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Before Mickey: The Animated Film, 1898-1928 Paperback – October 18, 1984

5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Before Mickey's scholarship is quite lively and its descriptions evocative and often funny. The history of animation coexisted with that of live-action film but has never been given as much attention. Crafton has compellingly filled in the gaps... "
Tim Hunter , The New York Times Book Review

From the Back Cover

Before we met Mickey Mouse in 1928, Felix the Cat prowled the screen. This witty and fascinating study reminds us that there was animation before Disney. Crafton is equally adept at explaining techniques of sketching and camera work, evoking characteristic styles. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 437 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; Reprint edition (October 18, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262530589
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262530583
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,722,730 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By ewomack TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
There was once a time when the utterance "Mickey Mouse" had no meaning and conjured up no images of vast tracts of decadent land saturated with sugary amusement. The word "Felix", however, would probably send a jolt through most living in this lost time. Just how popular Felix was is evident in a 1926 photograph of Ligget's Drug Store in Grand Central Station that Crafton included in "Before Mickey." The window is nearly filled to the brim with Felix paraphenalia, much like we've seen recently with the Powerpuff Girls, Spongebob Squarepants and Harry Potter. Felix was once just as ubiquitous and just as unavoidable.
The events that led up to this incredible success are laid out in "Before Mickey." The saga of animation is an interesting and much neglected part of cinema history. The book covers something that is almost never discussed: animation's origins in stop-motion. Everyone should read Crafton's account of "The Haunted Hotel" - a stop-motion film where objects "float" through the air and objects move on their own. It terrified audiences and gave impendance to animation with its success. From this it was almost a natural progression to drawings that moved and funny characters in funny situations.
Silent animation had its own life and own method of communicating. Everything was in the pictures, and early animation artists made the most of this. It remains, and will probably sadly remain, a very underappreciated art form. We're just too drunk with sound these days.
Luckily, you can read this book and get a taste of what those days must have been like, the stories of the pioneers that made it all possible (those in America, at least) and how far we've come in some respects and what we've lost in others.
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Format: Paperback
In histories of animation there is usually a very small amount of time devoted to animation that was released before "Steamboat Willie". This book fills this hole quite nicely. The book goes into exhaustive detail on James Stuart Blackton, Winsor McCay, Emile Cohl, Otto Messmer, the Bray Studio, and animation shops that emerged from the Bray Studio. There is one chapter devoted to commercial animation in Europe from this time period. But if you're looking for a more in depth study of early European animators like Ladislas Starewicz and Lotte Reiniger, you might want to check some place else (I'm not sure where). Though one entire chapter IS devoted to Emile Cohl, this mostly deals with American animation. Those looking for information about animation outside of Western society are looking in the wrong place. As its title suggests, this book is basically a history of events leading up to Mickey Mouse.
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Format: Paperback
"Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age" by Michael Barrier (Oxford University Press, 1999) represents the gold standard in terms of the study and analysis of animation during the middle third of the 20th century when the Walt Disney studio reigned supreme. Likewise, Donald Crafton's "Before Mickey: The Animated Film, 1898-1928," first published in 1982, represents the gold standard with respect to animation history prior to the creation of Mickey Mouse and the advent of the Golden Age of motion picture cartoons. Crafton's book is engagingly written, broad-ranging, and ambitious. One of his objectives, stated in the preface, was to set the subject "against the background of the industrial revolution and cultural environment of the time"—a lofty and ambitious goal, rarely attempted by authors of books on animation, including Crafton's fellow scholars. Walt Disney would, in the 1930s, more fully than any of his contemporaries or predecessors, industrialize and thereby perfect the way animated cartoons were made. "Before Mickey" is must reading if only to better appreciate the nature and magnitude of that achievement.
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