Commentary 29 Dec 2005 09:26 am
#2 of my year-end tally for inspirational thinking:
Michael Barrier has been an animation historian for longer than I can remember. He had a magazine called Funnyworld which was the premiere publication devoted to animation. It set the standard for animation publications and hasn’t been topped.
Mike’s forever-in-the-works history of animation was finally published in 1999. Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age, set a new height for detail, accuracy and thoroughness in animation writing. (Even after publication, Mike was offering corrections to the book on line.)
The follow-up to this book is his website: MichaelBarrier.com. Here past interviews and articles from Funnyworld can be found alongside current reviews. commentary, and postings.
The book and the site don’t offer a lot of pictures, and that really doesn’t matter. Mike uses his language to dissect the best – or at least the most visible -in animation, and he doesn’t mince words. His opinion is flatly stated, and the site doesn’t bow to any political pressures.
His reputation as an ardent historian obviously works to our benefit. It brings years of depth and background to his comments, and this helps to give me some security in what he has to say. I often give him the benefit of the doubt, if I don’t agree with him, I’ll go back to the source to take another look.
His recent analysis of the New Yorker article on P.L. Travers is a good case in point. His opinion is supported by enough information to tell us that this is, “… mostly a library job that seems to have been assembled with limited cooperation, if any, from either Travers’s estate or the Disney studio.” He continues by detailing his complaints. I was glad for the article when I read it, and just as pleased to have been informed that it added nothing new to the discourse on the subject. That information added some depth to my appreciation of the article. Mike’s research pays off for us in the criticism, and the reward for reading it is enormous.
In 1999, when his book was released, I read it voraciously. It was a sour year for me. The best animation had to offer me that year was a sequel to Toy Story, a film that offered me little inspiration. I had seriously thought about my career and wondered why I was working so hard to make it work. It was a tough year. Somehow, in reading the detailed story os Disney’s studio in the ‘30’s, complete with names and incidents, gave me the inspiration that I didn’t find in the art, itself. Mike’s words were precise and well chosen. It was my inspiration for the year. I returned to look again at some of those Disney classics, par- ticularly Snow White, and felt renewed. To this day, the book serves as an inspiration for me, and I return to it often. With the addition of the website, I can get my small jolt and move on to my day.