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Information gathering, the power of knowledge, and libraries in animation

In the 1973 film, Soylent Green, Sol Roth (played by Edward G. Robinson), a “book,” talks to the protagonist, Detective Frank Thorn (played by Charlton Heston) about the fact that he can’t locate the necessary files. This is a similar theme that plays out in animated shows like Tangled and Amphibia. Information gathering is an important part of being a librarian and it is integrated into many animated shows! [1] Spoilers if you haven’t watched either one of your shows. Without further ado, let me begin!

Cass, Raps, Eugene, Lance, and Calliope’s messy library

Let’s start with the Tangled episode, “Keeper of the Spire.” In this episode, the show’s protagonists (Raps, Eugene, and Cass), and their friend Lance, travel to the spire to get information on the last part of the scroll, so Raps can complete her quest. In the process, they meet the pretentious “keeper” of The Spire, who calls herself Calliope, and she holds various artifacts in the spire, a closed-off museum of sorts. As a scholar of sorts who can do magic tricks, she also has a messy library. There are a lot of archivy vibes to this episode too, as they have to climb to the top of a mountain to get to a secret “vault,” which is just a tower with artifacts, but an archives is not explicitly shown. It is then we learn the truth: she isn’t the real keeper but only formerly the keeper’s assistant. The real keeper, at the end of the episode, makes Calliope the keeper of the spire while Raps also gets the scroll she is looking for. That’s a positive ending for everyone!

Nigel in the library, reading about dragons

So, perhaps that first example wasn’t as much about information gathering as I had originally thought. No matter! In the Tangled episode “Pascal’s Dragon,” Nigel reads books in the library inside the Corona castle to learn more about the dragon. He learns about the dangers of dragons and why they need to be stopped. Libraries, you could say, save the day, in a way!

Eugene and the Lorbrary

Finally, there is the Tangled episode titled “Islands Apart.” Eugene reads tiny books on an island in their tiny library, called the “lorbrary” after the beings who live on the island (named the Lorbs) to try and learn more about the evil magic there, to help figure out what’s going on, to find where the tiny Cass came from. This is also the episode that has the famed Cass lesbian squad, as I like to call it, which is probably the best part of the episode, even better than the tiny library, even though that’s cool.

Marcy Wu and King Andrias in the library

Another series, Amphibia, harps on the same themes. At the end of the episode, “Lost in Newtopia,” Marcy and King Andrias are in the library (apparently the biggest and most comprehensive one in the kingdom), going through books, trying to find out more about the music box which bright Marcy, Sasha, and Anne to Amphibia. Marcy is frustrated at not finding anything, finds a lever which opens a secret passageway and a secret wing of the library…almost like an archives. A library is also featured in the next episode, “Sprig Gets Schooled.” It would hard to say either Marcy or the King is a librarian, rather they are library users.

Let me end this post with another screenshot from Soylent Green. In this scene, Thorn sees Sol as his friend, and he later says he is having issues with old materials, making it hard to find what is needed.

While this actually gives a pretty good summary of the man’s life, it also says a lot about librarians, and how they depend on what they know and you should never expect them to be everything. That’s something we should all remember. With that, I close this post.

© 2020 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.


[1] This includes the “Volunteer Bot,” an episode of Doug Unplugs, where two people, Doug and Emma, go to a library, a miniature library to be exact. Executive Producer Jim Nolan said that a library has beauty in the fact that it allows you to “learn in so many ways” and says that a library is a place to see “how humans learn and discover,” adding that he has nothing “but affection for libraries and the libraries I grew up with,” and notes that the heart of the episode is about  “a community coming together and everybody working for their own good,” and they end up fixing up the library, saying it a perfect place to do that.  The show’s other executive producer Aliki Theofilopoulos adds that the library is a great setting, as they get to show “another way we get information, basically.” Yes, yes, yes! Finally, some producers get it. Similarly, co-executive producer Dana Starfield of the animated series, Madagascar: A Little Wild, states that libraries are “the best place to escape, because you get to escape to your imagination,” saying it was fitting to add, with the library inspired by NYPL. The show’s executive producer Johanna Stein says that when they grew up in Canada they spent a lot of time in a library and developed a love of reading, saying that reading is “one of the most direct, immediate ways” to foster the skill of empathy. Finally, Billy Lopez, creator of Welcome to the Wayne, says that they came up with the idea of a special library in the show called The Stanza, with the show’s executive producer, Michael Pecoriello, says that the show makes the extraordinary come from places like a “library, a laundry room, a post office,” making them having secret backstories, part of the “crazy, quirky, extraordinary world.” Cool.


By Burkely Hermann

Burkely Hermann joined the National Security Archive as an Indexer and Metadata Librarian in March 2020, using his experience with arrangement, indexing, electronic databases, cataloging, metadata creation, and knowledge of history on a daily basis. In December 2019, he completed his Master of Library and Information Science, specializing in Archives and Digital Curation, at University of Maryland. In 2016, he received a Bachelor of Arts, with a major in Political Science and a minor in History, from St. Mary's College of Maryland. He previously interned at the National Archives II facility in College Park and worked at the Maryland State Archives, Digital Curation and Innovation Center, and the Enoch Pratt Free Library. He is also a member of the Society of American Archivists. In his free time, he researches his family genealogy, serves as a judge for National History Day, which he participated in for several years, writes fictional works, and keeps up with changes in the library and archives fields. He currently runs seven WordPress blogs, primarily about his family history, or reviewing archives and libraries in pop culture.

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