I’ve read a lot of books this year and haven’t had a moment to post about them. Well, the time has come and perhaps for the best, as this column doubles as our holiday gift guide – because I think all the books here have merit. They may not all be for you, or for your certain friends or loved ones – but on their own, or for people with the right mindset, these books have many redeeming qualities… and I highly recommend them.
The books below are listed in no particular order…
My Life at the Walt Disney Studios: Hollywood & Burbank, Calif. 1930-1943 By Gilles Armand & Rene “Frenchy” De Tremaudan. Drop everything and order this book immediately! Once again, the HHA crew (Hyperion Historical Alliance), that group of dedicated Disney historians extraordinaire (Didier Ghez, J.B. Kaufman, Joe Campana, Jim Hollifield and several others), have compiled a must-have book for any (and every) Disney-curious among us. This book publishes everything known and left behind by the mostly-obscure and forgotten Disney animator Frenchy de Tremaudan (at the studio from April 1929 through January 1943 animating on shorts and later in the story department for several features including Bambi and Peter Pan).
Frenchy’s first-hand autobiographical notes have been assembled into a lively text, followed by a scrapbook of his drawings (and caricatures of him) assembled in 1967 (but never published before). Rare photographs and frame grabs of “home movies” Frenchy took at the Disney Studio fill the book – immersing the reader in Frenchy’s life and his point of view. This is fabulous stuff and absolutely vital to those studying Disney animation history. A pleasure to read and see. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Cartoon Voices of the Golden Age, 1930-70 Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 by Keith Scott. If you haven’t already ordered this book – just leave now and never return to this website. A billion questions you’ve asked a million times before are answered here. It’s actually two books – a Volume 1 and a Volume 2 – both are indispensable to those of us writing about cartoons, reading about cartoons – or especially, watching cartoons. Actually, its even more important to those of us listening to the cartoons.
Keith Scott (a voice actor himself, “Bullwinkle”) and historian of animation par excellence (The Moose That Roared: The Story of Jay Ward and Bill Scott) has literally spent decades tracing the voice actors behind our favorite golden-age theatrical cartoon shorts. These books are the results of his Herculean efforts. Anyone who thought it was Mel Blanc, Jack Mercer, Daws Butler and June Foray are in for a shock. Two Volumes? Volume one is Keith’s master essays, studio by studio, on the voice talent used at each studio during that era. The second volume is a master list, cartoon by cartoon, where Keith outlines who spoke for what character in each film. It goes without saying: UBER-HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Maverix and Lunatix: Icons of Underground Comix by Drew Friedman – Of all the books I talk about in this column, this one has the least to do with animation. This is the third in a series of books by Friedman, featuring full page portraits of the people who pioneered comics history. His previous two books are devoted to the big names in mainstream (DC, Marvel, etc) golden/silver age comic books. This book puts the spotlight on the alternative artists that emerged in the 1960s and 70s, the “underground comix” artists and writers who redefined what comics could do.
Friedman’s book also doubles as a history of the medium, a Hall-of-Fame of the greats – The Vaughn Bode’s, the Trina Robbins, the Jay Lynch’s, Gilbert Shelton, Art Spiegelman, William Stout. Those with animation connections here include Kim and Simon Deitch, Leslie Cabarga, Harvey Kurtzman, Richard Corben, and of course Robert Crumb – among others. I cannot recommend these books highly enough – the people he celebrates are giants of the comics medium and this is a perfect tribute by one of their own, Drew Friedman.
How I Finally Got to Live a Cat’s Life: A Cartoon Diary 2020-2021 by Nancy Beiman – My friend Nancy Beiman is one of the best animators in the business (Disney, Warner Bros., etc) and also one of the best cartoonists I’ve ever known. The pandemic allowed her the opportunity to focus her cartooning into regimen of daily observations – a diary – of life during the shut-down. It’s funny, bittersweet, and hilarious. Each drawing, sketch, the sequential panels, the poses, facial expressions… the writing, the concept of each idea… is so clever, so spot on. A gourmet feast, a masterclass of great cartoon drawing.
Should Nancy consider adapting this to animation? If so, it should be something conceptually different – this “story” and its “gags” work so well as a diary, perfect for print medium, as the musings of an artist holed up during an extended emergency with her cats. Animation fans, and artists, take note – and pick up a copy of How I Finally Got to Live a Cat’s Life. It might just be the best thing to emerge from the Covid quarantine.
Hayao Miyazaki by Jessica Niebel, Daniel Kothenschulte and Pete Docter. If you missed the breathtaking installation of Studio Ghibli at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles (September 30th 2021 – June 5th, 2022) – don’t fret. The Academy Museum has published its catalog of the exhibit – and like the exhibit, the book is spectacular. The book essentially showcases each piece of the displayed art – each given a full page (as they deserve).
It’s also the first book to published be under the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures imprint (via Delmonico Books) and it might be the best book on Miyazaki. It’s not a book of opinion or deep introspection of his works – it’s indeed a celebration. From the foreward by Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki to Daniel Kothensculte’s excellent career overview, Pete Doctor’s heartfelt appreciation and Academy Museum curator Jessica Niebel’s film by film analysis of Miyazaki characters and themes – its all surrounded by gorgeous production art worth savoring. Shout out to J. Raul Guzman’s filmography – especially liked the detail in the “Early Works” section where he details all of Miyazaki’s exact contributions to various TV Shows and theatrical features (I did NOT know Miyazaki was an in-betweener on Ken The Wolf Boy and Gulliver’s Travels Beyond The Moon!). HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
The Man Who Leapt Through Film: The Art of Mamoru Hosoda by Charles Solomon – Author Charles Solomon is a prolific animation historian – he’s penned at least a dozen books about Disney films, in addition to his overall US history Enchanted Drawings, a wonderful book on Peanuts specials, and “Art of” Pixar, Cartoon Saloon and Dreamworks features. But most do not know that Solomon is quite expert on anime and the great masters of Japanese animation… and this might be his first book on that subject. Mamoru Hosoda is indeed a modern master, with six feature masterpieces under his belt (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars, Wolf Children, The Boy and The Beast, Mirai and most recently Belle). His publisher Abrams has given Solomon a large canvas to overwhelm us in gorgeous production art. His text is just what you want – detailing Hosoda’s life from childhood through his early anime work on Digimon, Magical Dorm Dokkan and Samurai Champloo perfectly and thoroughly, then the book is devided into six chapter covering each feature in depth. Don Hahn provides a great Foreword. I love this book. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Rocky and Bullwinkle: The Complete Newspaper Comic Strip Collection – Volume 1 (1962-1963) – and – Rocky and Bullwinkle: The Complete Comic Strip Collection Volume 2 (1964-1965) If you are a fan of Jay Ward, or moreso of artist Al Kilgore, some anonymous fan just did us all a favor. The uncredited publisher of these two volumes collected – from any source possible – all the syndicated daily “Bullwinkle” newspaper comic strips (McClure Syndicate) from 1962-1965. These strips were previously impossible to see, let alone collect. Despite it’s somewhat high price tag ($29.87 each, on Amazon) I’m here to report it is well worth it for these rare strips. The Kilgore art is not only inspirational – the strip itself is hilarious, and beautifully faithful to the Ward cartoons. The mysterious curator of these volumes recounts his diligent research in digging out this material from several obscure sources in his introduction. Then he annotates each storyline (roughly 4-5 months apart) with a preface to each section. I am SO happy to have these volumes to this comic strip… a short lived classic, and a tribute to its artist/writer – the great Al Kigore. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts By Wolf Burchard (Metropolitan Museum of Art).
This is another beautiful book, based on a museum exhibit, last year at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It examines Walt Disney’s history of being influenced by European sources – specifically French Decorative Arts. Author Buchard is the Associate Curator of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at The Met. This is the catalog of the exhibit – which featured some incredible Disney pieces, original pencils, cels, storyboards and backgrounds. The text is very well written – an education (for me) on the influence of the various European artists, sculptures and architecture. The book is lavish – almost as good as the exhibit itself in person.
I don’t think I can ever watch Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty or Beauty and The Beast, various Silly Symphonies or view Disneyland the same way ever again. I now have a better understanding of the research the art directors do for each film. The book also recounts the history of the Disney animation studio from this unique POV.
Claude Coats: Walt Disney’s Imagineer: The Making of Disneyland From Toad Hall to the Haunted Mansion and Beyond By David Bossert (The Old Mill Press).
This is an absolutely fantastic book that should be in any/every collection on the history of Disney studios. Claude Coats started his career at the MGM Art Department in the early 1930s designing sets. He joined the Disney studio in 1935 and became one of the top background painters there working on every major accomplishment (The Old Mill, Snow White, Song of The South… everything!) up through Lady and The Tramp. In 1955 he was, at Walt’s request, transitioned into WED Enterprises, working on art for attractions in Disneyland.
But Coates career didn’t stop there. He moved into freelance advertising, book illustration and ultimately, designing of attractions at Disneyland. Author Dave Bossert recounts all these remarkable achievements in this lavishly illustrated book – devoting several detailed chapters to Coates role as an Imagineer in developing the Alice In Wonderland ride, The Submarine Voyage, the Disney attractions at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, as well as Pirates of the Carribean and the Haunted Mansion. Bravo Dave Bossert. Well done, sir. This book is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
The Total Television Scrapbook by Mark Arnold
The prolific Mark Arnold is back with several new books worthy of our attention – or at least the attention of anyone who’s a fan of various TV cartoons that most other “historians” overlook. Take Total Television for example. I’m a fan of their characters: Underdog, King Leonardo, Tennessee Tuxedo, Twinkles the Elephant, The Hunter, Go-Go Gophers… shall I go on? Mark already penned a history of this studio in 2009 (Created and Produced By Total Television Productions) but this new book is oversized and in color. It’s an addendum to the previous book, with an updated filmography and all kinds of rare artwork, model sheets, photos of key personnel, storyboards, comic book pages, and all kinds of neat stuff related to Total Television. Why do I crave a bowl of Trix Cereal whenever I look at Underdog?
Pac-Man: The First Animated TV Show Based Upon a Video Game by Mark Arnold.
Okay, I have no interest in Pac Man… the video game or the Hanna Barbera TV show. But if a book on this subject were going to be written – Mark Arnold is certainly the go-to guy to produce it. And for what it is – it’s all you need. Mark recounts the history of H-B, of the game Pac-Man, of the voice actors and production personnel – and then gives a full synopsis of all 42 episodes. Model Sheets, publicity art and affiliated pop cultural clippings, album covers, etc. are pictured. If you need a complete history of the Pac-Man cartoons, here be the book.
Cuphead Volume 1: Comic Capers & Curios By Zack Keller, Shawn Dickinson, Kristina Lum
I had to throw these in here. I love ’em! Damn, these are such a joy. I’m so in love with Shawn Dickinson’s work and here is pages and pages, and panels and panels. Absolutely cool. These are comics – all new stories – based on the popular retro-1930s Cuphead video game. Pure bliss – eye candy – fun. Perfect early thirties animated entertainment. Dickinson puts so much into every panel, every page layout.
And a shout-out to the whole Studio MDHR team and the crew behind the Netflix animated series. Thanks for making my dreams come true with the world of Cuphead. I haven’t seen a bad piece of merchandise from you guys yet. Bravo!
The Marvel Super Heroes On TV! Book Two: THOR – A Complete Episode Guide To The 1966 Cartoon Series By J. Ballman.
Way back here, I raved about J. Ballman’s book on the 1966 Grantray-Lawrence Iron Man cartoons. Later on, here, I waxed poetically about his book-length overview on the 1967 Spider-Man cartoons. Ballman is back again with another must-have Marvel cartoon book (if that’s your thing): The complete episode guide to the Thor cartoons. Now you should note – the thing that makes the Thor cartoons unique among these Marvel cartoons: they were produced by the Paramount Animation Studio in New York, under the supervision of Shamus Culhane! The Paramount studio, previously Famous Studios, prior to that Fleischer Studios. Jack Kinney and Sid Marcus were also involved, Chuck Harriton and Steve Clark loaned a hand, too. Not that you could tell – the Thor cartoons are interchangeable with the Iron Man, Captain America and all the rest from the Grantray-Lawrence cut-and-paste comic panel method employed here. The book publishes ample storyboards, script pages, and background info on all the personnel, and publicity materials… if you grew up with these as I did, or if you love original Marvel, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby comics, this is for you. In other words: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED IF YOU LIKE THIS SORT OF THING – OTHERWISE FORGET IT!
And two more quick shout-outs:
Drawn to Greatness: Disney’s Animation Renaissance by Michael Lyons is a wonderful overview of the Disney studios reboot in the late 1980s and its incredible success throughout the 1990s – as told via interviews with Don Hahn, Glen Keane, Eric Goldberg, Kevin Lima, Henry Selick, Andreas Deja and Roy Disney – in other words: those who were there and made it happen. Lyons, one of our Cartoon Research contributing writers, weaves the tale with facts and figures – permitting us to live through it again, a time when the character animator ruled and for good or ill, CGI was on the rise.
Popeye the Sailor: The 1960s TV Cartoons by Fred M. Grandinetti – Okay. Finally. Once and for all – Fred Grandinetti has the final word on the 1960s Popeyes. This is it: all the King Features Popeye’s, whether you like them or not, with all the plot synopsis, credits, storyboard panels, trade advertisements. And strangely enough… I’m so happy to have this. I’d rather read about these cartoons then to ever have to watch them again. Fred has rewatched them all so I (or any of you) never have to. And now, we can look them all up in a book. Fred’s magnum opus. RECOMMENDED (but you’ve been warned)!
Thanks for reminding me that I need to get in touch with Bear Manor Media. I ordered both of Keith Scott’s books from them three months ago, and I still haven’t received them.
I remember seeing Drew Friedman’s work in Heavy Metal and National Lampoon back in the 1980s. It gave new meaning to the expression “warts and all.”
Paul, I very much appreciate you ordering my book but three months!!!..if I had known, I would have written to Ben at BearManor on your behalf and got you speedy copies of the books. There must have been a glitch in the system with your order because I know of quite a few people who ordered from him, and they received their copies, even if a few took maybe three weeks longer to arrive. Please write to email@example.com explaining when you ordered, that it never arrived and feel free to mention that I suggested you write him, and you should be sent an immediate copy of the two volumes. Cheers, Keith
You’re very kind, Keith, but after I wrote to Ben about not receiving your books, he refunded my money in full. I didn’t want a refund, I only wanted the books. I suppose I’ll just have to order them all over again, but I won’t be getting the 20% discount I got for pre-ordering, so I’m not happy about that.
Great reviews. I should also point out that Fantagraphics, the publisher of “Maverix and Lunatix” also has an on-going series of Disney Comic collections including two hardcover celebrating the 75th anniversary of Uncle Scrooge (although, one is seemingly overpriced at $100!).
Nic, our $100 Scrooge “Golden Jubilee Edition” is pricey because it’s a huge 10″ x 13″ hardback with 384 pages—in effect, it’s a sequel to the same-sized and same-length Celestial Arts Scrooge popular edition of 1987, which in its hardback edition was $65. Going by rate of inflation, our book is a comparative bargain! (-:
Here’s the 1987 book… https://www.amazon.com/Uncle-Scrooge-McDuck-Life-Times/dp/0890875111
And ours! https://www.amazon.com/Walt-Disneys-Uncle-Scrooge-Collection/dp/1683966856
Only one story is in both (“Back to the Klondike”), by popular demand; the others are deliberately a completely different selection, so if you have both there’s no other duplication.
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense considering how big that book is. Thanks for the clarifacations.
I got both Cartoon Voices volumes for my birthday and have really enjoyed them. Keith definitely put a lot of time and effort into these.
I’ve already got them! 👍
I don’t know why the contents of “TTV Scrapbook” are continually touted as being in color–I ordered a copy back in May (in hardback, yet) and the only hues to be found were on the front and back cover.
Among the usual mishmash of ephemera, my “favorite” feature of the book is the wealth of memos and correspondence that Arnold apparently thought would be cool to include, but which are presented with no context whatsoever, leaving one completely in the dark most of the time as to what they are reading.
Those caveats aside, its a fun, if perhaps overpriced, book for TTV fans. Recommended, but “Buyer Beware”..
I have the hardcover TTV Scrapbook… it has much in color. I just flipped it open to pages 54-55, 56-57, all in color. Is yours not?
No sir. Not a single page.
Well that’s odd. Perhaps Mark Arnold will write in to explain this situation. I think you need to get a replacement copy.
The earliest hardcover copies were accidentally in black and white. If this was yours, please contact BearManor Media for a replacement. Please note that only hardcover copies should have been in color.
As a postscript to this whole kerfuffle, I’ll report that BarelyMatter refuses to exchange my misprinted volume for a replacement (the Amazon return window having passed), but did “generously offer” another copy for half-price (almost thirty dollars). That’s right–they expect me to repay for the book I should have received in the first place. Needless to say, I will no longer purchase any material from these chintzy bastards. Sorry, Keith Scott–Appears I’ll be picking up your latest at the library instead.
Also enjoyed the Cuphead comics. Never played the game, but I’m going to go ahead and say the Cuphead show is the best show ever based on a videogame. Though I can hardly remember the Pac-Man show at all. The book doesn’t have the most inspiring title, but it’s got me curious. I suppose there would have been some unique challenges making the first show from a videogame, particularly a game like that.
Didn’t know Mamoru Hosoda worked on Samurai Champloo. I’m glad they’re starting to write books about him. Miyazaki’s wonderful, but sometimes I fear all the attention given him eclipses other worthy animators from that country.
Cuphead is great all right, but I’m partial to Earthworm Jim!
I ordered both volumes of the Cartoon Voices books, and am looking very forward to reading them! However, I had to get the eBook versions, simply because we’ve run out of shelf space in our little apartment.
It’s easy to see myself turning to these frequently to look things up, so it’ll be interesting to see how using eBooks for reference books goes.
Books I’ve read so far (related to this):
The Illusion of Life
I Tawt I Saw a Putty Tat
Tom and Jerry: Fifty Years of Cat and Mouse
Tex Avery: King of Cartoons
The Walter Lantz Story
The Great Cartoon Directors
Captain America: American Nightmare
Marvel: Their Characters and Their Universe
I probably the only knucklehead here who hasn’t read Cartoon Voices yet!
Jerry, thanks for these great reviews. I might add that much of the credit for the Frenchy book goes to Steve and Virginia Reeser. Without their hard work it wouldn’t be the beautiful treasure it is, and might not even exist at all. Anyway, thank you for spreading the word about it — and all these other great books!
One more book I should mention is the recently released “Sam and Friends: The Story of Jim Henson’s First Television Show” by Muppet historian and writer Crieg Shemin. While it not animation oriented per say, the show did lip-synced to many animation related record including Stan Freberg material and even a Looney Tune record. Plus, it talks about some of Jim’s cut-out animated sequences he did for the show including one that was recently discovered:
A couple books added to ze wishlist.
My Popeye book, aside from the history of the series, is to do what Jerry states. Read the episode guide to know which cartoons to avoid and which to ‘toon’ in. The entire series is not as horrible as critics have stated. They certainly were popular for a long period of time on television and made a lot of money for all involved.
I just ordered my copy!
I’m a huge reader and I wish I could afford these books, but I really can’t (like most books these days). Even the used prices are beyond my reach. Can’t find most of them at any library either, although my own library has searched them out for me. A couple of authors in this profile have (surprisingly) underwhelmed me with past works, so I won’t be taking a chance on them again.