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The American Animated Cartoon: A Critical Anthology Paperback – August 5, 2017
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It’s too bad the Pearys, or editor Bob McLain, did not see fit in this edition to build on those bibliographies by adding at least a few pages devoted to major works published since 1980 … such as — to cite just a few examples — Joe Adamson’s “Bugs Bunny: Fifty Years and Only One Grey Hare” (1990), Michael Barrier’s “Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age” (1999), Donald Crafton’s several books on animation, J. B. Kaufman’s monographs on “Snow White” and “Pinocchio,” Garry Apgar’s anthology, “A Mickey Mouse Reader" (2014), and his interdisciplinary study, “Mickey Mouse: Emblem of the American Spirit” (2015).
Sadly, as is invariably the case with Theme Park Press, there are no illustrations in this book: all of the plates in the original text published by E. P. Dutton have been eliminated. True aficionados may therefore wish to buy a used copy of the first edition via eBay or Amazon. As Alice, in the Disney version of “Alice in Wonderland,” said: “how can one possibly pay attention to a book without pictures?” Indeed. For a book about something that is fundamentally visual, Alice’s question is doubly germane.
Another “sore point”: Whoever designed the cover of the Theme Park edition shamefully ripped off the cover art of Leonard Maltin’s "Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons," which depicts an audience, seen in silhouette, comprised of Goofy, Popeye, Mickey Mouse, Woody Woodpecker, and Bugs Bunny. On the Theme Park cover, Bart Simpson, Mickey (clumsily drawn), Pinky and the Brain, Fred Flintstone, Bugs, and Daffy Duck are seen in silhouette. Ex-cu-u-u-s-e me … but Bart Simpson and Pinky and Brain? They weren’t around in 1980, and they have nothing to do with this book. Oh, the (cartoon) humanity!
That said, the electronic version of this edition should find its share of takers among libraries and academics who teach courses on animation. I say “should,” because especially where Disney is concerned, a glut of books, many of them superficial or focused on arcane topics, has flooded the market in recent years, produced primarily by Theme Park Press and Disney Editions. It’s now almost impossible to distinguish the occasional nugget of gold from the great quantity of dross in this overabundance. (When is the last time either one of those imprints got a review in print by an actual magazine or newspaper?) For that reason alone, this edition of the Pearys’ anthology may fail to get the respect it deserves.
One unique and worthy feature of the Theme Park edition is the two-page foreword by Michael Barrier in which he sets the Peary anthology in the context of what he calls “the state of critical and historical writing about animation” forty years ago and today. Would that Mr. McLain or another publisher could entice the cussedly independent-minded Mr. Barrier into writing an entire book on that subject. I for one would love to see him seek his teeth into the mass of unreadable, ahistorical, racialist, gender studies-driven academic pap about animation (Disney, notably) that has proliferated over the last quarter century. A chapter by Barrier titled “Dealing with Disney” (Disney, the Company, that is) alone would be worth the price of admission.