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Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age [Paperback]

Michael Barrier
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Sep 2003
In Hollywood Cartoons, Michael Barrier takes us on a glorious guided tour of American animation in the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, to meet the legendary artists and entrepreneurs who created Bugs Bunny, Betty Boop, Mickey Mouse, Wile E. Coyote, Donald Duck, Tom and Jerry, and many other cartoon favorites.
Beginning with black-and-white silent cartoons, Barrier offers an insightful account, taking us inside early New York studios and such Hollywood giants as Disney, Warner Bros., and MGM. Barrier excels at illuminating the creative side of animation—revealing how stories are put together, how animators develop a character, how technical innovations enhance the "realism" of cartoons. Here too are colorful portraits of the giants of the field, from Walt and Roy Disney and their animators, to Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Based on hundreds of interviews with veteran animators, Hollywood Cartoons gives us the definitive inside look at this colorful era and at the creative process behind these marvelous cartoons.
"This definitive depiction of our most American medium will leave all but the most hardened Disnophobe shouting Yabba-Dabba-Doo!"—The Boston Book Review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 670 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (1 Sep 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195167295
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195167290
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 15.7 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 464,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Why is Marjorie Belcher the world's most durable film star? Because she was the model for Walt Disney's Snow White and for the Blue Fairy in 'Pinochio'.... This is one of the many odd facts to be gleaned from Michael Barrier's account of the development of Hollywood animation. Bet you didn't know, for example, that Sneezy the dwarf was originally to have been Deafy—until someone, long before the days of political correctness, spotted the unconscious slur. Or that Pluto was at first to have been called Rover.... His book is rich in nuggets that bring the era, from roughly 1910 to the mid-1960's, vividly to life."—

"This long awaited book by Michael Barrier, a pioneer in the field of animation studies, raises the bar for serious analysis of Hollywood animation and animators during the `Golden Age' of the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Barrier's research is rich and impeccable, his arguments articulate, and his uncompromising, astringent conclusions will be a source of scholarly debate and discussion for years to come."—John Canemaker, animator and author of


, and professor and head of animation studies at New York University Tisch School of the Arts

"The highly readable result is niether weighted down with scholarly discourse nor demeaned by trivial anecdotes.

might well become the standard survey in its area. All libraries should consider for purchase." —Neal Baker,

"Barrier's book is a major contribution to our understanding of the work of not only the Disney animators, but also of men like Max and Dave Fleischer, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, John Hubley, and the brilliant Warner Bros. crew, especially Tex Avery, Friz Freleng and Chuck Jones.... The book is likely to become a standard history of American animation up to Disney's death in 1996."—

"Barrier's book is a major contribution to our understanding of the work of not only the Disney animators, but also of men like Max and Dave Fleischer, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, John Hubley, and the brilliant Warner Bros. crew, especially Tex Avery, Friz Feleng and Chuck Jones.... The book is likely to become a standard history of American animation up to Disney's death in 1966."—Charles Matthews,

About the Author

"A substantial history of animated cartoons, both seven-minute shorts and feature films,

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Golden Tales From The Golden Age 6 Jun 2000
I bought this book on a whim and regretted it as I walked out of the shop, after all it was 25 and I'd already got the excellent "Of Mice & Magic" by Leonard Maltin. However once I started reading I found that this was a corker of a book. Mr Barrier has researched it very carefully and it is full of stories and vignettes that paint a remarkably colourful picture of life in the 1920s to 1950s when these cartoons were made. It's strongest feature over the Maltin book is that it deals with the story in a roughly chronological way so you get the feel of people moving around the industry in waves and often circles too. The odd thing is that at 600 pages it's too short! I get the feeling that there is a lot more interesting stuff to be told that there just wasn't room for but what is there is an excellent read. This deserves a place on any book shelf that supports good animation books.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for animators and fans alike 30 Oct 2008
As an animator with a huge interest in in the history of animation, I have read many books on this subject. However, "Hollywood Cartoons" is the most informative so far. Not only does it cover in great detail the history of all the main animation studios, but Michael Barrier also writes about the developments of various drawing and animation techniques along the way, as well as the differences between the various animators' and directors' styles. At times the author is quite harsh about the "shortcomings" of some of his subjects, but his criticisms have prompted me to relook at some of the cartoons he mentions and that can only be a good thing.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  25 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive look at a dying artform 18 Oct 2003
By Wayne Klein - Published on Amazon.com
Covering much of the same ground as Leonard Maltin's Of Mice and Magic, Hollywood Cartoons is packed with interesting insights and comments from both the author and those that participated in the creation of an American art form. Michael Barrier's exhaustively researched book covers the Golden Age of Hollywood animation and the movers and shakers that had an impact on the art form.
At nearly 650 pages Barrier's book takes a fair balanced look at Disney, Warner Bros., Fleischer and other contributors to this dying art form. It's actually a perfect companion piece to the newely released boxed set of Warner Bros. Looney Tunes classics. Barrier avoids the Disney worship that marred other books of this type and, like Maltin's marvelous but less indepth book, he manages to point out the key contributions of the most important animation directors/producers of the era.
While it does overlook or give only a cursory overview of some important figures in the industry, Barrier's scholarly aproach manages to recognize the merits and flaws of each studio, their system and directors. Although not as well illustrated as Maltin's book, the pictures do provide a glimpse of many of the essential classics that impacted the art of animation. Since much of the documentation for the creation of some of the early Warner classics are long gone, Barrier has to rely on many of the same sources and pictures as other authors. The book could have been improved if he had gone more to private collectors for rare animation cels, production photos, model drawings and notes. I also would have liked many of these illustrations to be reproduced in color. Seeing them in dark black and white illustrations does little justice to the artistry of these pioneers.
Maltin's book was clearly the work of an informed fan; his approach focused on the creation of many of the important classics but didn't lose track of the fun in the finished product. Barrier's scholarly approach is a bit drier and doesn't quite communicate the excited of Maltin's less authoriative book on the same subject. It's still an important look at the pioneers of animation's Golden Age and, as such, should be read by those who love the shorts from the various eras examined here.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most authoritative book on the subject 23 Oct 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
As an animator with more than a mild interest in the subject, I found the book to go beyond the history. It's the first book about animation to really delve into the ART of the medium. We see how the inventors of the medium are overtaken by the artists who are overtaken by the financiers. It's a magnificent book with absolute precision in its source material backed up by more than the usual number of interviews. It's not another promotional book for ANY studio. The coverage of Disney is greater because the focus is on the period when Disney built the medium. Anyone interested in the medium should read this.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine survey of the greats, but what about the runners-up? 20 Aug 1999
By John McWhorter - Published on Amazon.com
This book is a marvelous achievement but I'm not sure its title is appropriate. Barrier is concerned with charting the development of excellence, and as such his perspective appears to be "hats off to Disney, kudos to Warner Brothers and Tex Avery, and polite nods to everybody else". The ranking is unexceptionable, and the coverage of Disney and Warners' is rich and incisive. But surely a survey of "Hollywood Cartoons" would ideally have more than a few pages each on Terrytoons, Walter Lantz, Popeye and Betty Boop. Especially the latter three, while obviously not pinnacles of the art, have more than their share of moments worth examination, which a book honing so closely to linear development must leave aside. Obviously a book giving more equal coverage to the well-loved also-rans would be an intimidating doorstop, but one almost wishes Barrier had written one book on Disney and another on the other cartoons. However, Barrier is a sterling scholar and analyst; I repeatedly found myself first shaken by his criticisms of cartoons I have long held sacrosanct, only to usually agree with him in the end.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Behind the Hi-Jinx 18 Mar 2004
By Michael Samerdyke - Published on Amazon.com
This was a very good book, with a few caveats.
The first chapter, on silent cartoons, is hard going. Not until Walt Disney shows up does that chapter start flowing.
BUT from that point on, until the chapter on UPA, I had a hard time putting "Hollywood Cartoons" down. Barrier doesn't take the usual perspective on cartoons. He doesn't care how they appeal to the casual viewer but how they look to the pro. I didn't agree with all his judgments, but I respect his judgments.
I have read several histories of cartoons, and Barrier still managed to surprise me or say something new. He had the best discussion of the origins of Bugs Bunny I've ever read. His description of the working of MGM's cartoon studio was fascinating, and his views on Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones showed real insight.
Barrier states his opinions strongly. He doesn't like Fleischer or UPA cartoons, and he doesn't think Friz Freleng is worth a lot of discussion. (I would disagree about Friz, but agree on the other stuff.)
In all, this was a fine book on this subject, and I am glad I read it.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In-depth, but a little Disney-centric 6 Nov 1999
By Doug Hillman - Published on Amazon.com
As some of the previous reviews have stated, Barrier obviously feels that Disney was the most important thing to ever happen to animation. While that may be true, I would have liked to have seen a bit more coverage of the other studios. That being said, this is a great work which seems to present an objective view of all the big names in animation's golden age. Despite his focus on Disney, the author in no way glosses over his mistakes and personality faults. The one serious problem I have though, is the lack of pictures. There are many references to character design, layout, etc. which certainly call for an illustration. The absence of visual aids in a book about animation sticks out like a sore thumb. The one other complaint I have is the lack of a glossary. While someone knowledgeable in animation may have understood the more technical terms, there were several things talked about throughout the book which I didn't really have a good grasp on. I may have just missed the definitions in the text, but a glossary would certainly have been helpful. The inclusion of these two missing peices would have made this a five star book. As it is, I'll never be able to watch cartoons again without thinking a bit about the technical aspect.
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