What are the essential reference books that anyone with an interest in animation history should have on their bookshelf? It’s a question I’ve rarely seen discussed and would be curious to hear readers’ feedback. I’m not asking about the best written books about the art form, but rather the books that offer valuable information to those pursuing serious study of the history of 20th century animation.
I whittled down my ‘desert island’ list of animation reference books to just seven titles. There are, in fact, dozens of other excellent books, journals and articles related to specific filmmakers, studios, techniques and styles. I could have easily added another dozen titles to the list and still come up short. However, these are the seven books that I find myself returning to time and time again, and I think they provide a solid overview of 20th century animation for any intrepid researcher/historian/fan of the art form. Please share your favorite reference books in the comments.
1.) Before Mickey: The Animated Film 1898-1928 (1982, revised in 1993) by Donald Crafton — Walt Disney was an important figure in the development of animation, but so were Raoul Barré, James Stuart Blackton, John R. Bray, Emile Cohl, Winsor McCay, Otto Messmer, Lotte Reiniger, and Paul Terry. This book covers all of them, and is essential grounding in the early history of animation.