’: Design and the Industrial Films of Jam Handy,” SCMS, Philadelphia, March 8, 2008

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Noteworthy Achievements

  • Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Grant Finalist, 2013
  • University Research Fund Grant, 2013
  • Teaching and Learning Grant, Victoria University, 2012
  • Humanities Center, Wayne State University Open Competition Grant 2011
  • President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, Wayne State University, 2009
  • Board of Governor’s Faculty Recognition Award for Research, Wayne State University, 2008

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Professional Links and Responsibilities

Editorial Work

  • Journal of American Culture, (2012-present )
  • Criticism, (2012- present )
  • Journal of Animation Studies, (2008- present)
  • Journal of New Zealand and Pacific Studies (2012- present)
  • NZ Journal of Media Studies (Advisory) (2013- )
  • The CNZS Bulletin of New Zealand Studies, (2007-2011)
  • Professional Notes Editor, Cinema Journal, (2004-2008)

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  • Chair Victoria University Visual Culture Research Group
  • Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS):  Co-founding Member Animation Scholarly Interest Group; Member: Queer; Asian/Pacific; Media Archives; CinemArts: Film and Art History; Film Festivals; Urban Studies Scholarly Interest Groups, 2010- (ongoing)


  • Pacifica History Association (PHA)
  • New Zealand Studies Association (NZSA)
  • Film History Association of Australia and New Zealand (FHAANZ)
  • Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS)
  • Society for Animation Studies (SAS)
  • American Studies Association (ASA)


Victoria University Visual Culture Research Hub

The Victoria Visual Culture group is interdisciplinary in membership and methodology. It welcomes academic staff from all fields, programmes and schools who research and teach visual media and/or the moving and still image, including fine art, animation, photography, film, tv, the internet, comics, graphic novels, etc, and who are interested in theories, practices and modes of visuality. This group is interested in creating transdisciplinary research cluster(s), offering presentations of our current research, running reading groups, organizing symposia and conferences and developing new research collaborations in the fields of visual culture.

Join the group or post information to or