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Animation ParlourBooks

‘A New History of Animation’ Could Become The Definitive Textbook History of The Art Form

There are plenty of reference books devoted to animation history—some of which I value highly—but what hasn’t existed is an authoritative textbook that charts the art form’s entire history in a cohesive and organized fashion.

That void in animation literature appears to have been filled now with Maureen Furniss’ A New History of Animation, recently released by Thames & Hudson. The book is based on the animation history courses that Furniss teaches at CalArts, where she is the director of the experimental animation department.

I’m still awaiting my copy, but I can think of few historians more qualified to write this book. Furniss has a broad knowledge of the art form, having been the editor of Animation Journal, a founding member of the Society for Animation Studies, and the author of numerous overview books like Art in Motion: Animation Aesthetics and The Animation Bible.

Here is the book description from the publisher:

A New History of Animation guides readers through the history and context of animation from around the world. The book assumes no prior knowledge of the subject and explains all the key technical concepts, filling a gap in the market for a complete and well-researched animation history textbook that can be used by teachers in trade schools and universities worldwide, as well as by readers interested in the story of this evolving medium.

Topics covered include: early cinema and the foundations of the animation industry; animation as modern art and the emergence of the major studios; animation during wartime; stop-motion; new audiences for animation, in advertising, television, and games; animation from Eastern Europe; short films; computer-generated animation; international animation from Japan and elsewhere; and animation as an art form.

The book is designed to be a textbook, with chapter intros and conclusions, key terms, and timelines, but as this review on Pop Matters points out, Furniss “writes in a straightforward voice devoid of tedious academic-speak.” Plus, the book is copiously illustrated with 460 images. A few of the book’s pages can be glimpsed in this video of Furniss talking about the project:

The book can be ordered on Amazon. We’ll surely have more to say about it after we get our hands on it.

  • What about…?

    What about Bendazzi’s new Animation: A World History? Are those books being used as textbooks anywhere? I know they are quite expensive, even by textbook standards.

    • cesar

      what about “Cartoons: One Hundred Years of Cinema Animation”?

      • What about…?

        Animation: A World History is by the same author, and was originally meant to be the revised and expanded edition of ‘Cartoons.’ As far as I understand, it covers a lot of the same subject matter, but is more comprehensive, and is more up-to-date with contemporary animation. But, you probably know that. Was ‘Cartoons’ used as a textbook at all in animation schools? (it’s a lot cheaper than Bendazzi’s revised and expanded edition by a different name)

  • Tony

    When I studied animation history in the University of Central Florida, we used Leonard Maltin’s Of Mice and Magic as a textbook. A great read, but I’d hardly call it definitive; it only covers American animation, glosses over TV cartoons, and the revised edition only goes as far as 1986, just short of the Disney renaissance and the rise of CGI.
    I also have the far more exhaustive The History of Animation: Enchanted Drawings by Charles Solomon. It could work well as a textbook, but the hardcover is somewhat heavy. Anyone know if there’s a paperback version, or if it has been used as a textbook?

  • Lauren Sparks

    This sounds great! In the history of animation course I took at SCAD several years ago with Professor Charles daCosta, there was no course textbook if I remember correctly. I kept all my notes from that course since the information seems to be so scattered – I’m excited to order this one and refresh/expand my knowledge. :)