Aug 28, 2006
Cartoon Modern, the book
Amid Amidi's much-anticipated Cartoon Modern has finally arrived in my mailbox. Tantalized by the graphic "leftovers" Amid's been posting these past months on his concurrent blog, my expectations were high.
one of the pages illustrating the Walt Disney studio entry
I'm happy to report that the book lives up to and exceeds my hopes and then some--it's a very handsomely produced volume focusing on the insanely fertile midcentury modern period of American animation, both commercial and theatrical.
The publisher, Chronicle, has a well-earned reputation for excellent, attractive layout and design and their approach is a perfect fit with the subject matter, tailor-made for prominent placement on coffee tables of design and animation lovers everywhere.
designs by Gene Hazelton for the Grantray-Lawrence studio
"Cartoon Modern-style and design in fifties animation" is arranged as a encyclopedia of studios, from Academy Pictures to Warner Bros., each chapter filled with eye-popping and mostly, I'm sure, unpublished designs, character models, backgrounds, storyboards--you name it. Leafing through the 200 pages I'm struck with the caliber of work from studios I've never heard of in my life: Elektra Films, Grantray-Lawrence Animation, Academy Pictures--next to Disney, UPA, Playhouse, Warner Bros. and a dozen others. The time span covered is surprisingly short--barely more than ten years, and the same names(Hubley, for instance)pop up in more than one entry. There's an addendum on the international scene and even a fascinating black-and-white "Yearbook" section of photographs of almost all the noted artists. I haven't even begun to really dig in, but it's gorgeous, inspiring, and obviously fills a pretty fair-sized gap in animation history to date. This is one of those titles that everyone reading this just has to have. My few poor scans are nothing...it must be seen and savored to be truly appreciated.
Availiable now from Amazon, and at your local bookstore.
(*I hope Amid will forgive me one little note/correction: a typically goofball photo taken at Ward Kimball's house to celebrate completion of "Toot, Whistle, Plunk & Boom" misidentifies Ward's wife Betty--she's the bespectacled lady in the front row wearing a black blouse with pearls, seated near their daughter Kelly; by the way--leave it to Ward to have a full-sized stuffed lion in his living room.)
(**Whoops! And now I've piled boo-boo upon boo-boo, and misidentified Betty Kimball myself! As Amid points out in his comments, Betty(who I bloody well knew is a blonde)is the lady in the chunky necklace sitting on the lion's back. Now, doesn't this description intrigue you? And this is just the photo section!)