IMS seminar children's music and animation

Signe Jensen: Final seminar, "Musicalized Characters: A study of music, multimodality, and the empiric child perspective on mainstream animation"

Welcome to the weekly IMS seminar! NB: this seminar starts at 9.00.

This week PhD candidate Signe Kjær Jensen will have her 'final' seminar where she will present her thesis draft on Musicalized Characters: A study of music, multimodality, and the empiric child perspective on mainstream animation.

In Sweden, it is tradition to do a range of seminars where PhD students present their ongoing thesiswork to colleagues at the research group or department. The 'final' seminar is the last of those seminars, where a complete, or almost complete, thesis draft is presented. It is normally held about 4-6 months before the defence. In Sweden, a PhD thesis is also published prior to the defence, and the 'final' seminar is the last chance to get comprehensive feedback on the thesis before publication. The seminars normally include a short introduction to the thesis from the PhD student, and then a comprehensive critique from a pre-appointed opponent. Lastly, there will be room for general discussion with inputs from everyone present at the seminar.


This thesis is an audience reception study of film music and animation film, centered around the ways that animated characters are constructed as psychological beings which children can understand and identify with – as if they were real humans. The analysis considers the narrative context of a character but is particularly focused on the musical and multimodal construction of a character, meaning particular attention is put on how character traits are communicated by the use of music, voice, colours, camera perspective, etc. This analysis of the construction of characters is then compared to actual child audiences’ expressions of their experiences and interpretations, obtained through observations and interviews, in order to highlight how children understand and relate to the material they are presented to. 

Understanding and interpreting an animated film is conditioned by the structure of that film, but interpretation is also conditioned by the communicative situation and social position of the audience, as well as personal experiences, and as such no ‘absolute’ interpretation can be made, not even within a uniform group. This does not mean that we shouldn’t aim to understand how people process and relate to media, however, or to understand how children experience the animated films that are so immensely popular, overflowing our mainstream culture. By analysing the multimodal semiotic potential of three selected films, Frozen (2013), Up (2009) and Shrek the Third (2007), and comparing these analyses with children’s multimodal expressions (children often communicate through gestures or by humming or signing, necessitating multimodal interview transcriptions) of their understandings and opinions, it is the goal of this thesis to shed light on the ways that children relate to and use filmic form, particularly music, in negotiating the content, particularly characters, of the film, in a process where meaning is created in the active reception process of a child in a communicative situation.

Opponent: Kim Christian Schrøder, Department of Communication and Arts, Roskilde University, Denmark, professor in Audiences and Mediated Life and in Communication, Journalism and Social Change.

You are welcome to join the seminar on zoom by emailing us at


(Dacke (Fe3016)) and Zoom Centre for Intermedial and Multimodal Studies Add to your calendar