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Cartoon Modern: Style and Design in 1950s Animation Hardcover – August 17, 2006

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Cartoon Modern: Style and Design in 1950s Animation + The Noble Approach: Maurice Noble and the Zen of Animation Design + The Art and Flair of Mary Blair (Updated Edition): An Appreciation (Disney Editions Deluxe)
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Amid Amidi is the publisher and editor of the magazine Animation Blast and cofounder of the popular animation blog In addition to writing, Amidi works in the animation industry. The author of The Art of Robots (0-8118-4549-4), he lives in Los Angeles.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books (August 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811847314
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811847315
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 0.9 x 11.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #504,457 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

AMID AMIDI (@amid) is an author, historian, and consultant, with numerous books to his credit. He is the youngest recipient of the Theatre Library Association Award which he received for his book "Cartoon Modern: Style and Design in 1950s Animation" (2006, Chronicle Books). He is the publisher and editor-in-chief of, the leading animation industry resource.

He is the authorized biographer of Disney animation legend Ward Kimball. He has written "The Art of Pixar: The Complete Color Scripts and Select Art from 25 Years of Animation" for Pixar, and "The Art of Robots" for 20th Century Fox about the making of the Fox/Blue Sky computer animated feature "Robots." For more, visit

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Iconophoric on September 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like many of my peers, as I grew up, my interest in animation gravitated toward the full animation of the Golden Age: Robert McKimson, Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones, et al, for a long while disdaining any form of animated minimalism, even the kind represented in this book. By the age of 7 or 8, we had come to associate Top Cat, Deputy Dawg, The Flintstones, The Jetsons and all the minimal animation that had once been among our favorites with shoddy cheapness. (Even as a small child, I remember several of us sitting around talking about cartoons, and laughing to scorn at the way the same background tree kept passing every couple of seconds in Hanna-Barbera chase scenes. We wondered, did they think we weren't catching that?!) 'Limited animation', those dread words, became poision for all us growing young animation fans.

I'm not sure when my respect and interest in minimal/modern animation returned in a changed form, but I think it had to be in the mid 80s, when the best of UPA appeared suddenly on a couple of VHS tapes: Gerald McBoing Boing, The Tell-Tale Heart, Unicorn in the Garden, Christopher Crumpet, The Rise of Duton Lange, Family Circus, etc. On the rebound, the '50s fine art/graphic design style of these cartoons knocked me out. After seeing these shorts, I started seeking out more examples of this style of animation in old TV commercial reels, and then started noticing the style spilling over into point of purchase, packaging design and magazine ads of the period. By this point, I was a fatally hooked "modern."

This book will throughly scratch the itch of those baby boomers whose earliest TV memories may include those brief Tom Terrific segments from Captain Kangaroo, as well as the younger reader who will feel the irresistable draw of a very strong retro style.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By PonyExpress on August 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This long awaited book is a typically clever, eye-popping treat from Chronicle Press. The author is a well-versed authority on this particular aspect of animated cartoons--the brilliant, trend-setting and still-potent design of the 1950s. Arranged in chapters alphabetically by studio, each page is filled with treasures in color and line. Inside you'll find beautiful examples from such famous studios as UPA("Gerald McBoing-Boing", "Mr. Magoo", "Rooty-Toot-Toot", etc.), Warner Bros(the work of Maurice Noble in tandem with Chuck Jones, among others) and Disney--and many almost unknown studios whose output is liberally displayed. It's all inspiring, and it's fascinating to realize that although the overrriding fifties sense of style is hot right now, these men and women of the grey flannel past are still way ahead of almost all of us. Amid Amidi's text is intelligent and informative, an apt accompaiment. Artists, animators, cartoon lovers and afficionados of midcentury modern design have to have this.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Michael D. Kelley on April 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I absolutely love 50's (and early 60's) animation styles, so based on the other reviews here I eagerly awaited this book. It was a huge letdown.

First of all, the majority of content here is biographical information about the artists who created this art. As such a nice piece of scholarship and research, and giving these artists their just rewards is a Good Thing. But that's basically all there is.

Yes, there are some images, even quite a lot, but the artwork isn't large or arranged in a manner to make any sense (other than as biographical material). There are a few tantalizingly good images, but the vast majority are small, rather pedestrian and, oddly enough, not particularly indicative of the style of the period.

The author sets great store by "unconventionalism", but in point of fact the art of the 50's and 60's did become conventional -- it became its own convention. And this kind of historical perspective is sorely missing here, in large part due to the way the material is organized (it's strictly a studio by studio look -- no timeline or growth of the art is presented in any way. Each studio is given a page or two, and the studios are listed alphabetically).

If you are into cartoon history *facts* then this book will be a goldmine of information for you. If, like me, you are more interested in the visual aspects of the art then I'd strongly recommend skipping this and spending the money either renting or buying some of the cartoons from that time period that are available on DVD (contrary to the author's opinion, much of the stuff IS available: once again, his bias towards the unconventional means that he overlooks the majority of work of that time period).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By margot on January 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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