Thursday, July 26, 2007

Good Animation Blogs - Mark Mayerson

Good Info on Animation Used To Be Hard To Find

Boy, there was a time when finding out any information on classic cartoons was almost impossible.

At One Time, Only Disney Received Critical Attention

There was a small handful of books - mostly Disney propaganda that just repeated time-worn opinions about what you should like while not giving you any real meat about who did what, how they did it, who their influences were, who set what trends, who followed and why it doesn't happen anymore. We knew the 9 Old Men after The Illusion Of Life came out and they basically discounted all the the other studios and many of their own animators. I used to inbetween for an old Disney animator (not one of the 9) who ranted constantly about that!

3 Good Books (and 2 mags) On Classic Cartoons That Don't Follow The Established Opinions

There were a few good books with alternate views of cartoon history that were great starting points: Joe Adamson's Tex Avery King Of Cartoons (this even had pictures to back up the opinions!) Those pictures alone radically changed my mind about animation and made me start to question the Disney-centric books.

Leonard Maltin's Of Mice and Magic - an excellent overview of each classic studio

Funnyworld had a few great interviews with animators, but was hard to find.

Leslie Cabarga wrote a good primer book on the Fleischers.

Animation Blast was the first animation magazine that gave people who were interested in animation what they really wanted - interviews with animators, lots of art and a wider variety of views on classic cartoons - and some new ones.

Warner Bros. Receives Cautious Corporate-Lawyer-Approved Praise

In the 80s we started seeing some Warner Bros. books that had some information on the
other great studio and that was encouraging.

It was all lawyer-approved history though; you had to take the views and history with a grain of salt but at least these super talents were finally being acknowledged.

Most Other Studios Deemed Worthless

Finding information on lesser known or respected studios- Terrytoons, Columbia, Walter Lantz, Van Beuren, Ub Iwerks, Famous, well forget it. The many creative ideas and contributions of these studios were written off by historians and critics, because they didn't measure up to their Disney-biased opinions of what makes a good "story".

Animation Critics Weren't Artists

A big problem with critical looks at classic cartoons, was that most critics judged the cartoons using wrong criteria, the criteria of other mediums. This is natural when the critics are not cartoonists, let alone animators. They can't dissect the medium on its own terms, so instead they've made up an arbitrary list of criteria that can be more easily expressed in words - a medium familiar to all:

Moral Content
Character Arcs

Unfortunately, if you bother to compare these secondary aspects of animation to their counterparts in other mediums, you see quickly how very weak most cartoons have been in these areas - especially the ones that are hailed for them.

Cartoons have other wonderful attributes that are unique to the medium - that nothing else can compete with. These qualities are exciting, imaginative, magical, sophisticated, artistic and generally beyond the critical faculties of people who don't practice the medium - people who can't draw.

Blogs End The Dark Ages

But now, we have the Blog revolution.

All kinds of animators and animation fanatics who love the old stuff have started up blogs and they offer tons of lost artwork, story notes, old articles and uncensored views and insights from the artists' and fans' points of view on classic cartoons.

Every day I find more amazing lost information and art, and new ideas to mull around. Of course some
bloggers are still married to the pre-approved by lawyers versions of cartoon history and commentary, but they are being overwhelmed by the weight of all the evidence from the past that is turning up, the analysis of experienced animators views...and the views of sincere fans.

Just a few years ago if you read an animation book, you wouldn't be familiar with 75% of the films the author was talking about, so you would just have to take his word for what he thought was good or bad and who were the top talents and why they were.

I used to hear people's "opinions" about classic cartoons paraphrased out of an old animation book. I would show old cartoons that disputed common opinion to people and they would be shocked to have their prejudices shattered. ... once they actually
saw what was being written about.

Links Make A Huge Cross-Referenced Encyclopedia Of Cartoon Info

The internet makes a new kind of 4 dimensional library possible. Everyone can combine their resources and knowledge and cross link to everyone else, so it's easy to find more info on any little aspect of an article you find interesting.

2 of the best sites:

Clips from classic cartoons and lots of inside info on the making of them. Model sheets, storyboards, layouts, animation drawings give you a great insight into how the best cartoons were made. What true cartoon fanatics have wanted from books all along.

A very wide all-inclusive library of info, art and interviews about not only classic cartoons, but the other arts that influenced them: comic strips, illustration, music and tons more.

Cartoons are a much wider world than you ever imagined.

Anyway I'm going to periodically post about some of the other animation blogs that have unique and interesting information, art, video or views.

Mark Mayerson

If you love classic Disney and basic cartoon acting, animator and instructor Mark Mayerson has a great blog for you. He also puts up many interesting posts about other cartoons and the animators' plight against the system.

Here's one that has an article written by Chuck Jones in the early 60s. He tells you what he thinks UPA did to the animation industry.

It's interesting that 2 of the people most responsible for the UPA style, Chuck Jones and Bobe Cannon, both started out animating together in similar styles. This article suggests that their philosophies of cartoon-making ended up at odds with each other.

(The editor of the mag is from UPA and he tells you what he thinks of Chuck Jones too!)


Here's the whole article: