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New “Legends” Biography Series Profiles Icons of Animation

The work of animators has brought joy, laughter, and excitement to countless audiences ever since this lively art first flickered onto movie screens in the early 20th century. Today, those responsible for many classic and popular characters, films, and television shows hold an honored place in American pop culture. A new, first-ever biography series now chronicles the lives and work of eight icons fitting this description in Legends of Animation (Chelsea House Publishers) by author Jeff Lenburg.

As Lenburg, an award-winning author of 30 books and nationally acknowledged expert on animated cartoons, stated,“The subjects I chose to include in this series are among the most honored and recognized from the worlds of film and television animation and their classic characters are known and loved around the world and the most imitated and admired today.”

Each title in the eight-book series surveys the life of each animated selected from animation’s more-than-100-year history, whose technical wizardry and creative inspiration have made him a legend. Emphasis is given to each animator’s professional achievements, impact on popular culture, and the innovations pioneered.

The first four volumes, now in bookstores, cover such subjects as Tex Avery (of Warner. Bros. and MGM screwball animation and creator of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Droopy); Walt Disney (the most honored animator/producer of the 20th century and the father of Mickey Mouse); William Hanna and Joseph Barbera (of Tom and Jerry, The Flintstones, Yogi Bear and Scooby-Doo fame); and Matt Groening (of The Simpsons). Featured in the second set of four volumes, due out this November, are: Walter Lantz (best known as the father of Woody Woodpecker); John Lasseter (the computer cartoon whiz behind Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, and others)’ Hayao Miyazaki (Japan’s premier anime storyteller behind such anime classics as Kiki’s Delivery Service,Howl’s Moving Castle, and Spirited Away), Genndy Tartakovsky (creator of such cult television cartoon favorites as Dexter’s Laboratory, Star Wars: Clone Wars, and Samurai Jack).

The series, Lenburg added, goes behind the scenes discussing each animator’s personal and educational background, early work, styles and influences, key films and television productions, origins of their characters, and much more.

With full-color and black-and-white photographs and illustrations throughout, including personal and family photos and animation art, from sketchings, to drawings, to film stills, to animation cels, Lenburg said the Legends series brings to life “the mirth and magic of these masters that continues to flourish today and are sure to interest animation fans of all ages.”

  • Justin

    Will these books be available in Barnes & Noble?

  • amid

    Jeff Lenburg is one of the most prolific hacks amongst animation writers. His previous books are riddled with errors and misinformation to the point of making them unusable. It’s unfortunate that publishers keep wasting paper on this guy.

    • In that case, his books could make for a fun drinking game. Every time you see a piece of misinformation in any one of his books, do a shot. It could make for quite a lively party.

  • So where’s the book on Bob Clampett?

  • James Ciambor

    Amid most accounts lack historical accuracy. Ray Pointer who I have talked to said himself that these are mostly arm chair observers, that have no understanding of the internal workings of the industry.

    To the point that the internet’s most reliable sources can contradict their work. Suffice to say they invested a lot of there time. Though there is always new information surfacing that shed’s true light onto the topic this is why some biographies are updated.

    We should at least applaud Lenburg’s efforts because most of today’s younger wave of animators or aficionados have no thorough knowledge of the history. How many Cal Arts or most animation school students make tributes to Max Fleischer, UPA, Tex Avery, Bob Clampett or the more esoteric but vital artists? So at least this is an effort, maybe a very flawed effort especially when information is abundantly available.

    • amid

      Getting simple facts right about the people one writes about, like their cause of death, is a fundamental part of being a historian. Animation historians like Barrier, Canemaker, Kaufman, Beck, Maltin, etc. know how to do this. Lenburg is sloppy and consistently goofs up the most basic research in his books.

  • Didier Ghez

    I have to agree with Amid. Lenburg does not even try. His books are an absolute disaster of misinformation. We are not talking about typos but about a very large number of mistakes due to bad research.

  • Andrew KIeswetter

    Is there gonna be a book on Don Bluth? The 1991 one by John Cawley
    was great but I want to see an updated book on Bluth.

  • I stopped caring much about Lenburg a long time ago.

  • Carl Russo

    Since I don’t generally read your Biz section, I would have missed this entry were it not for a post at the Golden Age Cartoons forum. Shoulda been on your main page for its general interest, no? Thanks.

  • Artist-Fartist

    No Bob Clampett?.. What a shame :(