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Bob Thomas’s The Art of Animation

The Art of Animation

Michael Sporn has been scanning some beautiful photos and artwork from Bob Thomas’s classic long out-of-print 1958 book about Disney called The Art of Animation. So far he’s done two posts about the book (first post, second post). Even better, and especially if you read Spanish, Michael points out that Ernesto Pfluger has scanned and posted the entire Spanish-language version of the book on his blog. Even if you can’t understand the text, the imagery is a delight. I think I speak for a lot of classic animation fans when I say that I’d like to see this book reprinted.

Also, I love this comment by cartoonist Eddie Fitzgerald about the photos in Thomas’s book: “The artists look so hardcore, so professional! I love the serious faces of the four artists looking at the cel, the one with Al Dempster on the extreme left. I even like the picture of the ink and painters. Everybody looks like they’re soooo good at what they do!” Eddie is so right. The artists in these photos defy the stereotype of animators as goofballs. These guys were professionals in the truest sense of the word, and the films they created reflect their dedication to the art and craft.

  • They look like they’re adults, not “wacky” animators trying to be cute for the camera. And they were adults and professionals.

  • I love that book. It was my first animation book. I read that one many times when I was growing up, as there were very few books on the subject available at that time.

    Mine was a remaindered copy from the long-gone midwest chain, E. J. Korvettes. My parents spent $2.95 on it.

  • Lionel

    The book is indeed wonderful, and has probably become even more so as the people featured in it are, for the most part, (long) dead, and their work has taken its place among the great works of art of the 20th century.

    It is long out of print, yes, but thanks to ebay and other websites, much easier to locate and buy than 15 years ago.

    I own the French edition, and did not know about the Spanich one: I’d like to know in how many languages it was published.

    The updated editions, in 1991 and 1997, featured Beauty and The Beast and Hercules, respectively. Mirroring those movies, they were nice, but I doubt their lasting impact will be as strong.

  • I still have my copy complete with dust jacket. Plus, when the book came out I had my book signed. No, not by one of the guys who imitated the old man’s famous signature. I personally took my copy to Walt’s office and had him sign it to me.

    How’s that for a treasure?

  • One has only to look at your UPA photo book and Hieromimous’ book on the Yellow Submarine to see that hardcore serious cartoonist extended to other environs than just Disney. Eddie and John K. have sported that same “serious” ‘tude in photos- I just always thought it stemmed from an annoying rock in their shoe.

  • Did it ever occur to you guys that the “hardcore, professional” looking artists seen in Thomas’s book were warned that the photographers would be around the day these photos were taken? The artists at Disney dressed all different ways at the Burbank studio, a lot of times in shorts! A lot of these “hardcore” artists drank three and four martinis at lunch and were only good for about half a day’s work. This is not to denigrate their abilities, far from it, however, I’ve noticed a tendency to put these people on pedestals. They were not Gods but Cartoonists like thee and me!

  • I don’t have anything to add other than Mark’s comment is right on.

  • greg m.

    me neither! Now can I take this damn tux off? Down the hatch! Glug glug glug…

  • G. Sherman

    I wonder since the book has been reprinted and edited in many different forms what the original size and page count were? Also, if it came out in paperback and how many different versions were there?

  • Mark’s right of course. But, as you know, animators come in all flavors. Some old guys actually came to work in three piece suits, while others, like Al Coe, rode a motorcycle to work. Al truly looked more like a biker than an animator.

    Of course, there was lots of booze. More than once I found an empty bottle of hootch in my desk drawer.

  • “A lot of these ‘hardcore’ artists drank three and four martinis at lunch and were only good for about half a day’s work.”

    AHA! That’s what I’m missing!

  • FrankG

    Those three artists behind Evyind Earle look like they’re trying real hard not to strangle him.

  • That’s Al Dempter, Dick Anthony and Ralph Hulett, and you’re probably right.

  • Killroy McFate

    “Of course, there was lots of booze. More than once I found an empty bottle of hootch in my desk drawer.”

    And you don’t remember how it got there? My God, Floyd, get help!!!

  • How about someone finally printing Don Graham’s original manuscript? Or the unpublished Disney biography by a well regarded author (whose name eludes me at the moment but Barrier mentions him in his Disney bio) the Disney family paid for circa 1970 then sat on before having Thomas do the one that was released?

  • I still have my copy, which I purchased in 1965 for $5.95. Last I knew, it was worth $250. With the current state of inflation and also the state of the economy, I wonder what the current value might be?

  • Mary Ann Hunter

    Al Coe was my uncle, and I treasure the holiday and birthday cards he sent with cute animals and sayings for me and my daughter.
    I would love to hear some anecdotes about him from someone who knew him professionally.
    Thanks, Mary Ann Hunter