Monday, March 03, 2008

Animation Book Library

Classic Cartoon History

Here are some great books on classic cartoons. I put them roughly in order of the periods.

Maltin's book is a great overview of all the studios. You can tell he really loves his subject. He gives you a good feel of what was going on at all the various Golden Age studios.

Felix: The Twisted Tale of the World's Most Famous Cat

The first real animated cartoon character star. I think everyone since owes a huge debt to Otto Messmer and Felix. We are using techniques, ideas and cliches today that began with this creation. Felix is truly the father of cartoony cartoons.

Wait'll you read the ugly true life story!

Walt in Wonderland: The Silent Films of Walt Disney
Walt Disney's silent cartoons.

To me, The Fleischers had the most creative studio of the 1930s. They invented all kinds of techniques never again equaled, and made the first cartoons with fully developed personalities that contrasted and played off each other.

This is a really interesting book about that genius-jack-of-all-trades, Ubbe Iwerks. It also has great stories about the many stars that worked with him, including Grim Natwick, Irv Spence, Bob and Chuck, Shamus and more.

There are about a zillion books about the history and growth of the Disney Studio. They are all very biased towards Disney's own historical account of animation (which basically discounts all other studios). Even so, The Art Of Walt Disney is a very inspiring book and is as good as any of them.

That's All Folks: The Art of Warner Bros. Animation (Owl Books)

A good overview of the Warner Bros. cartoons, with lots of great production art -especially background paintings.

Bugs Bunny

Celebrating decades of fun with the greatest cartoon star in history.

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Jerry Beck's history of Tweety and Sylvester includes the back stories of their first appearances without each other.

A warm look at the Looney Tunes Studio from someone who was there. It's refreshingly absent of politics and critical opinions. Martha gives you the feeling that it was a really fun place to work and all the people were great. Makes you wish there was a funny cartoon studio today.

Chuck Jones wrote an autobiography...twice! The first one has more original drawings from the actual cartoons. By the middle of the first one, he got the idea to trace over his old drawings to update them to his more modern angular style, and by the second book, almost all the drawings were updated retracings of the old ones. So get the first if you like the original drawings of the characters from the 40s and 50s.

Strangely, after writing the same book twice, he forgot both times to talk about his cohort and biggest influence - Bob Clampett. Thank God that there are Blogs to fill in the gaps!

A hugely inspiring book! This book completely changed my way of thinking about cartoons. Joe really thought about the cartoons he loves most and d his thoughts clearly and with lots of fun.

Great interviews with Tex and Mike Maltese too.

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A too often forgotten studio and its story. Walter Lantz produced lots and lots of fine wonderful cartoons. His studio was a swinging door for top animators from other studios and the combination of styles that came together in this melting pot found room for creativity and ideas that could not have happened at other studios.

I get these two books mixed up, but if I remember correctly, they both have lots of large sized production art in them and tons of great model sheets.

We all love Mary Blair of course and this is the best source for her work. The book suffers from dark printing and too small images of her paintings, but where else can you find them all together?

Canemaker gives us an exciting glimpse into the preproduction art from Disney cartoons (which is more inventive than many of the final cartoons!)

Preproduction art for Disney cartoons never made.

Amid is more intense than any UPA fan ever! This book is chock full of great production and preproduction art and has history of many long forgotten stylized studios of the 1950s and 60s.

Post-Classic Cartoons

The story behind the bravest man in modern cartoons.


The original Preston Blair book is the best "how to" animation book ever written. Beware of the million imposters!

The Illusion Of Life is largely a propaganda book to teach us that no one else ever made any cartoons that were worth a damn and that Disney created everything, BUT it has a great section on the 12 priniciples of animation which every animator and fan should know.


A synopsis of every single Warner Bros. cartoon for uber-nerds like me and you.

I have the first edition of this book, full of hilarious spelling and grammatical errors, but I love every page. It lists the most obscure cartoon series and every damn episode!

This is where I first found a complete list - in order of every Yogi Bear cartoon! I know you all need that.

I haven't seen this one, but imagine it is similar to the encyclopedia, except about the creators, instead of the cartoon characters.


Jerry knows why we really like cartoons. because they are fun, and these books are designed to let us in on some long lost thrills.

David Gerstein put out a great compilation of Otto Messmer's Felix The Cat comics from the early 30s.

Now curiously, where is a book on Clampett?


Weirdo said...

Awesome. I have to buy some of these books so I can learn a little more about some of the studios. I especially want the book about the Fleischers. The Max Fleischer biography, written by his son, simply doesn't have enough.

Ryan G. said...

We need a John K. animation Bible.

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...

Yeah, I have a bunch of these.... The one I've bought more than once is Preston Blair's book.

I'm somewhat surprised you didn't include any of Chuck's books: "Chuck Amuck" and "Chuck Redux"... even though they don't make any mention of Clampett.

- trevor.

NewArms said...

A great list, John!
I just ordered a few books on Amazon while I was still reading.
I ordered the Bugs Bunny retrospective and Felix: the twisted tale.



Brian said...

I get these two books mixed up, but if I remember correctly, they both have lots of large sized production art in them and tons of great model sheets.

Canemaker's Tex Avery book does for sure. I have it sitting here with me. :)

litlgrey said...

Maltin's animation book was the first authoritative, cross-studio history of its kind; I used it for reference for so many years that the cover fell off my copy and the sections started falling out. I adore that book.

It was used as a textbook for an animation course at The New School, although I think that was the Second Edition.

Mr. Semaj said...

Most of these books are found at our central library. Some of them I've been meaning to purchase.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! If only I had endless money...

Dave MH said...


By the way, do you know why are there so many different Preston Blair animation books out there? It's really confusing. Many of them have similar titles. Are these just older editions of Animation 1 and 2?

Dave MH

Brett W. Thompson said...

Wow!! Those are great!!

Maybe you should write a Clampett book, John! :)

I don't think you mentioned it but I read "That's Not All Folks" by Mel Blanc- it's got some great stories, like where Woody Woodpecker's laugh came from.

Bitter Animator said...

That Hanna Barbera Treasury is easily my current favourite book. I browse it just about every evening now. It is packed full of wonderful stuff. Thanks to those who recommended it to me.

lastangelman said...

Where's the book on Clampett? Obviously, it's up to you, Ruth and Bob, Jr to write that sucker - although what you could do is produce an interactive DVD-ROM, instead of a book.

lastangelman said...

Bob, Jr? Where'd that come from? I must have been thinking of Robert McKimson, Jr.

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...

I think a book on Clampett should be written by the man who knows him best.

Besides, you could surely fill a book with all the posts about him from you, Milt, Jerry, Eddie et al.

- trevor.

PCUnfunny said...

Thanks for the reccomendations John ! I actually just ordered "King of Cartoons".

Juan Pablo said...

So Chuck Jones tweaked many of his old drawings for his biography? Boo! Why do that? I'd be much more interested in seeing the artist's evolution.

Besides, it's not what you'd expect from a biography... I mean... did he "tweak" anything else in the book? ;-)

Nevertheless, all my respect for a great artist.

Spizzerinktum said...


That Felix book is one I'd never seen before, and I think I'm going to have to spring for one of them very-good-condition pricey models. The cover alone is worth framing. I received a Felix book called Nine Lives to Live that was a bit of a disappointment since it focused on the comic strip only. That's what you get when you order online without professional guidance.

litlgrey, I took that course at the New School (many moons ago), and there was no textbook per se--Maltin just spoke pretty much off the cuff, and showed lots and lots of swell cartoons--including the "censored" ones!--and it was a wonderful class. A packed house every time, too, since civilians were allowed to pay to attend single classes. (Nothing like a room full of yucky, tiresome adults in business suits crowding the place five minutes after class begins while you're trying to be a pretentious art student and learn cool stuff to which "suits" should not be privy!)

FYI, Leonard Maltin is the nicest guy EVER. I wanted him to be my friend. Or my dad's friend, or something. He's adorable.

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...

"Strangely, after writing the same book twice, he forgot both times to talk about his cohort and biggest influence - Bob Clampett."

It wasn't an accident. It was deliberate.

"I mean... did he "tweak" anything else in the book?"

Most of it. But, at the very beginning of the first one, he writes a very cute essay stating that some, if not most of the recollections are not accurate, but in fact, based on limited memory and the rest filled in with imagination.

Nice way to cover up the effects of alzheimers.

- trevor.

PS: Didn't Sody Clampett write a book on Bob?

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...

"We need a John K. animation Bible."

More manuals!

- trevor.

Larry Levine said...

Don't forget the beautiful coffee table hard-bound book "Chuck Jones: A Stroke of Genius" which has incredible reproductions of Chuck's oil paintings of Bugs & Co.

Sean Worsham said...

Write the book on Clampett John, I can't think of anyone else who can do it better.

John A said...

So Why haven't you written it? You appear to be more familiar with the subject than anyone else. And you probably have more access to people and information than any hack writer out there. Plus you actually got to know the guy. I'm sure you and Eddie (if you think the job too big for yourself alone) could write an awesome book.

Whit said...

The Canemaker Tex Avery book is the sole volume to date illuminating the man's sad later life, providing stark, ironic contrast with the humor that Tex's genius put on film. The way the industry sometimes treats its most innovative geniuses is a subject for a book in itself. But corporate America wouldn't be in any hurry to back its publication.

scartoonist said...

Forgive my going off topic, but your Saturday post has stimulated a couple of things partly inspired by you and also about you. I thought I'd pass along the links:


and from Bob Flynn:

Holler if there are any errors.


Shawn said...

I've read a few of these, and they are great!

I'm also curious...where's a book on Clampett?

I saw somewhere on Jim Smith's blog, something about plans for a SPUMCO coffee table book. Is this TRUE??!

Larry Levine said...

"So Chuck Jones tweaked many of his old drawings for his biography? Boo! Why do that?"

Those weren't 'tweaked' vintage drawings, they were contemporary line & ink drawings depicting classic scenes created for his limited edition cels.

JohnK said...

Hi Larry

a lot of them are retraced poses from the original films. Quite different than his limited edition drawings...

Jhhl said...

I'd also include Shamus Culhane's TALKING ANIMALS AND OTHER PEOPLE, not so much for the accuracy of his memory, but the span of his own up-and-down personal experience in the animation industry, predating cels and going to the edge of digital animation.

Also good is It Only Hurts When I Laugh by Stan Freberg, talking about Termite Terrace when he was a teenager doing miscellaneous idiots voices for Warners, and later working with Daws Butler on the live-action puppet show of Beany and Cecil (note: Clampett doesn't come off too well in these stories).

Robert said...

I'll second Culhane's memoir. His first person viewpoint is pretty rare. It's a great companion to Maltin's history.

Chris said...

I used to have the Tex Avery book by Brion, if I remember it's an exact copy of Canemaker's Avery book only in French. I also ordered the Walter Lantz book just now.

What about these The Flintstones: A Modern Stone Age Phenomenon by T. R. Adams, Tex Avery: Les Dessins by Patrick Brion and Nathan Image and Cartoon Charlie: The Life and Art of Animation Pioneer Charles Thorson by Gene Waltz?

Squishy Sqiggles said...

Hell ya! I love Felix. He was the first thing I would watch in the morning before school, that and popeye!

Thanks for the reading ideas!

Conceit Arturo said...

You have to write that book on clampett John!

Anonymous said...

"Maltin's book is a great overview of all the studios. You can tell he really loves his subject. He gives you a good feel of what was going on at all the various Golden Age studios."

Coincidentally, I was looking through sample pages of Maltin's book on Amazon yesterday, along with the book you hated so much (from what I have read, the book contains good facts, with some of his negative opinions, which is why I only read his blog occasionally.).

I didn't even know that Joe Adamson wrote a book on Walt Lantz (one of my favorite classic cartoon studios). Some of those books appear to be pretty pricey, especially Preston Blair's Animation 2, though. I thought that Steve only reccommended Animation 1. Nevertheless, you have made a good compilation. Thanks, John.

Anonymous said...

Hey John

You forgot about this one. It's one of the best books on the History of Canadian Animation.

I am glad you've taken my suggestion on an earlier post; it’s quite diverse, and I didn’t know there was a book on the Walter Lantz Studio.

Thanks for sharing.

From an inspiring animator/ artist

Dagan Moriarty said...

Nice comprehensive list you have here, John. :)

I hafta' get my hands on that Bakshi book, AND the Felix book!

Something that stuck out to me not included in your list is Richard Williams' The Animators Survival Kit. It struck me that I haven't seen you comment on Williams here at the blog. I do visit pretty often, but maybe I have missed mention of him in the past?...

Williams has always been interesting to me, and I'm curious to hear what you think of his work and of his philosophies regarding the craft of animation. (AND technique, of course!)

Always a treat to stop by the blog here and learn a thing or two! :)

Ben Forbes said...

These books are amazing.

Where's the Spumco book? :P

Oh and I'm not sure if it is the real deal, but a He-Hog animatic is on Youtube.

Mitch K said...

Why don't you get some folks together (and some grants?) and write a Clampett book, recounting your experiences with him, and throwing in lots of art? Keep away from all of the political stuff -- just make a fun book about him!

That Fleischer Story is a fantastic book!

Paco said...

Nice list! As a kid I always used to borrow the "That's All Folks!" book from my local library. It has beautiful images, modelsheets and backgroundart in it. If I remember correctly it also has a list with all the Merrie Melodies and Looney tunes in the back of the book.
I own some of the books you mentioned, but the "That's All Folks!" is definitly on top of my 'must-have' list.

Сумской бомж said...

Cool.Good post.I like this blog.

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...


"Williams has always been interesting to me, and I'm curious to hear what you think of his work and of his philosophies regarding the craft of animation. (AND technique, of course!)"

A great blog for all things Dick Williams is The Thief Blog which showcases his greatest and uncomplete work The Thief And The Cobbler. It's actually run by a few people who worked on the original ( not the Fred Calvert piece of shit ).

Also, Dick doesn't talk about THIEF anymore. He's semi-retired, and decided instead to do that book. It's a great book, but it's more for someone who already knows how to animate and wants to hone technique.

If you really want some fun, buy Garrett Gilchrist's fan restoration The Thief and The Cobbler: Recobbled, painstakingly restored from previously unavailable sources. He even got some help from ex-animators who had raw materials ( Warners confiscated all materials when they sent it to the Completion Bond Company ) and also Dick's son Alex.

Hope that helps!

- trevor.

Dume3 said...

Not including Barrier's book is pretty foolish. The opinions that you seem to object to comprise less than 1% of the book.

I really don't get what you find so offensive about his writing on Clampett. All he says is that sometimes he finds Clampett cartoons really weird. So what?The book is still an excellent history.

Vincent Waller said...

Another informative post. I don't know how you find the hours in the day to compile all this useful info, but please don't stop.

Bob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob said...

My library actually has a couple of these books which is awesome like the twisted tale of felix the cat, chuck amuck, the fleischer autobiography and the art of walt disney. There is this other book in my library thats not on the list called walt disney the dark prince of hollywood thas some funny stories, but besides that i noticed that there were no cartoonists mentioned on the list that were not american. Recently i finished this book called the mighty atom discussing the history of Osamu Tezuka's influences and how the character, Astro Boy was created. there's a lot of interesting information in it like that some of Tezuka's influences were george mcmanus, paul terry, and even milt gross. The book is around ten dollars and its really informative about Tezuka's history about his interest getting into cartooning, his style consistantly changing, his, struggles during WWII, and so on.

JohnK said...

>>Not including Barrier's book is pretty foolish. The opinions that you seem to object to comprise less than 1% of the book. <<

The whole book is opinions. It seems like a guy who hates cartoons who is trying to talk animators into creating a different medium just for him.

Booo Tooons Ltd. said...

Amen, John.

- trevor.

Dume3 said...

"The whole book is opinions."

That's simply not true. Even if you removed all of his opinions on the quality of certain cartoons, the book would only lose about a dozen or so pages, and the book is hundreds of pages long. One would still be left with a good reference book. Leonard Maltin makes far more opinion statements, yet you have included his book. Exactly what does Barrier say in his book that ticks you off so much? I've read the whole thing cover to cover and I really don't understand how it could be viewed as anything other than a good reference book with a few interesting opinions scattered about.

"It seems like a guy who hates cartoons who is trying to talk animators into creating a different medium just for him."

What do you base that on? I think we both know that he doesn't hate cartoons.

PCUnfunny said...

Hey John ! I got Adamson book today in the mail. It was neat-o torpedo. His analysis of Avery's work was impeccible. It was also nice to learn more about Heck Allen, a very interesting fellow.

Gavin Freitas said...

Fun post John! Hey thanks for mentioning the Martha Sigall book. That's my favorite book that I have ever read. After reading it, I had more respect for Leon S and Tex Avery. Tex Avery sounded like the most respectable human-being ever. I have heard alot of negative things about Leon but this book I think corrects it and puts him in a different light...

The GagaMan(n) said...

Some great recommendations in there, I see quite a few on this list sitting the shelf right next to me but also quite a few that I haven't even heard of before, so thanks for bringing them to my attention.

Your the most passionate Clampett fan out there John, so maybe you should take all your blog posts about him and adapt them into a book yourself. =)

nanto said...

Nice to see that you included Jeff Lenburg's book of episode guides. In the days before the interweb that thing was a godsend to animation collectors, hilarious typos and all.

Kadoogan said...

I bought that book on Text Avery by Joe Adamson when I was a kid in grade 8 (very late 1970s). I enjoyed Joe's descriptions and breakdown of the cartoons immensely at the time, almost as much as the illustrations - which I poured over intensely. This was largely due to the fact that I had no other methods of seeing the cartoons existed at the time other then to see them on TV if they happened to come on and I happened to be there to see them (very rare occurrences). No internet or DVDs back then (if you can imagine that). The original printing had a better full colour cover. I somehow misplaced the book and wound up repurchasing it in it's current form.
Needless to say, a very excellent book - probably still the best book on animation I have ever read, and I have a lot of books on animation. It is a huge influence on the way I draw my cartoons and the way I animate. If you are into animation and you don't have that book, you need to rectify that error immediately.
John, you just keep on bringing back great memories for me!

Dave said...

My problem with "Of Mice and Magic" (an otherwise fine book) is that it totally gave DePatie-Freleng short shrift by not giving them a whole chapter. That, and it's now 20 years since the last revision. I think that omission was sort of softened by Jerry Beck's book for DK on The Pink Panther. Some of those early Panther cartoons like "Bully for Pink" are absolutely brilliant pieces of pantomime comedy.

But I am familiar with many of the books you cited in your blog post, most of which came out when animation fandom was at its glorious, pre-Internet height.

litlgrey said...

Gotta mention... by 1968 or 1969, the DFE output was as cookie cutter and as unappealing as anything else being produced for television. The early promise of some of their series was exhausted, and by the early 1970s, they were entirely unwatchable... as well as unlistenable talkfests. Plus, whoever took over for DFE in the 1970s eviscerated two cardinal rules of Pink Pather shorts: NO TALKING, and STICK TO THE FAKE MANCINI MUSIC. Ghastly!