Friday, November 21, 2008

The best books about Warner Brothers animation?

This is a call to all my readers to give me your recommendations for books that cover Warner Brothers animation from the 30s to the 60s. Ideally, I'm looking for one big, comprehensive book with a historical and biographical focus, one that will cover the foundation of the studio, the development of its characters and animation styles over time, and profiles of individual creators (directors, animators, writers, music, etc.). Some analytical and critical perspective on individual cartoons would be a nice bonus. I'm itching to read something that will put the studio's output into context and provide the stories that went on behind the 'toons. I'm not sure if any such book actually exists, so if not I'd also obviously love any more specific tomes, like ones profiling the most famous directors to come out of Termite Terrace.

Below are some of the books I'm considering already, so any comments on the quality (or lack thereof) of these choices is also welcome.

Most likely candidates:

Chuck Jones:

Tex Avery:

General Animation history:


Tim said...

Chuck Amuck is a must have (along with the DVD "Extremes & Inbetweens).

If you can, pick this up (though it is older):

Comprehensive look at the artwork and the history of the studio.

This is pretty good too (done for 50th anniversay of Bugs Bunny in 1990):

Joe Adamson is a respectable source for all things Warners animation, so his Tex Avery book is not a bad choice either.

If you're looking for a complete credits, dates, etc info - be sure to pick up this:

An absolutely invaluable reference source for anything and everything the original Warners animation studios produced.

Anonymous said...

Believe it or not, we've done it again. I just posted a review and the video of "The Dot and the Line."

Ed Howard said...

Tim, thanks for the suggestions. I've gone and ordered a copy of That's All Folks, which looks like a good place to start. Keep the recs coming!

Marilyn, I like that cartoon a lot too, though as far as I'm concerned late Jones doesn't get much better than Now Hear This.

Brian Darr said...

I've read the Barrier, the Maltin (which I own), and the two Chuck Jones books. The latter are essential reading, but must be taken with a major grain of salt because of Jones' knee-jerk instinct to downplay the contributions of some of his former colleagues (most notably Robert Clampett). The Barrier and Maltin are better as a way to contextualize what the Warner team was doing in relation to all the other major cartoon studios of the era- they may not focus enough on Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies for your purposes.

The two books I refer to most often work well in tandem, are pretty easy to find, and I think would serve your purposes nicely: Jerry Beck and Will Friedwald's Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: a Complete Illustrated Guide to the Warner Bros. Cartoons, and Steve Schneider's lavishly illustrated That's All Folks: the Art of Warner Bros. Animation. The former has pretty much complete credits and synopses (and sometimes a bit of critical analysis) of each cartoon- all 1000+ of them, in chronological order. The latter makes up for what the Beck/Friedwald book lacks in biographical information and studio behind-the-scenes history. It could go a bit deeper into biography, anecdote, and analysis of the films, however (not without sacrificing its wonderful pictures I suppose). If you find the perfect all-in-one book, let me know!

Let us know if you find the

Brian Darr said...

Looks like I spent at least 15 minutes typing that!

Ed Howard said...

Thanks for those comments Brian. I've already ordered the Schneider book, which sounds good if not quite as in-depth as I was hoping. I'm surprised, but it looks like the definitive book about the studio has yet to be written.

Tim said...

One of the sources of the post-Warners rift between Jones and Clampett can be found in the (exceptionally corny but still worthwhile collection) "Bugs Bunny: Superstar" video (narrated by none other than, you guessed it, Orson Welles). Clampett (with Beatles-type wig hair) makes some pretty broad generalized statements about how he "created" Bugs Bunny. He had made them before in interviews (this during a period when people were starting to learn the history behind the Warners animation studios) and Chuck was non too pleased. There is a website out there that deals with this debate that is pretty thorough (although siding with Clampett).

Sadly, I haven't seen anything better than the Schneider book either - and I bought that when I was 10 (my interest in film / music relates back to me being a childhood Warner Bros animation scholar at a very young age, reading all kinds of books on them that were way past my reading level). The internet has brought about plenty more information and not much has been officially printed about the personal relations (like Jones-Clampett for starters) and how everyone fared post-Warners. But no one seems to have been able to compile something into a meaningful book that covers all the bases (studio history, characters' histories, process, art, personnel, personal relations, technical, credits/reference, post-Warners, etc etc). With the Golden Collection discs doing well, you'd figure there must be a market for it by now.

My two cents. Make sure you buy the Illustrated Guide too - as a reference, it beats the That's All Folks book by simply having far more details beyond just the title and date. That might come in handy for you, considering.