CARTOONS by Giannalberto Bendazzi


One Hundred Years of Cinema Animation
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 This massive history of film animation is inclusive to distraction and makes for awkward prose. Readability aside, its encyclopedic style will find it a place in the library of everyone interested in the subject. From the outset, Bendazzi, a founding member of the Society for Animation Studies, makes clear his preference for European art animation, with its simpler styles and its predilection for abstraction. But his historical intentions require him to tell the full story, with all its emphasis on the marketplace for moving images. Beginning with the origins of animation in French pantomimes lumineuses (circa 1890), Bendazzi recounts the turn-of-the-century filming of ``chalk talks'' and lightning sketches done by speed artists. The French filmmaker George Melies blurred the line between live and animated action to develop supernatural effects for narrative movies. Italian Futurists painted abstracts directly on nitrate, while the Americans began experiments with plain storytelling and eventually standardized the studio system for mass production, the cel process, and the slash method. Meanwhile, European art filmmakers such as Fritz Lang were incorporating animation into their films. Bendazzi tells the stories of the great American animators with much ambivalence, but they're all here: the Fleischer Brothers and ``Betty Boop''; Otto Messmer and ``Felix the Cat''; Paul Terry and ``Terrytoons''; Walter Lanz and ``Woody Woodpecker''; and, of course, Walt Disney and ``Mickey.'' Bendazzi resents Disney's dominance, claiming that he stifled more artistic animation in America. Though Bendazzi extols the American avant- garde animators (from Jordan Belson to Van Der Beek), he fails to see the full genius of those schooled by Disney, from Tex Avery to Chuck Jones, and he completely misinterprets American products such as ``The Simpsons'' and Ernest Pintoff's ``The Critic.'' Every country that has ever produced a cartoon will find it listed here, with a one-sentence description. A videotape or CD-ROM is the only thing missing from this exhaustive project. (95 color plates, 150 b&w photos)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-253-31168-3
Page count: 434pp
Publisher: Indiana Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1994