Books &Commentary 28 Jul 2012 08:03 am

Books and Things

Some Great Books

I’d received a note from Fraser MacLean this week. He’s the author of the brilliant and beautifully illustrated book, Setting the Scene: The Art & Evolution of Animation Layout. It was odd that I’d just been talking about his book when I’d heard from him. This got me to think that I might post a reminder of a couple of the excellent books that were released this year. I’d reviewed a number of them, and would like to keep them at the front of your mind, so to speak. Here are three easy picks to tell you about.

Setting the Scene: The Art & Evolution of Animation Layout is a book about Animation layout, obviously, and it belongs on every bookshelf of those who work in the medium or are interested in it. I guarantee your first visit to this book, though, will be your ogling the incredible illustrations. They’re just wonderful. From 101 Dalmatians to the Cobbler and the Thief, from Pixar to Dreamworks. It’s an attractive book.

The book covers layout from the point of traditional 2D animation, preparing for the camera, as well as for the computer. It also covers the Layout of animation for cgi films. (See my full review here.)

At the top of the list this year would have to be Adam Abraham‘s fine book, When Magoo Flew: the Rise and Fall of Animation Studio UPA. It is a gem. This is an intensely researched book about the studio that changed the direction of animation in the late 40s.

The book is a very political one, or at least it’s about the politics of the studio that grew out of the Disney strike and pushed on through the McCarthy hearings with their hot design influences. The politics also refers to the ins and outs of the studio, whether it’s John Hubley not liking Herb Klynn’s artwork or Jack Heiter losing his job for refusing to listen to Jules Engel‘s thoughts on color.

There’s a lot in this book and it’s a treasure for anyone interested in that studio or those people. It also helps that a brand-spanking-new DVD was released at the same time with many of the important films from the studio. Jolly Frolics, the UPA Collection. We’re still waiting for the Magoo Theatrical Films to be released, as promised, on DVD. Mr. Magoo:Theatrical Collection

This book also has a companion website, When Magoo Flew, hosted by the book’s author Adam Abraham. There’s material there which you won’t find in the book. (Se my fuller review here.)

The third book I’ll mention here, is a big, lavish, picture book. Two Guys Named Joe: Master Animation Storytellers Joe Grant and Joe Ranft is the story of two story writers and artists working at opposite ends of the Disney Studio, and it was released almost a year ago today.

Joe Grant was one of the old timers who made it through the Golden Age in the 30s & 40s as well as the Golden Age in the 80s. He was a force in the studio, and brought some real art and artistry to the characters and designs he helped develop. Joe Ranft was a youngster who helped put Pixar on the map. His expertise in developing and telling stories made the early cgi features all that they were.

John Canemaker pulls their two stories together and showcases their lives and studio experiences to give an interesting viewpoint of the Disney studio. This is an unusual but excellent book, and in case it’s fallen off your radar, I might suggest you take another look if you don’t own the book. It’s a worthwhile volume to enter any animation collection. (View my full review here.)


Benzon’s Dumbo

On his blog, the New Savannah, Bill Benzon has focused in on Disney’s Dumbo and his in depth analysis features quite a few blogposts. Hearty reading for those of you who’d like to see more about this Disney great. (I sometimes think Bill is writing specifically for me; I love it.)


McLaren Animation – Tooned

Dennis Hermanson of Hillsborough, NC sent me a video that he thought I should post on the site. This is not really my kind of video. It’s trying to be Pixar and does a good job of it, but it doesn’t do anything to get me excited about animation. But I can see that it would excite others, so I decided to post it here, just the same. I hope you enjoy it.

Episode 01 (Wheel Nuts )



MTV is offering something called MTV’s Retro Mania. But I come a bit late because it’s ending its Summer run with the return of Daria this next week. Some of their favorite Episodes from the New York produced show, Daria, will air Monday, July 30 until August 3, 2012 from 9:00am to 12:00pm.

If you miss that, you can go to the MTV website and watch episodes on line. Daria.

There was a time, I think, when this show was cool. I guess I have to catch up; I still haven’t made it through a show. I did root for the show to do well in that a lot of people who had left my studio went on to do work on the series.

8 Responses to “Books and Things”

  1. on 28 Jul 2012 at 8:39 am 1.Bill Benzon said …

    Thanks, again, for the plug, Michael. More and more I’m seeing Dumbo as a film that, in a sense, stretches Disney almost to the breaking point. On the one hand there’s a nostalgic attraction to small-town rural America, like his home town, that he enshrined in Main Street, USA, in Disneyland. But there’s also this tremendous faith in technology, which gives you Tomorrowland, with its faith in atomic energy and space exploration, and EPCOT (as he envisioned it, not as it was actually built). What he doesn’t seem to realize is that the social dynamics of high tech are at odds with small town America.

    So, in Dumbo we end with this aerodynamically styled private car for Dumbo and his mother; Dumbo is wearing an aviator’s cap (while Timothy Mouse is lounging in his Bel Aire mansion?) and Dumbo-styled bombers are fighting a war. That’s all very high tech, 1941 style. But where’s Dumbo’s home? It’s on a train that travels about from place to place. As towns go, it’s small, but it’s also rootless. Small town America is gone.

  2. on 28 Jul 2012 at 10:22 am 2.Bill Benzon said …

    Question: Near the end of Dumbo there’s a montage of newspaper and magazine covers that telegraphs the story of Dumbo’s success in broad outline. When did that device first turn up in films? There’s a news montage at the beginning of Citizen Kane, which came out the year Dumbo did, and a newspaper cover shows up in Porky in Wackyland (1938). Newsreels would have been a part of a movie program that would also have short subjects, including cartoons of course, and a feature or two features on a double bill. But when did the news montage first become a device within a film?

  3. on 28 Jul 2012 at 12:58 pm 3.The Gee said …

    from iMDB, a list of the “best” newspaper montages

    I’m not famiiliar with every one of the films in the list, especially the earliest one. That was is a short from 1934 called “Dizzy and Daffy”. From the description it is about the Dean brothers who pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals.
    Also, apparently, Shemp Howard is in the short and from the description it is during the in between period from when he performed with his brothers on stage and in the Three Stooges shorts.

    Here’s a link to the short, which I haven’t watched so I don’t know if it really even has the montage in it.

    I can only presume it does have something of interest in it. It has Shemp!

  4. on 28 Jul 2012 at 1:22 pm 4.Michael said …

    Slavko Vorkapich had already been doing his montage sequences by 1928 and these were called “Vorkapich” sequences by 1934 when he was at his height. Many of the WB animation montage sequences (found in a lot of the B&W WB cartoons) were actually parodies of the “Vorkapich” sequence. I think immediately of “Page Miss Glory.”

  5. on 28 Jul 2012 at 3:16 pm 5.Bill Benzon said …

    Thanks, Michael. The Wikipedia entry fro Vorkapich mentions that Art “Gumby” Cloaky was his protege:ć

  6. on 28 Jul 2012 at 5:00 pm 6.The Gee said …

    (series of Vorkapich Montage sequences, 13:56)

  7. on 28 Jul 2012 at 6:27 pm 7.Bill Benzon said …

    Thanks for the link. Most interesting.

  8. on 08 Jan 2013 at 1:15 pm 8.Nelia Cockman said …

    I’ve said that least 1435208 times. The problem this like that is they are just too compilcated for the average bird, if you know what I mean

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