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:


John said...

I find it so funny that the absolute most anti-cartoon people are the ones telling us about cartoons! There probably the ones who made everybody think cartoons had to be for kids no matter what! The Internet may be bringing cartoons out of the dark but there’s gunna be allot of cleaning up to do once were there!

PCUnfunny said...

For some reason, film critics think an animated film or short that has phony pathos means it's good.However one that suceeds in being humorous is good but it's inferior.

Brian B said...

Thanks for the links John. Btw, what do you think of Chuck's books? Duck Amuck and Chuck Reducks? If nothing else it's a fun read, with some great artwork and tips throughout. Reading Reducks now. I don't how skewed his vision is at this point in his life though, Chuck Amuck and Reducks both that is. I hate his breakdown of "when the characters finally came into their own". Basically for him, everything pre-1947 was outdated and done wrong. He gives Avery credit for progressing the features, and then shines light on his and Freleng's run together - as well as the people that worked with them at that time. It's a bit annoying knowing the massive ammounts of great work done in the 40's.

I still like the guy though. Especially as a designer, a storyman, and even author. He's not dull to listen to.

Kevin Langley said...

It's a shame that a book hasn't been written that focuses on the other studios. "Of Mice and Magic" is great but it's a tease. It's a great overview of the different studios but it leaves the reader, well at least it leaves me wanting more. There's a book "The Great Directors", it's not the greatest resource and it lacks any artwork that isn't common but my point is it would be nice to have a "Great Animators" book that wasn't the wise old men. And what about background artists and the layout guys? Very little on them. It would be great to see a book like that voice actors one you were featured in, each chapter was devoted to a particular voice actor. I'd take a short chapter on Manny Gould or Emery Hawkins, Pat Matthews, Irv Spence, Jim Tyer, blah blah blah, I could go on all night.

One of the best sites? Really? Thanks. And I didn't think I was posting anything but my own personal tastes in cartoons. I think all the cartoon blogs out there have been great. You, Thad, the ASIFA blog, Mark, Michael Sporn, Amid, the list goes on. There's always something new being posted and it keeps me inspired as I'm sure it does most everyone else.

Gabriel said...

I think comedy suffers not only in animation. Today people seem to think there's something inherently better in drama. The big common aspect of all those contrived disney and followers pictures is that they're poor comedies because they're not really meant to be funny. They are meant to trick you and your kids into going to see them because you think you'll have fun. And then they try to make you cry, so you'll think 'wow, this is so deep, i'm so surprised, how could i imagine this'. All this between just enough jokes for the movie be still classified as a cartoon. And people fall for it, they're so aware and used to the scheme that if someone made a really well made funny feature, without trying to trick you into shedding tears, i bet they would say it was retarded and superficial. They wouldn't care if the jokes were good, if the drawings and animation was awful. Just making people squirt soda from their noses is too low and not real art for people who take themselves too seriously. They want to have their hearts ripped from their chests and stomped upon. Go figure.

JohnK said...

Hi Kevin

>>I'd take a short chapter on Manny Gould or Emery Hawkins, Pat Matthews, Irv Spence, Jim Tyer, blah blah blah, I could go on all night.<

Yeah me too. I wish there was info on those people. Maybe it will all turn up eventually online.

I really like how focused your site is.

For any fan of classic cartoons it's exactly what you'd want to see - clips from great and rare cartoons, and the behind the scenes info and art,

It's very inspiring and will be helpful to the next generations of cartoonists that are trying to teach themselves to do it the right way.


and I agree, there are lots of good animation sites like the ones you mentioned and I'll get around to talking about them all.

Do you work in an animation studio?

Kevin Langley said...

Do you work in an animation studio?

Me? Nah. Just a wanna be animator. Even if I drew well enough I don't think I could spend all day drawing Dora The Explorer, Loonatics or whatever shit they show on TV these days. I'd rather stick to working in an office. Maybe someday if people are allowed to make cartoons again I'd try to land a job.

mike f. said...

"Fuzzy little animals", eh? That's a good one.

What is Mister Magoo, if not a fuzzy little human? Kiss my ass, UPA.

R. Banuelos said...

Imagine if Chuck had his own blog, he'd be much more angry sounding than you. He's pretty ruthless describing UPA. He must of hated all T.V. animation and most cartoons after 64'. Good guy though.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

A great post! Chuck's article about UPA made me want to cheer. that's the way I feel about Cartoon Network and Nicolodean; great art direction in the best stuff but where's the beef? I want to see funny animnation!

Pete Emslie said...

I'm biased of course, being a longtime friend of Mark Mayerson, but I've always been impressed by his ability to analyze all aspects of a cartoon. He's also one of just two fellows I know personally that has an encyclopedic knowledge of the Hollywood studio cartoons, the other being Greg Duffell. Mark's blog is always interesting and informative, challenging his readers to look at animated films from different perspectives. I don't always agree with Mark's take on a film (and will sometimes debate his points) but I always respect that he's put much thought into his articles, backing up his opinions with solid reasoning and observation. These are also qualities that he brings to his role as a college instructor in the animation program that he's involved in. I'm glad to see his blog has become quite prominent in the animation blogosphere!

Will Finn said...

great article, great link. that TEX AVERY book by Joe Adamson should be required reading, it is so well done. i thought i found the holy grail when i got my hands on it. And Leonard Maltin's MICE AND MAGIC still reigns as the best comprehensive book, IMO.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting these books on your blog John. I had just ordered them, and they will be coming in due speed. Are their any other 'brain-food' tomes you would recommend?

Myself, I would Highly recommend 'America's Great Comic-Strip Artists, Written by Richard Marschall. It's a coffee table book, which which contains biographies on the forefathers of sequential art, including examples of their work in the funny papers. The book includes the following:

R.F. OutCault
Rudolf Dirks
Frederick B. Opper
Winsor McCay
George Herriman
E.C. Segar
Cliff Sterrett
Roy Crane
Harald Gray
Hal Foster
Alex Raymond
Milton Caniff
Chester Gould
Al Capp
Walt Kelly
and finaly, Charles M. Schulz.

Robert said...

I'd say until a few years ago "Coal Black" was the number one cartoon that people talked about without having seen. I saw it at an academic convention in the 80's and for 10 years after that I could always stun armchair animation experts with that news and shock them with my assertion that it wasn't any worse than a Fat Albert cartoon.

2012 said...

Hey people,

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"The deed creates the doer"

Anonymous said...

I disagree about Mayerson's blog, which is mainly his lame analyses of cartoons - most of it kind of ruining the cartoon by analysing the funny. Since that's subjective it seems kind of pointless. He can't offer any insight into the production of any cartoons because he wasn't involved with anything known, and he can't really provide any insight into generally how animation is done.

Robin Isteak said...

It's very inspiring and will be helpful to the next generations of cartoonists that are trying to teach themselves to do it the right way.