To recap: this season has already brought two must-have books – J.B. Kaufman’s Snow White history, The Fairest One Of All and Charles Solomon’s lavishly illustrated survey of Charlie Brown animation, The Art and Making of Peanuts Animation. But the season isn’t over and I’ve received four more eagerly anticipated hardcovers – each one strongly recommended and worth every cent of their suggested retail price.
First up, “I Say, I Say… Son! A Tribute To legendary Animators Bob, Chuck and Tom McKimson by Roberet McKimson Jr., with a forward by John Kricfalusi and an introduction by Darrell Van Citters. Wow! This is a surprise and a real treat. Poor Robert McKimson never got the attention and adoration his fellow directors Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng did. Thankfully, his champions have created this celebration of of all things McKimson – and that includes the incredible contributions of his siblings, Charles and Tom, who all together contributed more to the look and feel of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies than almost anyone else.
Robert McKimson’s son has put together a delicious volume of art and history that’s way overdue. John K. starts it off with a great seven-page Foreword explaining his admiration for the McKimson brothers work (images in this section include an original John K. drawing of Foghorn Leghorn meeting Stimpy!); and Darrel Van Citters does likewise in his informative intro. The meat of the book is the incredible art and photos that follow from the McKimson family estate. Bob Jr’s text takes us from his fathers earliest experiences at Disney and the Romer Grey studio to the earliest days at Harman-Ising. Absolutely gorgeous pencil art of Bosko (from Schlesinger) and Binko (from Romer Grey) highlight this section. Rare paintings, staff photos, the U.S. copyright registration for Bugs Bunny (!), model sheets, layout sketches, coloring book art… incredible stuff. A chapter on Tom McKimson’s work at Western Publishing and Bob’s later career at UPA, DePatie Freleng and back at Warners in 1969 tie up any and all loose ends. A thorough, competent, visually delightful job – exactly what you’d expect from someone named McKimson. Bravo, I love it!
Next we have: Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Vol. 4: “House Of The Seven Haunts!” edited by David Gerstein and Gary Groth.
What can I say? Gerstein and Groth do it again. For the 4th time, Floyd Gottfredson’s incredible (and incredibly rare) 1930s Mickey Mouse adventure strip is collected with much care and great thought. The fact these were never reprinted before is criminal – the way they have been presented here more than makes up for it. The comics strips are compiled from the highest quality reprint masters and the daily strips themselves are truly classic material – worthy of a more prominent place in the Disney canon. As usual, Gerstein’s “bonus materials” – the liner notes, essays and special features – that appear at the beginning and end of the book represent Disney scholarship at its highest level.
This time Gerstein (along with colleagues Tom Andrae, Carson Van Osten and Thad Komorowski) provide insight into Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and such supporting players as Oscar the Ostrich and Dr. Einmug, rare artwork from international merchandise, publicity images and lost storyboards from from the Disney Animation Research Library. This series is a keeper. If you’ve got the first three volumes, you know the score. If not, maybe this video (below) will convince you. It’s terrific!
Imagination Illustrated: The Jim Henson Journal by Karen Falk, is not devoted to animation (though Muppet Babies is given a nice spread), but to Henson’s Muppet legacy – and that cannot be ignored. Henson’s films, shows and all-over creativity are an inspiration to all who create frame-by-frame cartoons and this book is an incredible peek inside his mind. This book is based around Henson’s personal handwritten journal and materials from his archives – a scrapbook of Muppet history that I’m grateful the family has deemed to share. Beyond the Muppets, the book contains rare memorabilia and information on Henson’s experimental shorts and TV specials (some of which I’d never heard of), TV pilots, The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, commercials and industrial shorts – everything he did is noted one way or another with rare photos, script pages, publicity photos and other incredible ephemera. If you like Muppets or have any interest in Henson, it’s a must. Get it.
Last but not least: The Art of Wreck-It Ralph by Maggie Malone and Jennifer Lee.
Usually I recommend these “Art of” books because – let’s face it – even if the movie is no-good, the pre-vis and character designs are usually fantastic. Wreck-It Ralph is not only a great little film, but the artwork is especially fun. Director Rich Moore assembled a hand-picked crew of cartoonists to inspire the look of the film and they did not fail. No wonder the stuff on the screen looks so good – the preliminary art pictured here shows he had a lot of quality to choose from. Mike Gabriel, Jin Kim, Bill Schwab, Lorelay Bove, Glen Keane, and Minkyu Lee are just a few of the artists supplying the eye candy here, providing the appropriate “sugar rush” you require. This is a good one.