September 4, 2017 posted by

Summer Book Reviews

EDITOR’S NOTE: As its a holiday here in the states – Labor Day – I thought I’d take the day off and post these book reviews I’ve been meaning to plug and post for several weeks. I’ll resume my Oscar nominee posts (with “1967”) next week. Be here!

Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation By Mindy Johnson (Disney Editions).

Every year seems to bring new books with further research – along with rare artwork and newly found vintage photographs – that deepen our appreciation of the golden age of animation. Just when you think you know it all – or that there’s not much else left to learn – comes along a book such as this which opens a new window and challenges our perceptions of the history of animation as its always been told.

Mindy Johnson’s new book, Ink and Paint, is a game changer. It’s a major book that tells the history of animation from the point of view of the women who were part of its birth, its decades of production, and its long term success. It’s published by Disney Editions – and the Disney studio story is a major part of its focus. But Johnson learned, while doing her research, that women played an important part in animation before (think Margaret Winkler), during (think Fleischer’s Lillian Friedman or Lantz’s LaVerne Harding) and in present day (think Brenda Chapman, among many others) well beyond Disney.

Johnson tells the whole story here – in 384 oversized glossy pages of ink, paint and glorious color. Names and faces of woman inkers, painters, inspirational artists, effects animators, background painters and yes, character animators – many forgotten, many unsung, most uncredited – are revealed and documented at last. That ‘bull’ about Disney only hiring “gals” to trace and paint is put firmly to rest here. Every page contains a new discovery. I’ll say no more except that this is a must-have; one of the most important and necessary animation history books I’ve read. Easily earns its spot next to the important texts by Canemaker, Barrier, and Kaufman on my bookshelf. No exaggeration – buy this one.

Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons By David Bossert; Archival Editor: David Gerstein; Introduction by J.B. Kaufman (Disney Editions)

Ever since Disney reacquired rights to the Walt-produced Oswald The Lucky Rabbit silent cartoons, it was just a matter of “when” (not “if”) they would produce a large format coffee table book devoted to the classic character.

Luckily that task fell to Dave Bossert – a veteran Disney artist, historian and writer who was personally involved with the company’s efforts to track down lost Oswald prints. Dave enlisted famed tracker-of-lost-cartoons David Gerstein to aid the studio – and now 19 of the 26 silent Oswalds have been found. This book collects all information on the character, his films, their history and the whole back story on the character’s return to the Disney fold, with detailed info on each of the twenty-six shorts – illustrated with rare art, publicity pieces, one-sheet posters, frame grabs and story boards.

It would not be one of my review columns without a book featuring with some involvement by Gerstein – and here he supplements Bossert’s text with incredibly choice archival finds: rare trade ads, animation drawings, merchandising, pencil animation art, and much much more. An absolute joy – a pleasure to peruse, and the ultimate record of Disney’s formerly-lost precursor to Mickey. How can you resist? Get it!

They Drew as They Pleased Vol. 3: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Late Golden Age (The 1940s – Part Two) by Didier Ghez

The most dedicated, enthusiastic and tenacious Disney historian I know is Didier Ghez. His books and projects delving deeper into the history and hidden mysteries of Walt Disney Productions have been enlightening us all, now on a regular basis.

This is Vol. 3 of a multipart reference work – via Chronicle Books – that profiles and spotlights the works of Disney’s concept artists, the men and women of the Story Research and Character Model departments in the 30s and 40s. This newest edition focuses on six men – some I were familiar with, others I’d never heard of – who’s work was undeniable in creating the look, character and iconic sequences in classic Disney features .

This book tells the story of each of these artists – Eduardo Sola Franco, Johnny Walbridge, Jack Miller, Campbell Grant, James Bodrero and Martin Provensen – with ample examples of their artistry. The book also contains new facts and finds, uncovered by Ghez during the course of his research, including the only known photograph of Bela Lugosi posing as “Chernabog” for Fantasia, abandoned sequences for Dumbo, and a hilarious selection of unused screwball characters, created by Walbridge, for the Tulgy Wood sequence in Alice in Wonderland. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

These books are absolutely vital, visually delightful and masterfully written. Thank you, Didier, for all you do – and for this a series of incredible books. Long may they continue!

Hero-A-Go-Go: Campy Comic Books, Crimefighters, & Culture of the 1960s by Michael Eury

In my previous review column back in May, reader “Top Cat James” recommended I check out this book – and I’m glad I did – I love this book. It is indeed right up my alley. I grew up during the 1960s psychedelic superhero craze – and this book captures it all. It’s loaded with images and anecdotes about all the nutty caped-crusaders of that era – from Super Goof to Captain Klutz – in comic books, on TV (Mr. Teriffic, Super Six, etc), and all media of that era.

But the reason I plug it here is that it contains a wealth of animation references, Saturday morning cartoon information and, in particular, an interview with Ralph Bakshi that is solely concerned with the period of his career – from creating Terrytoons’ Mighty Heroes, to working at Paramount (Super Basher and Bop), then off to Rocket Robin Hood, Spider-man and touching briefly on Fritz The Cat. This seven page Q&A alone makes it worth getting (if you like this particular part of Bakshi’s career, that is. I do!).

Michael Eury is a great writer, who really knows this stuff (I think he was even a member of Apatoons for a brief time). If you grew up during this era you’ll have a blast being reminded of all the crazy media we consumed when we were kids. If you didn’t witness this period first hand, I can’t imagine what you’d think – but I know you’ll enjoy the book regardless. It’s a helluva lot of fun! Highly Recommended! “Pow!”


Sick Little Monkeys: The Unauthorized Ren & Stimpy Story – Thad has revised his already fantastic book and made it more fantastic, accurate and… well, perfect. If you don’t already have it – Buy it now! (and if you already have the original edition, buy the new one and use the old one as a doorstop).

The Harvey Comics Companion – The book Mark Arnold was born to write — and he comes through! 707 pages of pure Harvey History Goodness! Will there ever be a more definitive tome devoted to Harvey Comics? I doubt it. Get this now!

The Amazing Transformations of Tom Terrific – I highly recommend this “mini-book” on the exploits of Gene Deitch’s Terrytoon sensation, Tom Terrific. It’s a handy-dandy reference to the show. Crabby Appleton, Mighty Manfred, Isotope Feeney… the gang’s all here!

The Color of Pixar – this book by Pixar Art Director Tia Kratter is a unique little picture book (with virtually no text) that clearly demonstrates how color is creatively employed in Pixar features. No other words are necessary – except one: Delightful!

Steven Universe: Art & Origins – Excellent book about Rebecca Sugar, her creative process and the team behind her show Steve Universe. Contains everything you need to know about the show – tons of art and information – but also explains the behind the scenes production process that goes into making a series these days. Recommended!

The Art of Aardman: The Makers of Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run, and More – published in time to celebrate the studio’s 40th anniversary, this book takes you behind the scenes of everybody’s favorite clay animation studio. Lots of nice art!

A Kiss Goodnight – a unique picture book by two Disney Legends: songwriter Richard Sherman and artist Floyd Norman. Sherman with writer Brittany Rubiano tell the story of a young Walt Disney in Kansas and how fireworks inspired him and his imagination. Floyd and his wife Adrienne illustrate the tale with beauty and grace. A CD of the song is included.


  • I’ve already got Thad’s revised Sick Little Monkeys. An amazing read..

  • I’m not much on buying books, but this does give me a list of some things to look for at the library.

  • The TOM TERRIFIC book is …. TERRIFIC! Now if we could just get them a legit DVD release.

  • From what I have seen of Steven Universe, it’s pretty good. Not Bob Clampett, ’38-’58 Chuck Jones, ’35-’56 Friz Freleng, or Fleischer good, but better than modern Simpsons and South Park.

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