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Saturday Book Review

If you ever wished one of the creators of a cartoon series on Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network would just explain everything about how they sold their shows – and what happens step-by-step during the production process – your wish has been granted. Joe Murray (Rocko’s Modern Life and Camp Lazlo) has written one of the best books on the subject – and a perfect companion to David Levy’s essential volumes. Murray’s new book, Creating Animated Cartoons with Character, explains it all, in rich detail, using his experiences in pitching and producing Rocko and Lazlo, illustrating every part with storyboards, model sheets, photographs, internal charts and graphs. He gives in-depth behind-the-scenes information about his two series, and makes it easy to see how this info can apply to your, or anyones, project. On top of that, Murray corrals his colleagues Steve Hillenberg (Spongebob), Everret Peck (Duckman), Tom Warburton (Codename: Kids Next Door), Craig McCracken (Powerpuff Girls), art director Sue Mondt, voice actor Tom Kenny, sound designer Jeff Hutchins and others for informative sidebar Q&A’s. Linda Simensky provides a great introduction to set the scene. This is a must-have if you are interested in creating TV animation, pitching a show or producing a series – or simply interested, historically, on how Joe himself did it. Highly recommended.

When experienced animators turn to creating comics or illustrating children’s books, I usually find the results successful and quite satisfying. That’s certainly the case with animator Mitch Schauer (Angry Beavers) and his first graphic novel, RIP M.D. (from Fantagraphics). It’s about a little boy who discovers that all the monsters (zombies, wolfmen, ghosts and blobs) we’ve always heard about are actually real – and in desperate need of his special help. The storytelling is very clever and the art (with inks by Mike Vosburg) is lush and appropriately horrific. This is the first project to publicly emerge from Lincoln Butterfield, a small indie animation studio in Burbank. RIP M.D. would make an amazing 2D animated feature – if Hollywood were still making those. For now, graphic novels such as this are a great outlet for ambitious creators with ample imaginations. Check it out.
And finally, animation character and background designer Eric Gonzales has created and self-published an excellent “Day of the Dead” themed children’s book, Rosita y Conchita. The text is presented in both English and Spanish, and it includes a section on how to make a Sugar Skull. The recipe, like the artwork in the book, is mouth watering!