British Animation:The Channel 4 Factor takes a look at the glory years of Britian’s Channel 4 and their dedication to bringing quality animation to television. Since 1982, they’ve aired works such as The Snowman, When the Wind Blows, Street of Crocodiles, Girls Night Out, Feet of Song, The Village, Creature Comforts, Screenplay, Bob’s Birthday, Abductees, City Paradise, Rabbit and Peter and the Wolf. In addition to this amazing line-up of animation, the channel also set up the Animate initiative with the Arts Council of England, and backed the animator-in-residence program hosted by the British Film Institute’s Museum of the Moving Image. The book, which will be published in February by Indiana University Press, should offer plenty of insider details because it’s written by Clare Kitson, who was the commissioning editor at Channel 4 from 1989 until 1999. Channel 4 is one of the bright spots in TV animation history and I’m looking forward to learning more about the people and circumstances that made their artistic approach to TV animation possible.
If you want to get your own animation onto the air, don’t get your hopes up for a supportive forward-thinking broadcaster like Channel 4. But that shouldn’t stop you from trying. David Levy’s Animation Development: From Pitch to Production will guide you through the icky process of getting a TV show produced nowadays. It’ll be out in September from Allworth Press. Levy is an industry veteran, president of ASIFA-East, and proprietor of this fine blog. His first book Your Career in Animation: How to Survive and Thrive is packed with solid common-sense advice from successful artists working in the biz. I know he’s interviewed a lot of people for this new book and I’m sure it’ll be a valuable handbook for anybody who wants to create their own TV shows.
Two Pixar art books are coming out courtesy of Chronicle Books. The Art of Up by Tim Hauser presents all the artwork from Pete Docter’s new film. The Art of Pixar Short Films is by yours truly and it’s scheduled for release later this month. The book, which is a companion piece to this dvd, documents the studio’s shorts going back all the way to the 1980s. Because of its historical nature, there’s more text than the typical Pixar art of book. I haven’t seen the finished item yet but I’m really looking forward to seeing how it turned out. My experience working with the publishing team at Pixar was one of utmost smoothness and efficiency. Everybody went out of their way to make sure it turned out right, and I’m hoping the results reflect everybody’s hard work on the project.
And there’s more ‘art of’ books. Coraline: A Visual Companion is officially released this week though I hear it’s already in some bookstores. The Art of Monsters vs. Aliens is out in February. Also, later in 2009, Disney’s The Princess and the Frog will receive ‘art of’ book treatment from Chronicle Books.
Mickey Mouse, Hitler, and Nazi Germany: How Disney’s Characters Conquered the Third Reich by Carsten Laqua has quite the eye-catching cover. It was originally published in the early-1990s in German. This English translation is eagerly anticipated by Disney book expert Didier Ghez which means that it’s probably worth picking up.
Disney Editions is releasing a bunch of Disney-related art books: A Disney Sketchbook 1928-2008, Disney’s Neglected Prince: The Art of Disney’s Knights in Shining Armor (and Loincloths), Hippo in a Tutu: Dancing in Disney Animation. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from any of these books until I saw a recent book by Disney Editions called Disney’s Dogs. It’s a mini-book designed for kids and Disney fans, which means they could have put together a slap-dash collection of cheesy film still artwork, but instead they turned out a wonderful volume packed with carefully chosen and never-before-seen artwork from Disney’s Animation Research Library. If that’s any indication of the new direction Disney Editions is taking with their animation-related books, then all three of the above books should be worth a look.
If Disney is not your bag, then be sure to check out The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes (working title) by fellow Cartoon Brewer Jerry Beck. The book will be out in the fall from Insight Editions. More importantly, the online community is currently helping to choose the titles that’ll appear in the book. Submit your choices for the book on this special Cartoon Brew page.
From University Press of Mississippi comes Iwao Takamoto: My Life with a Thousand Characters, which is the story of the late Hanna-Barbera art director and Disney artist Iwao Takamoto. The text is in his own words, with editorial collaboration from historian Michael Mallory. University Press of Mississippi deserves credit for publishing a number of animation artist bios in recent years though they’ve been a mixed lot; I was disappointed with the depth of research and quality of writing in last year’s Maurice Noble biography but the Martha Sigall memoirs they released a few years back were charming and fun. Here’s to hoping the Takamoto text reaches to the standard of the Sigall book.
Students, get out your credit cards: Focal Press is releasing two volumes of the legendary lecture notes by Disney in-house instructor Walt Stanchfield. Here are the Amazon links to Volume 1 and Volume 2 . Photocopies of these notes have been passed around animation schools for decades. It’ll be nice to have them collected in one place. The series is edited by Disney producer Don Hahn.
The other big how-to book of 2009 is focused on a long-neglected aspect of the animation process. Elemental Magic: The Art of Special Effects Animation by animation veteran Joseph Gilland is also from Focal Press, the publisher of the Stanchfield books. According to fx animation guru Michel Gagné, the book is “fantastic.” Gagné wrote on his blog recently that, “I can assure everyone that this will be a ‘must have’ reference for animation students and those interested in the art. The book will feature step by step demonstrations covering all the main categories: liquids, fire, smoke, explosions, magic, transformations, and spiritual entities. In addition to Joe’s art, the book will display photographs, diagrams and artwork from various artists in the field.” Joe Gilland has also started a blog about the book.
Finally, one comics-related pick that I had to mention: The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics. Kurtzman is one of the few uncontested geniuses of the comic world, and his achievements are impeccable both artistically and editorially. This book draws upon his vast archives and spans everything from his early Hey Look! and EC war comics to Help and Playboy‘s “Little Annie Fanny”, as well as including comic layouts, illustrated correspondence, and vintage photos. It’ll be out in April from Abrams and on my bookshelf shortly thereafter.