Inspired by Michael Sporn’s recent series of posts about his favorite animation books, I wanted to share this list I’d compiled a while back of autobiographies written by animation artists. The list is depressingly short considering how many hundreds of great artists worked during animation’s Golden Age. It amazes, and saddens, me that none of the A-list animators at Warner Bros. or MGM ever bothered to record their memories or offer insights into how they worked. Imagine how much richer the art form would be today if we could refer back to the thoughts of animators like Ken Harris, Ben Washam, Bill Melendez, Irv Spence, Rod Scribner, Emery Hawkins, Bobe Cannon and Ray Patterson. The one cartoon animator who did produce a couple of books, Preston Blair, is evidence of how much these artists had to offer to future generations; Blair’s book is to this day one of the most widely admired animation texts around
To be fair, there are many more biographies about animation artists, like Joe Adamson’s books on Tex Avery and Walter Lantz, John Canemaker’s volumes on Mary Blair, Winsor McCay and the Nine Old Men, and various bios of Friz Freleng, Max Fleischer, Charlie Thorson and Ub Iwerks, among others. But as far as artists writing about their experiences in their own words, it’s a meager library. That’s a shame too because as necessary and valuable as bios are, they are rarely (if ever) as entertaining or enlightening as the best of the autobiographies, like those of Shamus Culhane, Jack Kinney and Chuck Jones. If you can think of any other titles that should be added to the list, please mention them in the comments.