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?