Reviews
December 18, 2013 posted by Jerry Beck

Year End Book Binge

stus-show125First order of business – today at 7pm EST/4pm PST I will appear once again on the world-famous internet radio program, Stu’s Show, to talk classic cartoons, DVDs and Terrytoons (not necessarily in that order). Today the show is live and FREE. After that, the show will be archived and be available to download (for a modest fee: 99 cents!). Please Note: I just spent the weekend in bed with laryngitis and a cold – and my voice is NOT back to normal yet. I sound like “Froggy” from the later MGM Our Gang shorts. You have been warned. This could be gruesome.


Christmas is one week away – and if you are still looking for a gift to delight the cartoon nut in your life – or want to drop a hint to the loved one who might buy you such a gift – here’s a few suggestions of those released in 2013.

Before we begin, let’s not forget the great books that I’d previously reviewed, which came out earlier this year. I highly recommend these great reads (in no particular order): Sick Little Monkeys by Thad Komorowski; Nudnik Revealed by Gene Deitch; The Noble Approach: Maurice Noble and the Zen of Animation Design by Tod Polson; The Book Of Mouse by Jim Korkis; Walt’s People Vol. 13 edited by Didier Ghez; Tinker Bell: An Evolution by Mindy Johnson; and Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Color Sundays: “Robin Hood Rides Again” (Vol. 2) edited by David Gerstein and Gary Groth.

Now, onto the Holiday Book Binge!

Jerry_ward-book

THE ART OF JAY WARD PRODUCTIONS by Darrell Van Citters. Who would’ve thought that two great books (and I mean Tony-the-Tiger “Grrrreat!“) would emerge from the history of Jay Ward Productions? The first one you should all have in your library already – Keith Scott’s incredible The Moose That Roared (2000). Animator Darrell Van Citters unearthed a treasure trove of rare Ward Studio artwork while compiling his tome on Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol. He supplemented that with a ton of additional artwork, interviews, artists bios and history that makes this book the perfect compliment to Scott’s definitive history. Together you get the entire picture of the Ward oeuvre. But make no mistake, Van Citters book stands on its own – It’s beautifully written and produced, packed with art, photos and new behind-the-scenes facts about this trail blazing (and still inspirational) TV cartoon factory. This book is a limited edition – so I urge you to buy it today directly from Darrell.

animated-lifeANIMATED LIFE, by Floyd Norman, is one of the most delightful reads I’ve had all year. If you enjoy Floyd’s blog, his cartoons or his work in animation – this book is a must. Floyd Norman was there. In 1956 he became the first black animator at the Disney studio. He worked on Sleeping Beauty, Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, later on the Mickey Mouse comic strip and for Pixar, not to mention having his own studio for several years. This is his story and we get to see it all through his eyes, his experience and his passion. He explains it all, gives credit where credit is due. The ups and the downs – usually illustrated with personal photographs or his wonderful cartoons. He opens up – not only about his career, but he offers much wisdom and advice for aspiring animators, students and all those who wish to follow in his esteemed footsteps. Animated Life is subtitled “A lifetime of tips, tricks and stories from a Disney legend” – it’s all that and more. You won’t be disappointed.

harryhausen-bookRay Harryhausen: Master of the Majicks Vol. 1 by Mike Hankin. I love Ray Harryhausen – but I need another biography of Harryhausen like I need a “hole in my head”. I have Harryhausen’s own, excellent Film Fantasy Scrapbook and Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life – both are incredible, lavishly illustrated books that tell me everything I ever need to know about the man and his fantastic career. But then I saw a copy of Mike Hankin’s new book (Vol. 1 of 3) while at Stuart Ng’s booth at CTN. The book is jaw-dropping – just don’t drop it on your foot. This 365-page Volume 1 is particularly of interest as it thoroughly covers Harryhausen’s early career with Willis O’Brien and George Pal. It’s thick and rich with informative text as it is with its rare illustrations and photographs – the 90 pages devoted to O’Brien and the hundreds of pages on Puppetoons, Private Snafu, Mighty Joe Young and the Fairy Tales are the final word on the subject – for all time. This definitive volume is a limited edition and has a rather steep price tag, but it’s well worth it (Pssst – Stuart Ng is selling this book at half price). If you can afford it – I’d highly recommend you get Ray Harryhausen: Master of the Majicks. It’s a major piece of animation research.

The_CG_StoryAnd finally, The CG Story: Computer Generated Animation and Spcial Effects by Christopher Finch was sent to me – and I have to admit its pretty good for what it is. In a nutshell, its a condensed but lavishly illustrated history of computer animation – a history told in greater depth by Tom Sito in his 2013 book, Moving Innovation. Finch’s book is for the coffee table, as it is beautifully designed and loaded with images from numerous animated films. On the plus side, there are some interesting historical photos of John Whitney Sr. and his set up, and some extra emphasis on live action special effects. On the flip side, there are too many Pixar and Dreamworks publicity images and not enough “behind-the-scenes” visuals to help tell the story. A chapter on anime and its use of CG feels particularly forced. For research purposes, I’d stick with the Sito tome. If you are looking for a lavish coffee table display, the Finch book is the one to get. In this case, I’ll let you decide.

3 Comments

  • Ah, as usual, some terrific books on animation and special effects that I only wish I could read. Seriously, the Jay Ward art book sounds magnificent. I know you’ll be talking some great animation finds on disk, even though these are small in numbers. The George Pal bluray is amazing!

  • Jerry,
    I have to concur with you on Ray Harryhausen, and it pleases me that I’m not the only one who knows about his late ’40s-early ’50s shorts.

  • I ordered the Jay Ward book the morning before Jerry choked his way through Stu’s show. It just arrived, and it’s great. I also wanted to tell anyone thinking about ordering, aside from the terrific content that any Jay Ward fan should own, be sure and follow Jerry’s link and buy the book directly through Darrell instead of Amazon. Whomever ships it from Darrell’s end packed the book more securely than a Faberge egg. They put it in a sturdy corrugated box, with two 2-inch strips of styrofoam at the top and bottom to keep the book’s corners away from the edges of the shipping box. Even after being bounced by the postal service all the way from California to Atlanta, the book and its paper dust jacket came out of the box looking like it just left the printer’s facility. Definitely the way to go.

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