A finely drawn history of a critical period in the history of animation.

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WILD MINDS

THE ARTISTS AND RIVALRIES THAT INSPIRED THE GOLDEN AGE OF ANIMATION

Entertaining history of early cartoon animation.

Demonstrating impassioned research and technical know-how, Mitenbuler presents a series of historical anecdotes that, sequenced together, bring to life one of the world’s most beloved art forms. When Winsor McCay, creator of the “Little Nemo” comics, debuted his first moving drawings in 1911, he jolted an entire industry to its feet. During the next few decades, a network of feuding production studios emerged, each trying to one-up the other with their inventiveness and intellectual properties. It was a cutthroat business, often leaving animators at odds with their executives. Otto Messmer, for example, the artist behind Felix the Cat, was frequently overlooked while his producer, Pat Sullivan, basked in fame and merchandising success. A rivalry brewed between Walt Disney, whose new animation studio wowed audiences with shorts like the “The Skeleton Dance” (1929), and Max Fleischer, the man behind the Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons and inventor of technical marvels like the rotoscope. Mitenbuler chronicles the debut of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937 and the unusual production of Disney’s 1940 music-animation hybrid Fantasia while also giving ample time to the rambunctious crew behind Looney Tunes and the various hijinks on the Warner Brothers lot. The narrative crackles with captivating charm, adding color and nuance to a cast of familiar cartoon faces. The author is skilled at exploring historical context and tracks how most turns in the industry were reactionary, shifts in response to not just popular trends, but to labor politics, the Great Depression, and World War II. In the words of a Disney memo on his studio’s core philosophies, “we cannot do the fantastic things based on the real unless we first know the real.” Mitenbuler, too, proves adept at this tenet and, like a one-man animation department, effortlessly renders both celluloid and background.

A finely drawn history of a critical period in the history of animation.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2938-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Smart, engaging sportswriting—good reading for organization builders as well as Pats fans.

THE DYNASTY

Action-packed tale of the building of the New England Patriots over the course of seven decades.

Prolific writer Benedict has long blended two interests—sports and business—and the Patriots are emblematic of both. Founded in 1959 as the Boston Patriots, the team built a strategic home field between that city and Providence. When original owner Billy Sullivan sold the flailing team in 1988, it was $126 million in the hole, a condition so dire that “Sullivan had to beg the NFL to release emergency funds so he could pay his players.” Victor Kiam, the razor magnate, bought the long since renamed New England Patriots, but rival Robert Kraft bought first the parking lots and then the stadium—and “it rankled Kiam that he bore all the risk as the owner of the team but virtually all of the revenue that the team generated went to Kraft.” Check and mate. Kraft finally took over the team in 1994. Kraft inherited coach Bill Parcells, who in turn brought in star quarterback Drew Bledsoe, “the Patriots’ most prized player.” However, as the book’s nimbly constructed opening recounts, in 2001, Bledsoe got smeared in a hit “so violent that players along the Patriots sideline compared the sound of the collision to a car crash.” After that, it was backup Tom Brady’s team. Gridiron nerds will debate whether Brady is the greatest QB and Bill Belichick the greatest coach the game has ever known, but certainly they’ve had their share of controversy. The infamous “Deflategate” incident of 2015 takes up plenty of space in the late pages of the narrative, and depending on how you read between the lines, Brady was either an accomplice or an unwitting beneficiary. Still, as the author writes, by that point Brady “had started in 223 straight regular-season games,” an enviable record on a team that itself has racked up impressive stats.

Smart, engaging sportswriting—good reading for organization builders as well as Pats fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982134-10-5

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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