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

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 virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.

THE BASEBALL 100

Longtime sports journalist Posnanski takes on a project fraught with the possibilities of controversy: ranking the 100 best baseball players of all time.

It would steal the author’s thunder to reveal his No. 1. However, writing about that player, Posnanski notes, “the greatest baseball player is the one who lifts you higher and makes you feel exactly like you did when you fell in love with this crazy game in the first place.” Working backward, his last-but-not-least place is occupied by Japanese outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, whose valiant hitting rivaled Pete Rose’s, mostly a base at a time. As for Rose, who comes in at No. 60, Posnanski writes, “here’s something people don’t often say about the young Pete Rose, but it’s true: The guy was breathtakingly fast.” Thus, in his first pro season, Rose stole 30 bases and hit 30 triples. That he was somewhat of a lout is noted but exaggerated. Posnanski skillfully weaves statistics into the narrative without spilling into geekdom, and he searches baseball history for his candidate pool while combing the records for just the right datum or quote: No. 10 Satchel Paige on No. 15 Josh Gibson: “You look for his weakness, and while you’re looking for it he’s liable to hit 45 home runs.” Several themes emerge, one being racial injustice. As Posnanski notes of “the greatest Negro Leagues players....people tend to talk about them as if there is some doubt about their greatness.” There’s not, as No. 94, Roy Campanella, among many others, illustrates. He was Sicilian, yes, but also Black, then reason enough to banish him to the minors until finally calling him up in 1948. Another significant theme is the importance of fathers in shaping players, from Mickey Mantle to Cal Ripken and even Rose. Posnanski’s account of how the Cy Young Award came about is alone worth the price of admission.

Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982180-58-4

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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