Animation 101: A Mixed Lesson

Bob Miller reviews animator and educator Ernest Pintoff's new book, Animation 101, that includes many essays from top industry leaders and some mixed advice...

A Bright Start Ernest Pintoff's Animation 101 is more of a "what it's all about" than a "how to" book. Its primary value lies in the 20 essays by various luminaries in the industry, like directors John Lasseter, Nick Park, Bill Hanna, Bill Melendez, Bretislav Pojar, Pablo Ferro and Bruno Bozzetto. Also contributing: Noel Blanc (Mel's son), Herbert Klynn, anime expert Fred Patten, Cartoon Network executive Linda Simensky, writers Emru Townsend, John Callahan, Al Brodax, Jules Engel and Debra Kaufman. Even Marvel's Stan Lee offers his point of view. The book includes a biography of its Oscar-winning author, and a handy list of recommended animation schools. Notably, Pintoff's list of recommended films includes Pocahontas, The Fox and the Hound and The Black Cauldron. A Turn For The Worse Unfortunately, the rest of the book is somewhat flawed. "From Disney to Bakshi" is a chapter that is spotty in its coverage, focusing on Disney, Warners, Hanna-Barbera and Ralph Bakshi. Oddly, he continues his animation history in a chapter devoted to the animation process. Animation historians would have a field day correcting the errors in this paragraph alone: "The various anatomical positions of Hanna-Barbera animated characters have become standardized and as a result, their model sheets include every movement, even indicating looks of shock, and every character's entry and exit. To produce a new sequence, it is sufficient for an animator to simply draft a storyboard, then feed it into a computer for the ability to generate computer generated animation. Animators no longer have to sketch repetitive movements, but they merely make lists of numbers already stored in a computer's memory. This technique has been used successfully with the likes of Rod Rocket, Space Ghost, Crusader Rabbit, King Leonardo and Deputy Dawg." In his chapter on classic voice-over artists, Pintoff devotes two paragraphs on Mel Blanc, nine paragraphs on Stan Freberg, five paragraphs on Chuck McCann, and only brief mentions of Mae Questel, June Foray, Pat Carroll, Patti Deutsch, Daws Butler, Paul Frees and Julie Kavner. No mentions of Frank Welker, Don Messick, Bea Benederet, Jim Cummings, Paul Winchell, Rob Paulsen, Maurice LeMarche, Tress MacNeille, Nancy Cartwright or many other worthy voice talents. Pintoff claims exposure sheets are "also known as bar sheets." Several definitions in his glossary are awkward ("High concept ideas usually have a conceptual premise and narrative that can be reduced to a catchy phrase or striking image"...), incomplete ("Timing is the process of altering the density and color values of a film from shot to shot..."), and/or inaccurate ("A pencil test is a film or video sample of preliminary action and animation, drawn on paper, before it is converted to cel by computer.") Mr. Pintoff, the computer eliminates the need for cels. I am sorry that I can't recommend this book unless one is interested in its essays or the biography of the author. Animation 101, by Ernest Pintoff. Studio City, California: Michael Wiese Productions, 1999. 170 pages. ISBN: 0-941188-68-X ($16.95) Bob Miller is an animation buff and animator currently working for Stretch Films in New York City.