OF MICE AND MAGIC by Leonard Maltin


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As much as any buff could want to know about the history of each and every film cartoon studio--meaning, too, that the Disney output is only part of the show. Maltin, happily, writes more as a trade reporter than as an aesthete; he isn't wowed by the artistry of some commercial productions (unlike those now searching the archives for auteurs), he takes it for granted. So, if his judgments are fairly obvious, they're at least not turgid. And his text well serves the purpose of recording--while many of the principals are still alive--who did just what, when, and where from the silent era through TV's death-blow to the animated cartoon as a creative entertainment medium. Here, then, is the origin of the cel-and-background process (characters drawn on celluloids laid on top of a stationary background) still in use today--and the original ads and animation drawings for Felix the Cat in his prime (""I discovered,"" says artist Otto Messmer, ""that I could get as big a laugh with a little gesture--a wink or a twist of the tail--as I could with gags""). The evolution of Mickey Mouse; his sound debut in Steamboat Willie (""Tile mouth organist played the tune, the rest of us in the sound department banged tin pans and blew side whistles on the beat""); the introduction of the storyboard (stronger, tighter plotting) to compensate for Mickey's ""nondescript personality""; his eclipse by an overwhelming personality, Donald Duck. And the 1941 studio strike that dispersed Disney's talented specialists. Plus: Max Fleischer, his Bouncing Ball sing-along films, New York ethnic gags, and high-flavored personalities--the sexy Betty Boop, the muscular softie Popeye. Paul Terry's assembly-line output (made for kids, says Terry, ""because if they laughed at it, the adults wouldn't have to know whether it was funny, or whether it wasn't""). Walter Lantz and his klutzy animal characters--bland Oswald the Rabbit, back in the 1930s; raucous Woody the Woodpecker, ""quite in tune with the brassy 1940s."" And so on through Warner Brothers' Bugs Bunny (and the Road Runner series) and MGM/Hanna-Barbera's Tom and Jerry (to animator Tex Avery, ""the more unreal the better"") to the innovations of UPA. With complete filmographies, studio by studio, the most extensive and authoritative work on the subject.

Pub Date: Sept. 14th, 1980
Publisher: McGraw-Hill