Amid Amidi’s recent book, Cartoon Modern, is a brilliant and compelling collection of mid-century animation design. Chock full of bold and crisp images of conceptual art, layouts, backgrounds, character designs, model sheets and painted cels, Cartoon Modern gives the reader a solid reason for taking a second look at this unique era in animation design. All the usual suspects are present: UPA, Disney, Warner Bros., MGM, but Amid doesn’t stop with the majors. Included are a string of smaller studios that exhibited equally specialized skills and contributed in unique ways to the art-form during the decade; studios such as Terrytoons, Pintoff Productions, Creative Arts Studio, John Sutherland Productions, Storyboard, and many more. To both the educated animator and the uninitiated, Cartoon Modern is a revelation.
As I was reading the book, it dawned on me just how limited our views are on 50′s animation design. I’ve often come across people who generalize the era as being “UPA-ish.” When, in fact, it clearly is not. If you thumb through the pages of Cartoon Modern, you’ll see just how diverse and experimental the artists were at each studio. And even within UPA itself, it can’t be said that there was a uniform, “house style.” In the introduction of the UPA section of the book, Amid quotes Catherine Sullivan in American Artist when she describes the studio’s style as “a way of seeing, an attitude, a feeling that each story idea deserves its own most effective expression in terms of visual treatment, sound, music, or whatever is required.” Even though she is describing UPA specifically, that interest in discovery and exploring new approaches is consistent in the best of 50′s animation, regardless of studio.
A nice touch near the back of the book is a “Yearbook,” featuring photos of most of the artists, animators, designers, story artists, illustrators and studio heads who were mentioned in the book. In fact, you can see all the photos (and more) in a Flickr photoset HERE.
To learn more about the book, visit Amid’s Cartoon Modern blog, complete with more insight about the creators and animators that are featured in the book, as well as more images, paintings, and photos. Both blog and book are an incredible account of a decade that took chances in animation design. Highly recommended.