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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.


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