Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Worst Book About Animation Ever

Not to sound too full of complaints, because really, who needs it?

We just got in "Historical Dictionary of: Animation and Cartoons" by Nichola Dobson, part of a series edited by Jon Woronoff for Scarecrow entiled "Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts."

Other volumes include "American Radio Soap Operas", "Japanese Traditional Theater", and "Sacred Music".  In this light  "Animation" is a broad subject.  I'm glad the editor understood the value of the field's inclusion.  The value of this volume, however, is minimal.

It's a sad waste of a possibility.  Even worse than no volume at all.

Whenever I look I look at an animation history book, I flip to the index and look for "Tissa David", I'll then look for "Blechman".  Maybe it's West Coast centric, so I'll see what they say about "Bob Kurtz" or "Fred Wolf" or "Bill Littlejohn".  OK, what insights or information do they have on "Frederic Back"?  How about "Harry Smith"?

How about "none"?  Not even "Bill Melendez".  Not even -I shit you not- "Richard Williams".

This book references none of them -and more!

It's a dictionary, insight isn't required.  Just a simple: Fierlinger, Paul (1936 - ) director of numerous independent and commercial shorts including "Teeny Little Super Guy" for CTW, "Amby & Dexter" for Nickelodeon and "Drawn From Life" of Oxygen.  He is best know for his longer films including "Drawn From Memory", "Still Life With Animated Dogs", "A Room Nearby", and "My Dog Tulip." These are marked by strong narration, often by the animator himself, and deep personal revelations.

There.  Was that so hard?  No.  I did it in two minutes while talking on the phone.

Quizzically, there is an entry for J. J. Sedelmaier Productions.  Good for him, I know he works hard to get his name out there.  But there's no Curious Pictures, no Passion, no Filmteknarna nor Jonas Odell, no Duck Soup, no Wildbrain nor Colossal.

Does this same series' "Historical Dictionary of African American Theater" exclude Ntozake Shange, Derek Walcott, August Wilson or Suzan-Lori Parks in favor of page after page of Al Jolson and blackface "mammy" shows?   Why, then, would the volume on animation  -ANIMATION AS ART - exclude dozens of men and women responsible for making this craft an art in favor of entries on Trey Parker and Matt Stone (who's work I love), The Muppet Show, and Jonny Quest?

Yet no Suzan Pitt, no John Canemaker, no William Kentridge.

Nichola Dobson's "Historical Dictionary of Animation and Cartoons" is a terrible and insulting book.  A wretched, horrible waste of time.  If you come across it in a bookstore, bring it to manager and tell them to ship it back to the publisher.  The world would be better if it was never published.

I'm often reminded of the Winsor McCay (he made the book!) quote "Animation is an art.  That is how I conceived it.  But as I see what you fellows have done with it is making it into a trade.  Not an art, but a trade -bad luck."  Dictionaries and histories like this will forever relegate the technique of animation to a second rate pornography for children in the eyes of the public.

1 comment:

J.J. Sedelmaier said...

Richard - You should contact Nichola. I suspect my association with The Animation Studies group is what inspired our inclusion. Ouch - no R.O., no Dick Williams. . . Can't imagine what happened there !