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Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
An impeccably produced oblong with the lush and precise production typical of Chronicle Books, this is a visual delight for anyone. It is more a source book, an anthology of animation styles, than a serious study of animation-art history. It focuses almost entirely on the 1950s, which is understandable. In our collective pop memory, the minimalist, rather expressionistic look of advertising animation is as bound up with that decade as tailfins on cars. Often this style is called the "UPA look," after the signature style of John Hubley's animation studio. Typical examples are "Gerald McBoing-Boing" and the "I Want My Maypo" commercial. This form of animation used techical shortcuts--scant background, few in-betweens--but tried to make a virtue of these limitations. Excellence in design and inventiveness in storytelling made up for lack of detail.
Parenthetically one should note that this pared-down look also dominated commercial illustration, notably the early Andy Warhol and Tomi Ungerer. Of course, it was probably still-illustration that influenced animation rather than the other way around. When the commercial-art fashions changed, around 1960, the UPA style of the 50s began to look old-hat.
When it first took hold, animators and producers regarded this style as modern and contemporary, and insisted on painting everything with a UPA flavor. Terrytoons, best known for endless cat-and-mouse antics, experimented with minimalism and came up with the spindliest doodle of all, the "Tom Terrific" segment from "Captain Kangaroo."
The style subverted even the conventional product of the Disney animators, as can be seen in old Mickey Mouse Club animated segments (go to YouTube and find Jiminy Cricket's "Encylopedia" song) and in "101 Dalmatians." Here let me make an intriguing segue: the visual style of "Dalmatians" was also influenced by the loose, sketchy line drawings of Ronald Searle. Searle's line came to dominate the 60s and 70s, in both animation and editorial cartooning. The old UPA look, with its spindly lines and 50s minimalism, got swallowed up into that. Probably this was because the dense, inky Searle look was adaptable both to illustration and to animation, while the UPA look was not. You could not draw political cartoons in the style of Mr. Magoo. Illustrators who maintained a 1950 style into the 60s were few and far between. Virgil "ViP" Partch was avant-garde in the 40s and 50s, but his "Big George!" strip of the 1960s never got out of the second-string comic-strip league. When Dave Berg of Mad magazine began his "Lighter Side of..." series in the late 50s, he used a commercial-art style that was a perfect synthesis of Partch and Hubley. Within a few years Berg shed the 50s look for a self-taught naturalistic style.
It should be noted that most limited-animation projects never looked much like either Hubley or Searle. Seamus Culhane, a traditional cel animator from the 1930s, created his own pared-down style. Looking at his old commercials from the early 50s ("I Like Ike," "Ajax the Foaming Cleanser"), you are not aware of any modernistic minimalism. Similarly, Jay Ward, and Hanna and Barbera used the technical shortcuts of the process without drawing attention to them.
Most of the animators covered in this book, and arranged in loose alphabetical order, are forgotten today. The book is fun to dip into and browse through, letting your eyes run over the endless ad stills for cat food and soda pop, drawn many years ago by tiny one- and two-man studios, all working very hard to look like everyone else.