Friday, November 18, 2016

THE HISTORY OF ANIMATION (1994, Charles Solomon)

Charles Solomon. Enchanted Drawings: The History of Animation. Random House, New York, 1994.

/ PDF / English / 356 pages / 0517118599 / 978-0517118597

The definitive History of American Animation. The biggest, the greatest... is like the bible of animation books. For experts and newcomers alike, though I don't know how would you call yourself an expert without having read this. A little dated maybe... this a 1989 book after all (the 1994 revised edition... not the colour illustration edition). But very useful covering all the staples in 20th century animation, dividing it into periods:

An introduction on the 1600s till 19th century precursors and experiments (like magic lantern shows and similar)

- Silent Era (1914-1928): The New York/Los Angeles pioneers and their creations: Winsor McCay's Gertie the Dinosaur, Nemo and Lusitania. Raoul BarrĂ©: creator of the Peg System (punched papers). The John Randolph Bray Studio (background/cel innovation). Paul Terry (the animation assembly line) Max and Dave Fleischer (the rotoscope) and the popularity of the Out of the Inkwell series. Otto Messmer the creator of Felix the cat. The beginning of a new era: Steamboat Willie

- The Disney Era (1928-1941)
The introduction of sound and colour... In these years the Disney Brothers Studio absolutely dominate the scene taking the crown from the Fleischers. Walt Disney's vision prevailed over all personal styles... but somehow Walt managed to make each artist  deliver his own very best, a signature animation. Forming an extraordinary team of key animators: Ollie Johnston, Fred Moore, Hamilton Luske, Art Babbitt, Bill Tytla, Ward Kymball, Marc Davis. The making of the greatest animation movie of all time: Snow White. Following: Pinocchio, Bambi, Fantasia!

- The Studio Cartoon (1929-1941)
Examining the rise of the seven minutes studio cartoon. Disney's most serious rival: The Fleischer Studio. With Ko-ko the clown, Betty Boop (I gotta say: boop-boop-ba-doop), Bimbo and Popeye the sailor, Gulliver's Travels, Mr. Bug Goes to Town and Superman. And the artists: Shamus Cullhane, Ted Sears, Grim Natwick, Al Eugster. 
The Ub Iwerks Studio. Walter Lantz and the Universal animation studio (with their greatest creations: Oswald -sort of- Andy Panda and Woody Woodpecker) and the artists: LaVerne Harding, Cal Howard, Jack Carr, and Tex Avery. 
The Van Beurens, Paul Terry Terrytoons, and the Charles Mintz studio, with their artists: Pete Burness, Joe Barbera, Sid Marcus, Bill Nolan, Manny Gould, Art Babbitt, Frank Moser, Dick Huemer, Art Davis. More, more, moreeee.. And Leon Schlesinger's Looney tunes and the Warner Animation Studio.
There's an in-depth analysis of many cartoon animation movies (a rarity in this kind of history books) it doesn't dig as deep as it should in the Disney animated features... but that's fine, cause instead we got great info on the ones made by the Fleischers!!! (and others)

- The 40's / 50's cartoon: During this years Disney was eclipsed by the short cartoons of Warner and MGM. Their characters rival Disney's in enduring popularity. Their artist are among the very best of all time. Friz Freleng, Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones, Bob Mckimson, Frank Tashlin, Maurice Noble, Tex Avery, Joe Barbera, Emery Hawkins, Virgil Ross, Ken Harris, Lloyd Vaughn, Abe Levitow. Some of them are given a page or more of analysis  (with quotes from the artists or people who knew them)  

- Disney's Silver Age (1946-1960) Walt lost some interest in animation, focusing on live action movies and the parks. Still some of the best animation the Studio ever produced was made during this period: Cinderella, Alice, Peter Pan, The Lady and the Tramp, the Mickey, Donald and Goofy shorts.

-UPA: United Productions of America profoundly altered the course of animation with their contemporary graphic styles and different kinds of storytelling. Steve Bosustow, Zack Schwartz and Dave Hilberman     

- The Television Era: Rocky and Bullwinkle, Yogi bear, The Flintstones, The Archie Show, Fat Albert, The Smurfs, He-man... Historians are always very harsh with this period. Solomon shows there's a lot to love here.

- The 80's, Don Bluth, a little of Disney's renaissance, and the future of CGI...

(by pelida77)


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