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.
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.