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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!
  • Deaniac

    “Creating Cartoons with Character” looks very, very good. Joe Murray’s blog is pretty informative, so I’m sure this book is a continuation of that. If I ever come across this book at Borders, I will buy it on the spot.

  • Joe Murray’s book is amazing– it has lots of great personal anecdotes as well as general information and tips. There are even a few sections where he addresses feelings of ‘selling out’ by doing a network show rather than remaining independent, and ways that he tried to keep relations with the executives non-confrontational while still keeping as much control over the show as possible. I can’t praise the book enough. I’ve been wanting to read something like it for a long time.

    • GhaleonQ

      Wow. History, too? Double-sold!

  • Jeff Kurtti

    Eric Gonzales’s “Rosita y Conchita” looks an awful lot like Jimmy Pickering’s “Skelly the Skeleton Girl” and “Skelly and Femur.”

    • Hey Jeff,
      I haven’t read any of the Skelly books, but looking at the descriptions at Amazon, they seem to be a very different book from Rosita Y Conchita. One of the goals of Rosita Y Conchita is to tell the traditions of Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) via a touching story of two sisters trying to reach out to each other, even though they are in two different worlds. The look of Rosita (the skeleton girl in our book) was directly inspired by the look of the calaveras and ofrendas used as part of the tradition of the Day of the Dead. So please don’t write off our book because of some superficial similarity.

      • Clearly these characters are related only via undead themes.

        These characters look no more alike that Shrek and Mickey Mouse.

    • Barron

      Hey Jeff, the two book characters look NOTHING alike. Besides, what are you trying to accomplish by attempting to point out the similarities?

      • Jeff Kurtti

        I simply pointed out the undeniable similarity. It’s interesting. Lots of defensive reactions, though.

  • The Gee

    A regular book review? nice feature.

    And, the comic looks most interesting to me.

    (though, no offense to the creator, I hope it doesn’t get developed into anything more than getting additional editions. there either is a glut or will be a glut of adaptations of newer comics and graphic novels. That makes me worry about the newer comics and graphic novels that are being created. If people are making comics then they should be envisioned as comics and not as eventually a movie or something else. Creatively, it seems like a wrong way…

    I don’t know about artists exactly, but, there are some, maybe a lot, of writers who think it is the roundabout path to the gateway for their unsold movie manuscripts. That is not a great trend. But, fortunately, I don’t think larger publishers are publishing many of those minor, un-established creators. However, there are a lot of TV/film writers who are writing comics. I don’t know if that is good or bad or just vanity.)

    Anyway….with these three publications:
    I wish all of these books the best in terms of sales. Support the printed arts!

  • I recently bought Joe Murray’s book. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. It’s definitely a must-buy for anyone who has creativity waiting to be put to use.

  • Rooniman

    These are all very great looking books. I’m must get my hands on them.

  • Thanks for reviewing Rosita Y Conchita, Jerry!
    If anyone wants to pick up a copy from Eric Gonzalez and I in person we’ll be at The Folk Tree in Pasadena for their Dia De Los Muertos Altars & Ephemera Exhibition on October 9th. We’ll also be at Libreria Martinez in Santa Ana on October 17th, we’ll be at the annual Hollywood Forever Cemetary Dia De Los Muertos Festival on October 30th, and we’ll have a table at CTNX in November! For up to date signings, book readings and appearances; please “Like” Muertoons on facebook!

  • I bought Joe Murray’s book when it was just a downloadable PDF style book. It was okay, more stories and anecdotes from an experienced animator. My file got deleted and they didn’t have an option to let paying customers download a new copy. Now that there’s a hard copy: how many times do you expect me to spend money on the same content?

    • Java Junkie

      If you accidentally threw away a physical book, should a publisher be expected to provide you with a new copy? If you don’t back up your digital content, you shouldn’t gripe.

      • Well, yes. The advantage of a digital copy could potentially be the ability to download it again if deleted, that’s not unreasonable.

  • I definitely dug Joe’s book. I learned a few tricks and notes (although, finding out Rocko was supposed to be 20 years-old is difficult to swallow), and will be adding them to my repertoire. My only issue was that there were a TON of metaphors (“Think of xyz like a waterfall, it hits rocks and is beautiful but dangerous and unstoppable and blah-blah-blah”). I don’t know, that kinda came out silly to me.

    But in terms of readability, it’s damn excellent.

  • Being a cartoonist and animator myself, I was intantly drawn to Joe’s book. I admire his cartoon talent, creativity and general willingness to help others out. Cant’ wait to read it.

  • andrew brattrud

    Eric Gonzales book is excellent. i enjoyed it and my little daughter can’t put it down. it teaches culture, language, and even shows them how to draw the characters. now i have pictures of Rosita all over the house. i highly recommended the book.